Why do we work so hard to talk ourselves out of knowing the things that we know, deep down, to be true?
This week, I went to an interview for a job I didn’t want. Why did I do that? Money. I’m in that awesome (note sarcasm) position as a self-employed American where I make just enough to owe enough in taxes that I need to make more money so I can pay my taxes. It’s a lovely (note sarcasm) cycle.
And I’m tired, you guys, of the hustle, of running my own business. It sounded so lovely, to just go clock in and clock out somewhere for a while, get a paycheck. So uncomplicated.
Except of course it isn’t. Where is this magical, fairytale job where we clock in and out, then leave feeling energized enough to parent and write the Great American Novel? (Or, in my case, the Great American Blog. With book potential.)
So I go in for this interview, but here’s the thing: The woman who is interviewing me has read this blog. And so, she’s seen me. And she looks at me, with these beautiful, clear blue eyes and an un-makeup’d face — she was gorgeous, really — and says, “Do you really want this job?”
And of course, I said, “No.”
And so then we got to talking, and we poured everything out on the table. How she’s had an awakening in the past year, about what bullshit it is to work 12 hour days, checking her phone constantly in the “off” hours… how now, she is drawing lines in the sand. The steps she’s taking. The self-care group she’s a part of. The coach she’s working with. The change she’s seeing, in herself, and in those she manages, who see her not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.
I tell her about the work I’ve done with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is dedicated to building a “culture of health” (I love that phrase), and she loves it too, and writes it down on her notepad.
And I am struck, not for the first time in recent months, by how important it is for women like us to walk the walk. Women who have been granted privileges and traditional forms of power. For us to say, from our podium, however small, and to our community, however small: This is what I believe. This is what I know to be true.
If this woman, let’s call her Diane, hadn’t spoken her truth to me, there in that interview, hadn’t opened up and set aside artifice, we would have wasted an hour of our time. Instead, we buoyed each other.
She’s thinking of moving. Downsizing. There’s this artsy small town she and her husband love (boy does this sound familiar, boy can I relate). She has school-aged kids, so the traditional narrative says, “Keep them where they are, don’t take them away from their friends.” But then, everyone’s always saying how resilient kids are, how the stability of mom and dad is the most important thing. Maybe in today’s world, learning how to make new friends in new places is actually a life skill. Maybe if mom and dad want an adventure, their offspring would enjoy it, too. Maybe everything about the scripts we grew up with is ripe for the rewriting…for improvisation.
Because the world is changing. Our parents weren’t expected to check their email after hours. There was no such thing as “remote employees.” Our world is being rewired and yet it’s still so tempting to think the norms we grew up with are written in stone.
With this in mind, I am going to speak my truth, stripped down, here, for you, today. I am going to tell you some things that I know, when I get real quiet and listen to myself, and don’t try to push the truth away:
I am supposed to be living somewhere with a much lower cost of living and writing full-time. Maybe, probably, it’s the Hudson Valley. Maybe it’s Chicago, where I could also really grow and develop as an improvisor.
For those who only know me through this blog, these truths might not sound very surprising.
And for those who do know me, it probably isn’t very surprising, either. “Amanda wants to write more. Stop the press.”
But for people who know that I just overhauled my life to be in Washington, DC, where the cost of living is decidedly not low…who see me building my business, Good Things Consulting… for these people (myself included), it might feel like, “Wait, what?”
Life is not uncomplicated (obvious statement of the day). I want to be near the people I love in Washington, DC, and near the people who love my daughter dearly. I just moved back here for that express purpose and it means so much to me. I walk around feeling this warm, invisible hug.
But the economics of DC, and of the surrounding suburbs, are not conducive to devoting one’s life to writing. And writing is truly what I feel I was put on this earth to do.
I am tired of squeezing it into the off hours. As Toni Morrison said (and I’m paraphrasing), I don’t think we should give ourselves such big A-pluses for squeezing writing in around the housework. I am running so fast that this week it seriously occurred to me, “I need a personal assistant.” No, I don’t. What I need is less financial pressure. And the easiest way to get that is to live somewhere cheaper.
I began this post by asking, “Why do we work so hard to talk ourselves out of knowing the things that we know, deep down, to be true?”
The answer, of course, is fear. Fear of what other people will think — fear of hurting them. I am terrified that family members and friends reading this who live in DC will be so disappointed to learn that I’m even thinking of not staying here forever. I am afraid of breaking my parents’ or in-laws’ hearts. I am afraid that if we move again, even in a couple of years, people will think I am flighty. I am afraid that moving would be hard on my daughter, that one day she’ll be on a therapist’s couch saying, “And then my mom kept making us move.”
I am afraid of a lot.
But I am also afraid of what will happen to me if I allow myself to be ruled by fear.
And I am empowered, by my meeting with Diane, to remember that we need each other to walk the walk. To live true, authentic, bold lives. Because it empowers others to follow suit.
As Marianne Williamson put it,
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
I don’t know what I’m going to do.
But I know that I am going to stop acting as though this truth — that I want to write full-time — is not the full, 2,000% truth of my life.
What truth do you know deep down, that you push away?
Wanna join me in finally owning that shit?
I’m here to listen.