Why I don’t achieve my goals

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


23 thoughts on “Why I don’t achieve my goals

  1. Oh Dear. Poor you, Jane. You have outlined the main plot and characters of a novel or autobiographical work which, even if written with all names changed, could and would fascinate the world. But I can see that while you would write it brilliantly, if you threw all your inhibitions to the wind and told your life story both totally and honestly, then you would have a winner . But the one thing you could suffer from is success, because then people would know it would be about you, and if that happened you might not be happy. I was very touched by your reference to how your children loved you so much that even in their own self-knowledge of their awful limitations they could not survive without you. That is what their attention seeking is a sign of and is also probably why all three of you are finding it so hard to be happy. But one thing I do know, you have to screw your courage to the sticking place and write the book first, warts and all, and then you will have freed yourself of so much depression and angst, and seen it for what it is, that all the love the trio I can see has for each other will unlock all your hearts and then there may well be a happy ending. If you think I’m right do tell me and I’ll try to help you find a publisher if I can. You deserve to have your happiness back after all you’ve done for others. But you won’t find the effort easy unless you make it your first priority, ie some 2,000 words of detachment a day! Take care. Anton.

    ps: My favourite poem is ‘The Foresaken Garden’ by Swinburne, and my favourite novel ‘The Waves’ by Virginia Woolf, so that gives you some idea of why I think you have every reason to be hopeful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t describe the gratitude I felt as I read your words. I think you may be right in everything you say.
      About two years ago I decided to write a novel based on my children’s addictions. It was heavy going, because even as I wrote, new dramas occurred on a daily basis, and I was sinking deeper and deeper into depression. I had to drop the project.
      When I began blogging at the beginning of the year, it was with the intention of building my confidence to begin again. I discovered that readers liked my poetry, and I hit on the idea of telling the story as a series of poems. I haven’t finished them because my confidence has slipped.
      I believe that you speak with authority. If I can, within the next seven days, train myself to go to bed and get up at regular times, and follow a strict rota for all of the actions I need to carry out in order to live a healthy life, I will begin next Monday. I will write my story as a memoir. I already have my children’s permission to use their names.
      I thank you, Anton, for your support and encouragement. To use a cliche: it means a lot to me. I’ll be in touch.


  2. Jane, I don’t know who Spike Milligan is, but I think your poetry is MUCH better than the one of his you gave a link to. Perhaps you have reached your goal but don’t realize it. Instead of giving links to poems of other people ( the rest I all know and agree, they are wonderful) why don’t you give links to your 8 favorite poems you have written and let us read them??? Also, please consider that you are publishing your work on this blog and there is a good chance that more people are reading and appreciating it than would if it were being published in a print journal or anthology. http://judydykstrabrown.com/2015/09/20/generational-drift/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Spike Milligan is unknown in the US, but he was a comic genius. He wrote a lot of very silly poems, and did quite a bit of TV. I have a feeling he doesn’t travel well.
      I may take your advice and post 8 of my poems, as you suggest. I’ll have to look for an excuse…


      1. Write however you wish. Your poems, articles, prose, are all very interesting,
        funny and sad. Very sad, sometimes.
        Can you do something for me?
        I would really appreciate your opinion on my latest post.
        It’s different to the poetry that I normally write.
        Your thoughts would be helpful.



  3. Thanks Jane. However you write your story and whatever day you manage to begin your regime of determination to do it , please don’t give up. As Judy says above you have a lot of followers already and, like me, you seem to find you can share your worst experiences with people you haven’t even met. As everyone on this comment string reads all of this can I just tell Judy that Spike Milligan was one of the greatest comic geniuses the British Isles has ever produced on radio, TV and in his many books and poems. Unfortunately he suffered from manic depression as many gifted people do. But for yourself, please do write your story. Ciao. Anton.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s a good choice, because it asks us to remember, unless remembering makes us sad – in which case we should forget and be happy. It’s not so easy to do, though…
          Mum chose it for my aunt’s (my mum’s twin sister) funeral, so I knew she’d have wanted it. She often recited poetry (and sang Scottish folk songs) instead of reading a bedtime story. She loved beauty, and poetry is beauty.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with what’s already said above – your writing is skilful, eloquent, authentic and often so powerful. it’s written in a way that is accessible, that doesn’t feel like a chore to read and often as if you are speaking. Your poetry is amazing! I haven’t seen a ‘duff’ poem here yet. I love Spike Milligan, He carries some very resonant messages through his nonsense rhyme style, We had to learn some of his poems in junior school and although I can’t recite or name them I do sometimes revisit some. Thanks for the link reminding of this one shared at this post 🙂 i hope you do find the health and strength to achieve your writing goals 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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