It is not lost on me that my writing is mostly about not writing, which is actually writing that goes nowhere, does nothing. It’s essentially writing that is dead. Literary wallowing. A painful and ridiculous irony.
Yesterday I sat to write and came up with nothing. Then I read the latest Daily Rumpus from Stephen Elliott.
…We joked about a guy who writes about his writing but never actually writes anything. We joked about being stuck on a path, like being locked into a slow moving roller coaster. “The worst carnival ride ever. Six Flags The Turtle.” A roller coaster that moves slower than the earth.
Certainly it wasn’t directed at me personally. It’s out of context. And yet those words were like a vicious cut, ripping past layers of bullshit to lay open my rotten shameful truth.
As much as I didn’t want to, I reported my defeat to my writing coach and she said I should write a blog post about accountability. It immediately got me thinking.
My best grades in high school were during my sophomore year. I came very close to a 4.0. My freshman year had been rocky, a continuation of a decline that began in middle school. The difference? Accountability.
The family dynamics were always a mess but were reaching a climax at a time when I needed the greatest amount of guidance. My mother and stepfather fought constantly, openly attacking each other emotionally to the point of abuse. Mom was busy raising my three sisters, who were a decade younger than I, while my self-medicating stepfather worked and lived in another city until he would come home for the weekend and fill his role as my authority figure. Being seen as “mostly autonomous” allowed my parents to focus on other things, unfortunately leaving me to my own devices.
So I strayed, feeling nebulously forgotten and lost.
At the beginning of my sophomore year, my parents came up with a weekly “progress report” for me to take to each of my teachers. It was a single page of questions divided into sections and rows for each class. I don’t remember what the specific questions were. Some of the teachers loved it. Some of them hated the extra work and gave me an irritated look when I would hand it to them to fill out.
My parents intervention was their response to my declining grades more than a dawning realization that they needed to be more present in my life. They were still caught up in a maelstrom of destructive dysfunction teetering on the brink of divorce while coping with daily demands and responsibilities. Regardless, their small action had a dramatic effect. As much as I resisted and hated the feeling of oppression, the progress reports had the subconscious affect of showing me that someone gave a shit about me, that I was worthy of attention and guidance.
Unfortunately their intervention was short sighted and weak-willed and eventually was eclipsed by their own crises. I was back to my own devices in short order, which consisted of a Swiss Army knife full of “fuck everything.” My life spiraled out of control quickly.
Fast forward to today where I sit and battle old demons and shadows. Time has done nothing but allow them to grow mountainous. And yet I find comfort in them. We’re comfortable pals of the worst kind. The sickening duality makes me want to tear out my insides and burn them.
And then I read one of Steven Pressfield’s blog posts today. It hit me hard.
We’re talking on this blog about overcoming internal oppression, tyranny, and intimidation. We’re talking about confronting sabotage from within. Our preoccupation here is with overcoming our own shadow tendencies toward laziness, timidity, procrastination, arrogance, pettiness, and lack of attention, clarity, and focus.
We’re talking about instilling in ourselves the capacities of self-motivation, self-discipline, self-validation, self-reinforcement. We’re talking about acquiring the ability to overcome distraction, superficiality, iconization of self and others, self-obsession, narcissism, and the myriad other self-generated vices that stop us from becoming our authentic selves and from doing our true work, whether that is personal, professional, whatever.
Well, there you go. Gut-check complete.
And this is why I hired Becky. I need someone to hold me accountable to do the work, especially when I resist. I need someone who authentically gives a shit about me while I struggle with the battle within. I need someone I can trust with my best-interest when I don’t know what to do.
When we are held accountable, we count.