“Don’t try to do it; just do it.”
These eight words had the distinct possibility of changing my life when I first heard them over four years ago. To a certain degree, it did. I’ve always remembered these words. They’ve constantly served as a charge, encouragement to act, to fully commit to life. And yet, to that other and significantly larger degree, things remain relatively the same.
Perhaps because I’m human and unfailingly imperfect. Perhaps because the process of doing anything in life isn’t seated in a single decision, conversation or even the desire itself. And even that — hope — is hard to hold on to for someone like me who tends to see things through shit-stained glasses more days than not. That tendency lends itself to the oft-repeated phrase, “Well, I tried.”
Sometimes I want nothing more than to come back to my little blog and write, to shift through the hundreds of pages of my first manuscript and get the edits done, to create new characters for a new project that popped in my head in the shower or on the drive home. There’s hope that I’ll let my imagination take a story to a place I haven’t yet mapped.
But then I don’t. I don’t even try. I don’t even try. And you know why not? I’m busy. It’s a noble truth. I really am busy. I work a full-time job. I work a part-time job. And once week every other month, I work another part-time job. Then there’s the added responsibilities that come with co-parenting an eleven year old boy with special academic needs. So when people ask what I’m writing (i.e., what I’m not writing) or what I’m working on (i.e. what I’m not working on) I tell them the truth.
“Well, I tried.”
It’s an excuse that quite frankly I’m tired of using. Yes, I wrote for hours when I only worked one part-time job. Yes, I had an almost unlimited amount of time to dedicate to my writing before I signed up for surrogate motherhood and even then I wasn’t as disciplined as I’d hoped. My problem isn’t so much time as it is discipline — and confidence.
For me, “Well, I tried…” has always been a matter of trying to make myself feel better for not doing something I really wanted to do. It’s what follows after a half-ass attempt at something that’s really challenging or scary. It finds it way through all the anxious self-talk and drops out of my mouth before I even realize what’s going on. And just like that — a band-aid over the disappointment, fear of failure and rejection. A band-aid to cover up almost three decades of trying and finally an understanding that trying isn’t doing; an understanding that trying or not trying doesn’t heal life’s pains. The rejection and failure, the hurt and disappointment, the anxiety comes whether you try or you don’t. It comes whether you do or don’t, too. Whatever it is that awaits us is waiting. I can’t help but to hope that the glasses get more rosy and less shitty once we do life. (And when we keep doing it!)
As it is often the case for me, I’m most motivated to act when I see God awful quality in someone close to me that I later recognize as one of my many personal flaws. And for months I couldn’t find the true source of my frustrations with, “Well, I tried” after hearing my sister say it until I realized it’s my problem. When she said it, I heard defensiveness and resignation. It even reeked of self-righteousness. And while I didn’t say a word, I hung up unable to move away from that conversation until this very moment.
Listen to what follows each of my “Well, I tried” declarations:
“Well, I tried to be a writer.”
“Well, I tried to lose weight.”
“Well, I tried to be a better daughter, sister, friend.”
“Well, I tried to be the kind of person I want to be.”
“Well, I tried to get him to love me.”
What follow is always an uneasy silence. I finish the rest in my head, too ashamed to finish what I think is true.
“…but I can’t.”
“…but it’s too hard.”
“…but I don’t know how.”
“…but I’m too tired.”
“…but it’s impossible.”
“…but it’s not going to work.”
“…but it’s not worth it.”
“…but it doesn’t matter what I do.”
Sometimes, we can’t. Sometimes, it is too hard. Sometimes, we don’t know how. It’s impossible, we’re exhausted and it’s simply not going to work. I don’t have the answer for when that happens after we’ve done all we can. Maybe we drop the preface. Maybe we stand in awareness and acceptance — “I committed myself to nurturing my children, my work, my passions, my health; to repairing broken relationships and finances and I’m still disappointed. I failed. I’m hurt. I tried.”