This week in The Sandpit Challenge week 6 Calen asks us “What prevents you from reaching your goals?”
I have made several attempts at writing this post, and rejected them all. It’s not that I don’t know what my two main goals are, but I’m embarrassed to share one of them, and the other one brings out truths which are painful to think about.
I’ll begin by confessing to my secondary goal: I would like to write one great work, to have it published and to be recognised for it. It would not have to be a long piece of writing; a three stanza poem would be enough. It would be a gem which would compel readers to re-read it and perhaps try to memorise every word. It may contain an essential truth , told in a new way, it may illuminate, it may be funny or it may bring tears to the eyes. Ideally I would like it to fulfil all four of these requirements, but one of them may be enough.
Here is a small sample of some of my favourite poems:
Jenny Joseph: When I am am old woman I shall wear purple
Alfred Noyes The Highwayman
John Masefield: Cargoes
Alfred, Lord Tennyson: The Lady of Shalott
Elizabeth Barratt Browning: How do I love thee
Thomas Hood: The song of the shirt
Christina Rossetti: Remember
Spike Milligan: Have a nice day
Perhaps with the exception of the Spike Milligan poem – which I couldn’t resist including because it’s my favouriite of all of his poems – these have all been read, repeated and memorised by countless people. They are all unforgettable. I’d like to write a poem which takes the breath away, just as these do.
There is nothing to prevent me from doing that, except that I may not have the skill. If I wrote such a poem, I doubt that I would recognise it, because it is hard to be objective about one’s own art. When I write something that may be considered good, my mind ricochets from thinking it is the best thing I have ever written, to one of the worst, and then back again. My style is too familiar for me to be able to tell whether my work is good, bad or indifferent.
As for getting my poetry published, the only obstacle to that is my 100% lack of effort. I don’t have the confidence to go out there and risk rejection. I took one small step, once, towards trying to get a children’s book published. I researched agents, approached one by email, and got an email back from them, telling me they were not currently taking on new clients. This was about two years ago, and it had been so emotionally exhausting that I gave up.
My fear is not so much that I’m not good enough, but that nobody will bother to read what I have written, because I’m so boring/mousy/introverted – in other words, I’m such a loser that I won’t make my work sound tempting. I’d probably apologetise for being a nuisance.
I need to find a friend who has so little going on in their life that they’re prepared to act as my agent to find an agent for me!
There are goals and there are wishes. To fullfil my wishes would involve others changing their behaviour. In order to fulfil my greater goal, I have to let go of those wishes. My second goal is to achieve that which every normal person desires: Happiness.
I don’t need to be physically well in order to be happy. My symptoms, while they are limitting, are not painful. I get dizzy, hear noises in my head, the world shudders and jumps, I become confused and don’t know what day it is, or what I’m supposed to be doing. I get tired. My brain switches off and becomes a blank. But these symptoms would just be an entertaining distraction if I was happy.
I don’t wish to be misunderstood; I have many moments of joy, and I laugh a lot. When I am able, often with the help of family and friends, I grab at every excuse for laughter, but I am not deeply happy or even fairly contented with life in general.
I suffer from anxiety and depression, brought on by the addictions of my two younger children. My wish is for them be well. But, while I am prepared to support them in their efforts to recover, their destinies are out of my control, so I need to stop agonising over them. They make this difficult for me, as, although they are both in their late twenties, they behave like children, needily clinging to my skirt without the slightest concern for my sanity and well-being, then as soon as they get my attention, they run off, they hide, they play dangerous games with sharks, making sure that I know and am afraid.
Yes, my goal is to be happy, and in order to be happy I have to disable the switch in my head which is labelled “Mother of my two younger children”. I have to close down the battens, lock away a portion of my heart and give the key to someone I trust, to be returned to me if appropriate.
©Jane Paterson Basil