(I’m following @oulfis’s excellent lead on personal threads.)
I’ve spent the past year largely focused on recovering from a narrowly averted burnout. It took longer than I’d expected – especially given “averted” – and it exacted more rest and quiet than I was happy about. Most of my plans, including my Beeminder goals, had to go on hold.
But giving myself the space to question how I wanted to move forward while standing utterly still has paid off. I’m back on track with many of my goals, and enjoying them more than I ever have. It feels as if I’ve successfully moved from “I should accomplish this” to “I enjoy the process of doing this.” Big win!
Most gratifying (and surprising) is how easy it is to eat vegan now. I’m 50, and I’ve flirted with vegetarianism and veganism for the past 30 years. It’s always been hard: I grew up eating meat and eggs and cheese (and I like them), and I hate inconveniencing people. And nothing’s as inconvenient as a dining companion who’s vegan – not only because it strips most cooks of their entire repertoires, but also because it confronts people with an ugly truth and feels to them like a judgment. So in the past I’ve always retreated back into accommodatingly flexitarian habits: eating whatever it is people serve me when I’m out, going along with the flow in restaurants, and, at home, cooking to please the meat eaters in my family. (Which is everyone except me.)
But recently something’s shifted: it isn’t hard at all to eat vegan, whether I’m out or at home. I no longer feel like I’ve given up something by avoiding animal products. I no longer feel terrible about inconveniencing people – or, rather, I no longer feel their inconvenience is the most important part of the equation. And I no longer feel bad about people feeling bad: whatever unpleasantness they feel is not only a valid response, but also 100% theirs to own.
The balance of the price-performance equation, if you will, has shifted to make veganism a no-brainer for me. And that feels pretty nice.
I’ve also hit upon a writing goal that feels affirming. After years of trying to decide whether to make writing my career or keep it a hobby, I’ve decided on the latter. No more forcing myself to try and finish a novel (though of course I can still finish one if I want to). More importantly, no more jumping through accomplishment hoops. I write because I like writing. And I really don’t like chasing after results designed to prove I’m a worthwhile person. So – after a long and frustrating slog through word-count goals, and stories-finished goals, and time-spent-writing goals – I’ve hit upon a goal that feels like a game. I call it Crack Those Markets! I’m going to try to sell a short story to a series of magazines I haven’t been in before.
Of course, that could easily be an accomplishment-hoop goal. It isn’t, I think, because of the mindset shift I wrote about above. One way to put it might be that I’m finally looking inward to assess value, rather than outward. There may be better ways to describe it. At any rate, I’m far less concerned now with other people’s opinions of what I’ve done and am doing, and that means I’m finally doing what I do because I like doing it.
It’s a pretty great place to be. And it only took me 50 years to get here.