Unlike SOME certain podcast hosts that will remain nameless, I’ve always found certain versions of gnomes to be cute and enchanting. Having done a bit of Waldorf schooling with my son, gnomes certainly came up a lot in his younger years, especially with what we used to call “gnome math” (it involved four gnomes, Plus, Minus, Multiply, and Divide, and their adventures with gemstones…but that’s for another article). When I was at the book shop a few weeks ago in the art section, a little book attracted my attention:
It had a blurb on the back cover from John Kralik that said, “…It is also about getting unstuck from that stuck place in your life by finding one simple thing to do consistently and well.” And who wasn’t in a stuck place at the end of 2016? I decided to grab the book. What’s the worst that could happen? I wasn’t afraid of gnomes, and I figured at worst, I could start making some to taunt people with.
From the very first chapter of The Gnome Project, “The Museum of Unfinished Works,” I realized this was a book for me. In this chapter, the author describes my situation (life-long, really) perfectly. I DID finish things, but…only when they were necessary. When I had committed to someone else, when I had something riding on it, etc. This is why external deadlines, things set by other people, worked so well for me. But if it was something that was seemingly trivial, like tidying things through the day, or if it was something that had no effect on anyone but me, it would just slide away and wouldn’t get done. Author Jessica Peill-Meininghaus says,
“After a lifetime of this frustration, I developed several other complicating factors, including an underlying lack of trust in my ability to achieve anything. Full stop. And the belief that I wasn’t a grown-up at all. What mature human would leave so many things undone?”
The fact that I’ve always had big dreams doesn’t help. Having a perfect Beatrix Potter-type home? Being an artist AND an author AND a parent AND….yeah, you get the picture. Add ADHD to that mix, and you get a deadly cocktail of bouncing from one thing to another every time something proves difficult. But what Peill-Meininghaus says about the lack of trust in herself is what hit me the hardest.
Is that why I was having such a hard time? Did I actually self-sabotage myself because I figured, “Well, I won’t finish it ANYWAY, because I’m a loser like that…”? I think there was a stinging grain of truth in that.
In the past year, I had become so afraid of not finishing something that I just…didn’t even try. “Life’s going to happen and stop me from doing this.” “This sudden change in my schedule means that everything will be derailed and go down the toilet, so yeah, why bother?” Those are the types of things my brain, subconsciously, was telling itself. I didn’t realize it, it wasn’t on a conscious level, but all last year, I was completely prepared to fail at all things because that was the inevitability, right? For someone like me, with a special needs kid and so many thing out of my control, who also has ADHD and has PROVEN time and again that things will always get in the way…Why should I even venture to hope? That’s what I realized my mind was telling itself all through 2016.
Well, fuck that. Really, brain? I went on, after making that realization, to list the things I DID accomplish in 2016, to list the things, even though they may not have come out right or the way I wanted them to, that I did finish. And there was plenty. And when I looked at some of the things that happened to me and my family in 2016, from the very beginning of January, I was truly amazed that I managed to accomplish so much. My mind was a liar. With those lists, I could see in black and white that I was no where near a failure, that over the past year, I had dealt with more than my share of difficulties, health issues, family crises, professional stress, and more. Why was my mind messing with me so much?
Well, because it’s an asshole, really. But after reading The Gnome Project, I realized that the only way to get out of this pit that I found myself in is to climb out. It seems obvious, but looking back, when you don’t realize what the problem is, it can be rather hard to fix it and find your happy place. The way I will find my happy place is to do more of the things I love. And since I don’t do well without a plan, I’m going to make doing these things a priority, and schedule time for them every day.
We only get to live once. I know that people need to work and make a living and feed their families. But what’s the point if you just have life pass you by while you are doing that? Why bother living at all? I don’t want to miss my life. I have too much fun during the good times to allow that to happen. We have the things we have to do—MOST of the hours of my day are filled with those. But why not make myself and what’s important to me a priority for one hour, no matter what is happening?
Reading The Gnome Project, you can see that the author definitely had her fair share of trials during her year of making gnomes. Moving, illnesses, heartache, four kids, etc. No matter what, she still made a gnome every day. If she can do that, then shouldn’t I be able to write 500 words a day? Shouldn’t I be able to do some measurable progress on an art project?
Well, I guess I’ll find out, because I’m done letting my brain tell me false fixed crap. It’s time for me to change that narrative into something more accurate. I invite you all to do the same. Why should we let the negative voices win?
What is something you’ve always wanted to do? Why can’t you do it? Is there one step that you can take toward reaching your goal? What’s the next step? I think we can all end 2017 in a better place than where we started, but we have to take the first steps. In Jessica Peill-Meininghaus’s words:
“I encourage you to go out into this dynamic, beautiful world of ours and find something that challenges you—in a good way—then strive to create your own daily practice and see what unfolds in your heart and your life. You are capable, even when you think you aren’t. Take it from me.”
Melanie R. Meadors is an author of fantasy where heroes don't always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She is a blogger at The Once and Future Podcast, a professional author publicist, and a dabbling fiber artist. You can find her at her website, melaniermeadors.com, on Facebook, and Twitter, @melaniermeadors.