Getting past enduring

I was reading through a variety of articles from the site Pocket today–in an effort to clean up my email boxes, something I struggle with mightily. To be honest, I was looking for some inspiration for a blog post, too. Now that I have claimed a concrete number of posts I am intending to write this year (96 in all), I’m already feeling some pressure (reminder to myself, it’s Jan 4: I’ve got plenty of time. Take it easy!) to get creating.

Further note to self: WHY did I use numbers for anything in my New Year’s blog post? I’m not a numbers person!!! Might have to revisit that concept and redefine how I will assess success in December, but not today.

Anyway, I read a bunch of super interesting articles ranging from how medieval monks were distracted by technology to the economics of dining as a couple to a list of the best books on writing and more. And then I found this one: “I coached 101 CEOs, founders, VCs and other executives in 2019: These are the biggest takeaways” by Leo Widrich.

It’s a quick read and certainly fits with a lot of the other things I have been reading in these last few years. But this section really struck me:

Life is not an endurance exercise

When I think of the beautiful conversation that this insight and transformation sprang out of, my heart and eyes light up. Here was someone, successful in ways that most of us dream about, having accomplished career-wise and spiritually (if there’s anything to accomplish there 😉) to the highest level in my book. And yet, as we went deeper and deeper in one of our sessions, all of a sudden we unearthed a belief that was holding this powerful woman back from stepping into life into its fullest forms. It was around the belief that life is an exercise in endurance. To be tough and strong, to swim through the rough waters, no matter what waves are being thrown at us. And to keep going, no matter what. 

Most successful people carry a version of that belief with themselves around and I too have for the longest period of this life (and I’m sure some layers of it are still there!). This belief is powerful, it gets many of us to accomplish things that most people only dream of. Yet, there comes a point where that belief has served its time. Where we’ve become so tired and exhausted from all the enduring, that a quiet voice dares to ask: Is that really what it is about? What I like to challenge that belief with is this: What if life is not about endurance? What if it is about love, freedom, doing what’s fun and enjoyable? When I throw that out there, the first reaction is often one of disbelief and irritation. When we go deeper, there then tends to be a period of grieving and tears, of all the hardship and bracing from the time we’ve endured that’s now flowing out of us, making way for a gentler, more loving and at the same time more powerful lens to see the world through. 

Enduring gets us far, but I don’t think that’s what life is for. To let go of that belief and to allow a new one to emerge, often one rooted in love and joy, is scary and takes courage. Especially when endurance has helped you build a massive company or another successful thing. When people still decide to step into that, I’m in awe, I sometimes do dance parties after sessions alone in my apartment, simply to celebrate their lives and insight and willingness to continue to dare becoming more true to who they really want to be. Ask yourself those same questions and even if the reactions are painful within you, see what happens if you keep going with it. 

“What if life is not about endurance? What if it is about love, freedom, doing what’s fun and enjoyable?”

Much of my life has been about enduring. Enduring the judgement of being a single mom, enduring letting go of being a movie star, enduring never really leaving Fargo, enduring the frustration of not seeing the kind of growth and support for the arts that I want to see, enduring being overlooked as a woman…

But 2 1/2 years ago, I began an amazing year of business travel, and in the same time also used all of my vacation time to travel with Dr Marry for pleasure as well. I learned some super important lessons:

  • I’m not nearly as integral to the day to day operations of my job as I assumed I was (I could pretty easily argue I’m practically irrelevant, but that’s beside the point), so being gone didn’t bring my organization to a standstill. In fact, because I have excellent staff colleagues, things moved along just fine and in some cases, better than fine
  • Really taking time away (for business or pleasure) helped me prioritize how I work when I’m in the office. I don’t take little things so seriously anymore. My job absolutely matters, but it’s not the most important thing in my life
  • I’m happier existing in the blur of my work and home life for much of the year because when I do go away, I really go away. Stepping back from time to time re-energizes me, inspires me with new ideas and gives my brain the break it needs to discover the “ah ha” moments that are often just under the surface of my consciousness and don’t appear until I have given them space and time

When I realized that life wasn’t about enduring but enjoying (including the challenging responsibilities of a demanding job), I mostly stopped resenting the difficulties and started seeing them as opportunities to overcome or not. Some battles aren’t worth it, and because I no longer feel like I am slogging through my life, simply dragging one foot in front of the other, endlessly chastising the masses about their lack of support for the arts, I have found new allies, created new opportunities and found a renewed sense of purpose and joy in my work.

I have also found that I have more space to pursue personal creative endeavors, enjoy my relationships and continue working on personal growth.

I will always be the type who pushes the heavy boulder(s) up the slippery side of the mountain, but I find that I don’t resent it like I used to because I have chosen this work, created this life and decided this is where I want to put my time and energy. And rather than enduring it, I am enjoying it, and that’s quite a paradigm shift for me.

Featured image is my back yard, currently enduring winter. I certainly see the snow, but I also know that my wildflower garden is nestled beneath it, and that I will take absolute joy in it all over again in just a few months!