The purpose of life is a life of purpose. —Robert Byrne
How do we keep going in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds? How do we overcome the dark forces of self-doubt and self-criticism which can sometimes cripple our ability to create our best, most purposeful lives? How do we rise above the sometimes ungenerous, unkind stories we tell ourselves as we go about our lives?
Sitting around the table at our morning coaching session, teas and coffees in hand, these were some of the questions we explored. Three of us—all creative solopreneurs, writers and designers—shared our fears and doubts, goals and obstacles. We also shared ideas for creatively combatting those obstacles. Personally, I really appreciate the format of these sessions; it’s like group therapy meets private, practical task-oriented coaching.
I found my way to Pregame earlier this year as I was leaving a toxic job to resume my freelance career. While I’ve freelanced as a designer, writer, and editor for most of my adult life and I love the work, the feast-or-famine cycle is exhausting. Gone are the days when the feast was abundant enough to carry the famine. I’d hoped with guidance and support I’d be able to chart a new course to more stable—and profitable—work and eliminate that winter slump I’d become accustomed to.
Mapping a new direction has not been a linear process for me. More than once I’ve arrived at coaching sessions expressing frustration that I was simply spinning my wheels but not really hooking up any traction. It’s hard to remember that wheel-spinning is just part of the process, and that the less-than-linear path can be a helluva lot more exciting and rich, in some regards.
The past six months have been a sort of peeling away of layers. Layers of fear and uncertainty, doubt and worry, second-guessing and last-ditch efforts. Finally, a cataclysmic event occurred which revealed with crystalline clarity the heart of my purpose: #metoo.
The internet was—and still is—on fire with the battle cry that is #metoo; a hashtag that is both call-to-action and a howl of collective and personal pain and deep injury. It is a battle cry of injustice.
I smelled the smoke of #metoo before I saw the flames, and as soon as I felt the heat, I knew this was my purpose: to not only tell my own incredible, unbelievable, stranger-than-fiction story of resilience and survival, but to amplify the voices of others who have remained hidden in the shadows—shadows not of our own making.
I am here to turn up the heat on #metoo and usher it from a moment to a movement.
In the space of a single heartbeat, I knew it was time to finish the book I’d been writing for almost 10 years. How could I have known the peeling-away I was doing all year would be to prepare me for this? (Though even now, I hear that small, tinny voice of the Impostor, which I’ve written about before, whispering that I “shouldn’t be writing about this; it’ll be bad for business.”)
Impostor Syndrome be damned, I’m suddenly in hyper-drive, focused on editing the book and adding some new material, preparing to launch pre-orders on November 30th when I take the stage at ROAR Voices, a live storytelling event in Vancouver, WA. I’m driven, focused, and determined to take the book to final production in January. Now, more than ever, I need to continue to peel away everything that doesn’t serve that goal. But at this morning’s coaching session I found myself in a familiar, unproductive place.
We took turns outlining our challenges and goals. When it was my turn I sighed heavily and began expressing my exasperation and frustration with my exasperation and frustration. What I mean by that is I notice that certain challenges just seem to fold back in on themselves, forming a completely unproductive, sticky, intractable möbius loop.
Part of this particular workout involves a bit of “speedwork” where we offer ideas for managing our respective challenges more gracefully.
Someone said “gratitude practice” and I wrote it down, without so much as an eyeball roll, because you know what? It works. Being grateful works. But being grateful for good things is easy. Even more radical is practicing gratitude for difficult things, for the challenges themselves, because of what they are communicating to us.
For example, October was a very lean month for me, with work projects getting put on hold and thus unbilled. That fact is a real hardship, but it also makes me even more resolute to make this final rewrite of the book so much more powerful. It makes me determined to put everything I have into this creation of mine, into crafting a compelling story, into making the moment a movement. And hopefully, if I’m very good, and very lucky, and really persistent, maybe I’ll make a few dollars on my way to creating change.
Will I reach a top 10 spot on the New York Times best seller list and sell millions of copies? Maybe. Not likely, but maybe. It could happen. But until I finish and publish and people have the opportunity to buy it, I’ll never know. So yes, I’m grateful for the not-so-gentle nudge (or is it a shove?) coming from my bank account.
During the workout, I remembered a line from a book by Rob Brezsny—one that’s stayed with me for years. He was addressing the problem of negative bias—a trait we all possess, one which served the human race well as we were rising to the top of the food chain, but which now holds us back in contemporary life. He wrote (and I’m paraphrasing) believe that the universe is in collusion with your own desires. He even coined a phrase for it: Pronoia, the antithesis that the universe is out to get you.
Now, anyone who knows me knows I’m not one to go tripping lightly down the woo-woo trail. And yet, I do believe there’s something to the notion of our thoughts at least influencing our reality, if not actually creating it.
A fellow Pregame member offered an example for dealing with financial depression from her own life: during a particularly difficult period, she noticed she kept finding change on the street. So she picked it up and banked it. A nickel here, a dime there, and once, a ten dollar bill. Over time, it added up—both literally and figuratively.
The lesson: We find what we seek. But if we are trying to avoid or move away from something, it tends to follow us. Still finding the wrong clients, budgets, lovers, diets, jobs, or opportunities? Seek better.
The larger metaphor of searching for change wasn’t lost on me, though. I’m a change agent, a challenger to the status quo. I’ve always been hell bent on justice, equality, and fairness, for as long as I can remember. I want change in this world—social change, environmental change, economic change on a BIG scale. It’s a huge part of my identity, my greater purpose. It’s why I started Allied Independent earlier this year. But real change starts within, creating changes in me, first.
As I left Pregame, thinking about these things, a number of events happened to underscore and highlight all the above.
First, I got two emails from members in the community who have successful mindfulness-infused businesses. Both were supportive of not just what I am attempting to do, but also of who I am. At the same time, they also challenged me, but in the best possible way.
Then I got another pledge to my Patreon campaign from a dear friend. The gesture brought me to grateful tears (as promised to all pledges and supporters.)
And lastly, I got an email from a far away, long-ago friend who wrote:
“Art should disturb the comfortable, and comfort the disturbed.”—Banksy
It sounds like you are well on your way. Take no prisoners. Make no apologies. And know that your writing and art, no matter how disturbing, will bring comfort to those who need it most.
My heart is with you.
I quickly typed out a gushy reply through more tears of gratitude, thanking him for his words as they burned a hole in the frustration I’d begun the day with.
He replied once more:
You are very welcome.
Now, go forth and disturb the f*ck out of the comfortable.
This is my work; to go forth and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. It isn’t glamorous, or glorious, or even palatable work by many regards, but I truly feel it is my purpose. And who am I to play hide-and-seek in the shadows when I could well be a lantern for others?
If you’d like to support me in this journey and help produce this important and timely work, you can follow and support the campaign, here.