The answer to writing, any career for that matter, is love. – Ray Bradbury
The feeling descends, and at first, it feels like a long, cold drink sliding down a parched throat. We savor it. We keep drinking. Sometimes, that feeling continues, our shoulders relax, our chests open up, peace settles into that space between our shoulder blades. If this is the sensation that lingers, we do well to embrace it and be on about our days.
But sometimes, the long drink settles like lead in our bellies, weighing us down, tightening our chests more, giving us anxiety and guilt – oh the guilt. We obsess and winge at the idea. We try to cradle it in our stomachs, keep it warm and safe, but it wriggles out and infects our backs and throats, tightening us, making us rigid.
I know what it feels like to want to quit.
Many, many times in my life, I have wanted to step out of things – jobs and relationships and hobbies and volunteer work. Many times I have stepped out – left things behind – sometimes with peace, sometimes with this winging.
But I don’t believe quitting is a bad thing. I believe quitting the wrong things is a bad thing.
Sometimes, we have to quit things – to make time for other things, to save ourselves pain and heartbreak, to put our energy and ideas into our true passions instead of into obligations or enterprises that simply make money but do not feed our souls.
Yet, sometimes, we have to NOT quit things. Sometimes, we have to stick with writing or nursing or child rearing or car repair because that is the thing that feeds, the thing that opens us up, the thing that lets us disappear for even a few minutes in the midst of a holiday season that threatens to crush us with gifts and parties. If we get even a few minutes of this deep peace every once in a while, where we climb down into something so deeply that it embraces us and frees us from our own dancing minds, we cannot quit because this thing – even if it we let it cause us anxiety or worry when we focus on the when or how of it – is what feeds our souls.
Sometimes, I want to quit writing because I have listened to too many voices that have told me that writing is easy, that it should come naturally and if it doesn’t, I should quit. But that’s malarchy. Writing is really hard for 98% of the time. It requires discipline and imagination and the sacrifice of other things I might do with my time. It requires my commitment even in the face of unspoken and sometimes shouted voices that tell me to get a real job and “grow up.” It requires enough self-knowledge for me to know that the only voices I need to hear are the ones that tell me – “You. Be you, Andi.”
Anything that we want to do that means anything is hard – teaching piano, working as a probation officer, managing an IT system, teaching preschoolers. The fact that something is hard cannot determine whether or not we quit or stick to it.
Our commitment must come, I believe, from this question – does our work free us to be who we are? Does it give us space to open up to our widest, fullest selves? OR does it shut us down, make us tinier and brittle? Our answer to that question will guide us to what we must quit and what we must embrace.
What are you contemplating quitting? How does that thing make you feel? Do you find any moments of your deepest joy there?
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