In the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the never-seen father of Cameron, Ferris’ best friend, keeps a gorgeous classic 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California under virtual lock-and-key in the garage.
The car is his pride and joy, something he cares for more lovingly than, we can assume, he does his own son. A key part of the movie’s story is the son’s decision to take the car, without Dad’s knowledge, for an unprecedented day of adventure on the streets of Chicago.
This is not just any car. Even if you know next-to-nothing about cars (like me), it is clear that there is some major power in this vehicle, that this car is capable of some ride….yet, it just sits there, idle day in and day out.
All that potential and strength is just shelved, maybe for “someday,” and maybe for never.
Many of us are like that car or like its owner – or maybe both. Either we sit idly, hiding, preening, perfecting our perfect-ness, getting ready for a someday that may or may not come…all the while wasting the beauty and strength and potential that are all already there.
Or, we may be like Cameron’s dad: keeping that power from the world, “protecting” it, depriving himself and everyone else from the joy and exhilaration that letting that power loose may bring, pretending that half-ass and idle is more than enough.
Since my Stop-The-Bus Moment on New Year’s Eve 2008/2009, I have been on some ride (wow, lots of car/bus/driving metaphors here!).
Since that moment, when I took the car that is me out of its hiding place, I have been running on full throttle.
As you know, for me, this has been the ride of a lifetime.
For reasons I am working on discovering and exploring, I spent well over a decade in the prime of my 20s and 30s depriving myself of lots of the joys that life has to offer. Like Cameron’s father, instead of putting the pedal to the metal and driving that beautiful vehicle, I busied and buried myself in the minutiae of its care.
I kept busy, very busy, with stuff I “had” to do. And not only did I “have” to do it, but I had to do it completely, and perfectly, and better than anyone else. It was tiring on every level, but I felt I had no choice. Besides, if I didn’t do them, who would?
Life is awesome. And don’t get me wrong – life has always been awesome for me. I am very, very grateful for all that I have, for the people, the opportunities, the brains, the gifts and, yes, for the “things” too. I have much and I am blessed and I know it. I try to remember it and be thankful for all of it all the time. Even during some of my darker days, I know that I have everything I need.
But, despite the inherent awesomeness of life, sometimes and some days it is all just too much. Or not right. Or really wrong. Or, for many reasons, just a f*cking mess.
That’s how I felt yesterday.
Like a f*cking mess.
Maybe it was the One-Day-After-My-Birthday Syndrome.
Maybe it was hormones.
Maybe it was the food I have (or haven’t) been eating.
Maybe it was my apparent inability to deal with the first week of the non-school-year schedule with my kids.
Maybe it was my being out of town for three of the past five weekends.
Maybe it was the glaring and blatant obviousness of me needing to go (but not going) to Publix and having yet another day without milk or granola nut clusters.
Maybe it was Publix plus all the other little things I have to deal with but haven’t, the mundane things like the fuse that blew out in my garage and shut down my refrigerator there or the contractor who hasn’t shown up in weeks to finish a few tiny jobs I already paid him for or the oil change I need or the carpools I need to arrange for the next few weeks.
Maybe it was my inability to shake off the negativity of people whom I should not allow into my emotions but still do.
Maybe because I care so f*cking much about people in my life – even the ones who I have moved past in so many other ways.
And maybe because I would never say or do things to them that are sometimes done or said to me. Maybe because I naively continue to expect different and better behavior from people incapable of such behavior.
Maybe it was nothing, and maybe it was a combination of everything.
Whatever it was, yesterday I was not stronger, faster or better than all of these other things that come at me (or that I allow to come at me) rapid-fire, day-in and day-out.
Yesterday, I had a meltdown. An all-out freakin’ meltdown. Like tears, and bags under my eyes, and a runny nose and heaving and the whole nine-yards.
I felt awful.
I was doing too much and none of it well or effectively.
In my meltdown, I made some decisions, none of which would really serve me, but that nevertheless felt good and punishing in the moment.
I decided I was going to get a 9-to-5 job. (I haven’t worked for someone else since 2001 when I started my business. Doing this would, for me, negate my years of hard work and success and all that I stand for as far as freedom and control in my life.)
I decided I was going to stop caring so much about everyone and everything. Across the board. (I didn’t say I was thinking or acting rationally.)
And, among other things, I decided that I wasn’t going to write anymore. That I was giving it all up. That my writing sucked and that even if it didn’t suck, it wasn’t taking me where I needed to go (financially, schedule-wise and otherwise). That it was emotionally draining, financially taxing (no pun intended) and circular (as opposed to linear, getting me from here to there).
Since I made the decision (and a very public one, at that) to focus on building my platform as an author and ghostwriter not of copy for other people’s businesses but of ideas and inspirations for real life and real people I could connect with, I have earned far less money than I did before. I know and understand in my soul that my jumping off the proverbial ledge is the only thing that will get me to where I want to be, but the interim period is scary and uncertain, nonetheless.
Sometimes, when I am already in an uncertain place and/or one of great change, things like making sure I pay all of my bills on time stress me out.
All of this made yesterday the scene of a Perfect Storm: That stress, and my Ego and the voice in my head (echoed by at least one person in my life who is very good at telling me how worthless I am) all saw their chance to pounce.
And pounce they did.
There was no way I could be a match for that combo working against me.
And in the midst of my meltdown, I started to think that all of this was a sign — a sign that my great experiment in living, in taking that Ferrari out of its idleness and into a full-throttle life, had failed.
A sign that I was not meant to be happy or live too much out loud or have adventures or make money or be free or write or…well…anything.
A sign that I should just pack it all up and return to a more safe existence, perhaps to a “real” and steady paycheck. Or a set job instead of a boundary-less, more intangible writing life. Or a predictable, safe existence that doesn’t lead to meltdowns and empty tanks.
(And speaking of empty tanks, when you don’t take the Ferrari out of its place in the garage, you don’t use any fuel. And when you don’t use any fuel…guess what? Your tank is never empty. That seemed kind of tempting in that moment of meltdown.)
I am telling you all of these details not to bore you or even unburden myself (though it does help, I must say) but to tell you, above all, that you are not alone.
Your overwhelm and your worries and your bad day(s) may have some similarities, or none at all. You may have fallen asleep to a stupid-but-hilarious movie with a stomach full of greasy popcorn like I did, or maybe you had a drink, or a smoke, or a run or something else or nothing else at all.
Either way, at some point, your tank has also been on empty. I know it. And I know how sucky it felt for you (or maybe it feels that way in this very moment). I hope you have been able to allow yourself to feel the suckiness, to wallow in it for that moment, and then to do something, however small, about it.
I woke up this morning kind of just weak and worn out, but able to get back into some action.
I still feel overwhelmed on some levels and in need of some immediate changes in my own schedule and habits. I know that I can’t be everything to everyone and that I need to be a little more selfish. That sounds weird (or at least it does to me), but I know it to be true.
I need to allow myself more quiet time and I need to eliminate distractions that aren’t serving me. I need to know my limits and work within those (not against them) to find my focus and get in my groove on a consistent basis.
I need to trust the flow more and let go – like really let go – of what I cannot control and what I cannot change.
I need to treat myself better.
I need to forgive and practice compassion on myself and others.
I need to find and hold on to that place inside me that is not hurt or bent out of shape or detoured any time someone mistreats or says something not nice to me.
I need to use my energy for what really matters and put myself in “Neutral” or even “Park” when I need a break.
And, finally, I need to fill my tank before it bottoms out on empty. Because empty is a not a place where great things happen, and I am still determined to be great or nothing at all.
I do know that even on our emptiest days, there is so much to learn. There is a gift in the empty. Your job and mine is to take that gift and use it.
That’s what I am trying to do. I’ll let you know how it works out….
I love you.