Photo by Iswanto Arif.
Summer madness is in full swing. When you live in Bozeman, Montana, where six-month winters are the norm, you learn to treasure the Greater Yellowstone’s glory season. With fewer than four months before the snow begins to fly, the brain train is racing.
Like so many of you, I love my routines. We are creatures of habit. When our habits are healthy, we foster our ability to strive for a life of meaning and purpose. And this “meaning and purpose” ultimately represents the foundation of contentment. So why the hell am I floundering in the waters of discontent today? I’ve decided it’s twofold: comparisons and the anxiety of August.
I’ve spent much of the summer working on a major remake/facelift to my Be Audacious website. We are gearing up for the launch in hopes of having the new site bombproof for the publication of my next book scheduled for October 1. You only get one chance at a launch or first impression so we recognize the importance of making it a good one. At the same time, I’ve been trying to keep the flow going, with one to two power-packed blogs each week.
But it’s been a different kind of summer on so many levels. Last summer I banged out a 90,000-word manuscript. We are nearing the October publication date and yet there is still so much to do. I’ve often spoken and written about the seasonal nature of our lives and our creative work. Unlike the typical 9-5, where your days are laid out for you and relatively consistent, I’ve found that my life as a writer rises and falls like the tides and changes in seasons. And anyone who knows me will tell you I’m most comfortable with routines. High tides. Schedules. Meeting those deadlines. Checking things off the to-do list.
Add to that the fact that I have a thirst to push the envelope mentally, physically and, perhaps, even socially. I’ve yet to master the art of going with the flow of the river. Far too often, like now, I find myself comparing one season of productivity to another, which almost always leads to discontent.
And then there’s the clincher: my daughter starts second grade next week. I can’t stop thinking that we haven’t done enough this summer; but when I get out of the emotional comparative mind (comparing this Greater Yellowstone summer to last summer’s book tour escapades) and tap into my wise mind, I can see that I’ve helped facilitate a summer with plenty to fill the pages of the memory books for my little shadow.
Though her birthday isn’t until late October, just last week we pulled off a 8th Birthday Beach Bash for Kamiah. She yearned for a summer birthday party, one she could count on holding outside, and for the third year in a row (every birthday since we returned from living on Kauai) she requested a Hawaiian theme. With 90 degree temperatures, the support of my wife, who took the entire day off, and my parents, who happily fulfilled Kamiah’s wish that the party be held in their little wooded oasis, we pulled off a birthday party for the ages.
Ensuring we conclude August with panache, next week we are embarking upon a three day self-supported bike tour enroute to a book signing in the town I was born, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, not a shabby place to wrap up the summer.
So why the anxiety? Part of it has to do with the fact that I’m still slogging through the outline and proposal process for my next two books, which I’m thrilled to say my publisher is very excited about. Part of it has to do with the comparative fear that I’m not producing at the same level as last summer, where I grinded out almost an entire book. And the other part of it has to do with my daughter returning to school.
Anyone who knows both of us well, considers Kamiah a mini version of me—which may be why I remind her every day that she’s always enough and that effort, not being perfect, is what we are striving towards. Much like her “Dadda,” school (math and reading) doesn’t come naturally. After a summer spent attending all but one Hero Training class at the library, reading 35 books (one away from the $65 Lego set I promised if her reading mission was completed), working twice weekly with her 1st grade teacher, I know Kamiah is ready to tackle second grade. But anxiety still haunts me.
For me, August brings back memories of a yearly event I dreaded: the first day of school. When I see my daughter, struggle it causes more stress and trepidation than my going to school ever did. While I shined on the playground, in the gym, and on the field, there was always a sense of inadequacy in the classroom. Now, when I see that look in my daughter’s eyes, a look I know from many days staring in the bathroom mirror, I’m flooded with emotion. So I put my coaching hat on, shower her with love and strive to instill in her our core values—with which she overflows. Then I leave her with a reminder of the importance of effort. That’s what she can control.
And then I meditate.
That’s right. I’m thirty five years into my development as a striver, and while it’s come highly recommended by many who are near and dear, I’ve never dabbled in this arena, but I decided it’s time I give meditation a try.
I can’t say that my first attempt was an utter failure. It certainly didn’t come naturally for my computer-like brain. But I’m told the simple act of trying—the effort and intention—carries some weight.
Time will tell. The first day of school fast approaches.
~Michael W. Leach