Becoming the Living Poet

Maybe If You Don’t Want To Do Something You “Shouldn’t”

Posted on: April 24, 2009

You being you is not as depressing as you think.

That’s a quote from Havi’s blogging therapy post about Why Even Bother When Other People Are Doing It Better? I love Havi so much right now. I’ll admit it. I’m becoming (we’ll say it’s a process and not a state of being) a little obsessed with her at the moment because I’m going through a rocky, emotional time in my life and she feeds me seemingly simple, but really incredibly insightful gems like the one above.

So a warning for those who were thinking that a blog called the Living Poet might (gasp) actually be about poetry. At some point in the future we’re going to talk about submitting to literary magazines, preparing chapbook manuscripts, and there may even be reviews of poetry books. It’s coming, honest. But right now what I really want to talk about is the process of “destuckification”. Because when it comes to being a poet, specifically the act of writing poetry, the line between the personal and the professional is pretty darn hazy if it exists at all. So I’m going to tangent on mental health issues for a bit because that’s where I’m at right now, but rest assured we’ll come back to poetry.

So now I want to tell you something I learned this week that is so simple that I may forget it. But I want to write it down on the off chance that writing about it makes it stick in my head for just a few more nanoseconds then it otherwise would.

Not wanting to do something you “should” want to do is a completely legitimate reason for not doing it.

I got the idea from rereading this post on The Fluent Self about how to tell whether you’re just giving into your fears or legitimately respecting your own limitations. (I’m cool with being a broken record about how awesome The Fluent Self is for awhile because it’s really helping me more than anything else has in a long time.) I think this may have been the first Fluent Self post I ever read and it had me hitting the subscribe button right then and there because at the time I found the post linked to by another blog I read called Remarkable Communication the issue was completely 100% relevant to an issue I was dealing with at the time.

I was (still am really if I can ever get past the guilt of making the decision I did, but that’s not the stuff we’re working through right now) an LGBT rights activist and at the time I was reading the post I was fretting over whether or not I should leave an activist collective I was involved with called S.A.M.E., who are really awesome and great and wonderful and in-your-face about fighting for marriage equality for same sex couples. I love the organization and everything they stand for, but what I had issues with was the in-your-face part. The main thing that S.A.M.E. does is put on marches and protests to raise awareness about LGBT rights legislation and to remind politicians that living, breathing people care about these issues and that we have numbers on our side.

When I first started going to marches I loved it. It was exciting and I felt so brave and committed for standing up for something I cared about. Then the social anxiety started to kick in again and suddenly things weren’t so exciting anymore. In fact things felt really scary, but (or so I reasoned at the time) something being scary “shouldn’t” be a relevant concern when you’re a committed activist. You “should” be able to bulldoze your way right on through that dread and terror and come out of the situation stronger for it.

Yes and no.

As much of a coward as I think I am falsely believe I am, I’ve always been a big believer in the healing power of feeling the fear and doing it anyway. I’ve never even read the book and I’ve made it my personal motto. Coincidentally it might be a wonderful book so don’t let the fact that I’m about to temper the advice I got from its title dissuade you from reading it.

In high school I was the kid who was terrified of public speaking and decided to join the speech and debate team. And guess what? That worked for me at the time and I even made it to the state finals in original prose and poetry (a speech competition event where you write your own speech and perform it).

I was looking for the person who said Courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it. It was Mark Twain and while I was looking up that quote I found another one which gets to the heart of the matter.

Courage is the fear of being thought a coward. – Horace Smith

Yeah. That. That’s the other side of the face your fear coin. Sometimes the idea that maybe you don’t have to face your fears is actually scarier than the idea that there’s some invisible moral force compelling you to do the bravest thing possible every single moment of every single day.

And I’m going to split the post into two posts right here because the length of the single long post was terrifying. I was just scrolling and scrolling. So go read Don’t Take Candy From Strangers & Don’t Listen To Shoulds if you want to hear the rest of the story. If you’re bored now that’s cool too. Go make yourself a bowl of cereal or something…


4 Responses to "Maybe If You Don’t Want To Do Something You “Shouldn’t”"

[…] About The Living Poet Maybe If You Don’t Want To Do Something You “Shouldn’t” […]

“I love Havi so much right now. I’ll admit it. I’m becoming (we’ll say it’s a process and not a state of being) a little obsessed with her at the moment because I’m going through a rocky, emotional time in my life and she feeds me seemingly simple, but really incredibly insightful gems like the one above.”

–Exactly. I am right there with ya. I also want to say that I love the title of your blog and the future plans for topics. I’ll be reading!

And this whole shoulds and shouldn’ts thing is HUGE! Something I need to work on, for sure. Thanks.

Hi Nancy,
Thanks for reading. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

[…] On June 10th I’m flying to Denmark. I got my passport in the mail last week and instead of being ecstatic, I feel frightened and unmoored. I’m trying not to be too hard on myself about that. After all, I “should” be thrilled that a fantasy I’ve had for decades is coming true is still another “should”. […]

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