Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Nasty Four-Letter Word

I started swearing this year - yup, I did - and it’s a nasty four-letter word.

For some people, their New Year’s resolutions involve vowing to start, stop or at least cut-back on doing something. As for me, I planned a little bit of everything, but just not saying a particular word.

I had great plans of starting – or at least trying – something new this year. But I didn’t exactly count on adding a swear word to the mixture. But what bugs me most about my over-abundant usage of the word is that it’s a word I have often written about NOT using.

Plug your ears, close your eyes, and get out the soap to rinse-out my mouth.

The word is CAN’T.

So far 2015 has been a time of trying new things; but doing so has not always come easy for me. ‘Fear of the unknown’ was one of many roadblocks I often allowed to stop me, but age has given me confidence, and various life experiences has given me perspective to be more adventurous and less restrained. ‘Who cares about what anyone thinks’ and ‘who cares if I make a fool of myself’ are phrases I now frequent. Life is short; I want to do things and be able to say ‘at least I tried.’ And if there is any hesitation or second-guessing before trying something new, I never regret trying – even if I wasn’t exactly the greatest at whatever it was.

But lately my can-do/positive attitude I try to always portray has been shaky. I wonder if it’s because I’ve been attempting so many new things all at once – however exciting, adventurous and progressive they might be. Fear and uncertainty have been trying to knock me down, and can’t has been rudely – sinfully – uttered from my mouth one too many times; too many times, in fact, that I feel as though I am bordering on being a fraud.

Since January I’ve taken up archery. For four years I sat on the sidelines watching my son perfect his skill at the high-focus sport. ‘I’m a mom; archery is HIS thing’ was always my response when someone asked me if I, too, participated in the sport. But I now know that nasty word can’t had been hovering in the background. But on a whim one day last summer I tried it – and I loved it. I got my own bow for Christmas – although I panicked about using it when I opened it Christmas morning – but through support and assistance from my son and other members of the archery club we belong to I’ve been learning. There have been various hurdles to overcome, but I’ve persevered. Trying new equipment and subsequent equipment malfunctions, strength and endurance development, and skill and technique-perfecting have all played a factor in testing my confidence.

But true to my can-do ways I participated in a tournament – just to say I did it. Gosh – I COMPETED IN A TOURNAMENT?! What’s my problem then? What am I so worried about?

But still when new equipment or techniques are presented to me, I struggle/panic/stress about something new and that four-letter word can’t comes out, only to have me beating myself up for saying the horrid word in the first place. Then ‘I can’t’ and ‘who do I think I am?’ play tag in my head and some days they win, and some days I win, but I keep going – I keep trying.

I can’t do what I don’t try.

But it’s hard. That word keeps trying to bring me down.

During all this I was presented with a writing opportunity way outside my comfort zone, knowledge or experience; I was asked to write a short science fiction story. I gulped in trepidation but then looked at it as a chance to stretch my wings and figured: What the heck? I’m used to writing slice-of-life stories, as well as contemporary fiction for kids. I’m no expert in either and honing my craft is on-going – I get that. But I have never tackled writing anything science fiction, and my knowledge/expertise/experience is limited. Well, I figured, why not give it a try? It’s all part of my ‘trying something new’ mantra for the year.

Well, I’ve struggled and struggled with the piece I’ve been working on. I’ve wrote, re-wrote, started, stopped, stalled and re-started too many times to count. Can’t has been clouding my brain, and I have nearly given up a zillion times. But I can’t do it – I can’t give up, I keep telling myself. I won’t. The thought of doing so bugs me.

That word can’t has been really getting to me.

So I’ve decided to snuff it out – completely.

Archery and writing are each about intense focus. I can focus not on what I can’t do but what I CAN do. Maybe I put too many irons in the fire and got overwhelmed – I don’t know. So I have taken a step back and have done what I’m comfortable with; first thing first was writing this. I have further decided I will write what I want, when I want, how I want; I will shoot how I want, when I want, and progressing with what equipment I want – all in my own time. I don’t HAVE to try any new archery equipment or techniques. I can strengthen what I already know, and when I’m ready, I will try something new. It won’t kill me; it’ll only make me stronger.

Recognizing this nasty word usage and writing about it here has given me the much-needed boost. Whether it will be a new piece of archery equipment or a technique, or if it’s that writing project that keeps tripping me up, focusing on what I can do and not caring about anything else will only get me farther ahead. Focus, perseverance and mental strengthening skills learned from each archery and writing can be applied to the other, only enhancing my performance, output, and over-all enjoyment. It's all in the approach.

And if and when that nasty little four-letter word creeps back into my vocabulary just when I have gotten tough and have all but exorcised it out of my life, I will take a step back, remember to focus on what I can do, and then move forward again.

I realize now that part of winning the ‘battle’ has been in educating myself; knowledge is power, and all that. I realized I had to learn WHAT about trying something new in archery or writing was scaring me, preventing me from progressing and moving forward. I have taken the time to learn about the new piece of equipment or technique before trying it; I have taken the time to learn more about writing science fiction and have learned it doesn’t have to be any one certain way. And I have to remember I’m not competing with anyone else and I’m not doing any of this to please anyone. I can do my own thing – learn archery at my own speed and write whatever story my heart desires. It doesn’t matter what I do, just as long as I do it. As long as I follow through; as long as I finish. Arrow after arrow, word after word, I WILL get there. I WILL get through and surpass what’s slowing me down, and I WILL replace that four-letter word can’t with another four-letter word.


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