My psychiatrist helped me to see this. Well, I kind of already knew I was at a crossroads. Chatting with my psychiatrist has helped me to see how I might conceivably choose a path rather than make like Tom Hanks in Cast Away and stand at the crossroads until the credits roll. I’m only 41 years old. Even if I only live as long as my mother did, I’ve got at least another 12 years until the credits roll. That’s a long time to be standing at the crossroads. Much longer than the seven months I’ve already been standing here. My psychiatrist, in her way, gave me permission to forgive myself for wasting the last seven months of my life. She also gave me permission to take a while to figure out what exactly I’m going to do next. Here’s the progress so far: I accept the permission to do both of those things. I’m going to actually do them…eventually.
Two things: I am a very impatient person, especially when it comes to making decisions. I don’t like the decision-making process. I like the end result of decision-making, which is having made a decision, even if it’s wrong. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made ill-considered decisions simply for the sake of not having to make the decision anymore. You might recall that’s how I ended up with my fourth child. I love my fourth child dearly, and she was definitely a right decision, but I couldn’t call the decision to have her anything but ill-considered. “I’m going to do this even if it’s wrong” is not the hallmark of a well-considered decision. That’s all I’m saying. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. The intermittently-rewarded action is more likely to be repeated than the consistently-rewarded action. Did you know that? I learned that in my high school psychology class. Where was I going with this? Oh, yes. I had a fourth child even though it might have been wrong, but it worked out, so that’s validated my habit of making ill-considered decisions.
Unfortunately, sometimes I can’t even make an ill-considered decision because I can’t discern what my options are. This is the problem of my future right now.
Here are some things I’ve already decided: I’m not going to be a dental hygienist. I’m not going back to school. I’ve already wasted tons of my parents’ money on a useless bachelor degree and a not-small chunk of my own change on two ill-considered attempts at graduate school (attempts at graduate school being even more useless than a bachelor’s degree in English), and I’m just not going to waste any more money on school. There are way too many people in school as it is. Higher education is overpopulated; I don’t want to add to that. I know what you’re thinking: “I didn’t even know she was thinking about being a dental hygienist.” I wasn’t, really. It was just one of the things that occurred to me while I was thinking about useful careers I could enter. It happened while my dental hygienist was cleaning my teeth. I thought, “I’ve been a parent for fifteen years, so I’ve seen a lot of gross stuff. I could totally get past the ick factor and probably enjoy cleaning people’s teeth. That seems like a satisfying job.” Why? I don’t know. Maybe because I would be allowed to finish cleaning a person’s teeth and not have to do it again for another six months. Not that same person’s teeth, I mean. I wouldn’t have to go home with them and brush and floss their teeth twice a day while living inside their mouth. That’s the difference between cleaning a stranger’s teeth and cleaning your own house. Maybe I was working through some other issues at the time. That’s neither here nor there because my husband says I’m not perky enough to be a dental hygienist, and I totally agree. I’m not really perky enough to be anything but a DMV employee, and I don’t want to work at the DMV. That seems like a very unsatisfying job, in addition to a demoralizing one. But I digress. The point is that I’m not going to embark on a new career. I’m not qualified for any of them, and I’m not going back to school to get qualified.
I’m also not going to go back into journalism. Once upon a time, when I was young, if I hadn’t started having kids when I did, I probably could have enjoyed a fair-to-middling career in that industry for a number of years. But having been out of it for quite some time, absence has not made the heart grow fonder. I have absolutely no desire to do that sort of writing anymore. I mean, no one really cares anyway. I’m old and I’ve been unemployed for 15 years. No one would want me to write for them. Writers are a dime a dozen, anyway. Actually, by now they are probably absolutely free. I’d have to be some kind of go-getter. I’ve never been much for go-getting. I’d have to really, really want it, and I really, really don’t. This might be related to the perkiness issue. Or it could be a coincidence. The point is, I’m not going down that road again.
Which leaves me with the following options: 1) finish the novel I started six years ago, 2) start a new novel, or 3) become really, really good at cleaning my house. I know which option my husband would prefer. Which option has the greatest likelihood of success, however? I just don’t know. Two problems: 1) I fear failure—like, I’m deathly afraid of it, it’s a debilitating fear, and 2) I really, really hate housecleaning. I just feel like it’s time for me to succeed at something. It has been a very, very, very long time since I’ve succeeded at something, and I’m feeling very success-deprived. This is where you say, “Well, duh, Mad, no guts, no glory, nothing ventured, nothing gained, blah blah, you can’t succeed until you try,” but you don’t get it. I’m looking for something I can definitely succeed at. Then I can feel free to try something else that I’m going to fail at. I know, I’m making excuses for myself. Don’t you think I know that? Do you think I can keep a blog for nine years and be so lacking in self-awareness? I’m not telling you how I ought to be. I’m telling you how I am. You should know that about me by now.
I can’t tell you how many times I have advised other writers to give themselves permission to write crap, to give themselves permission to suck. I give myself permission to suck at a lot of things. Housekeeping and parenting being chief among them. Also, public speaking. Social interaction. Teaching children’s Sunday School. Coloring my own hair. The list goes on and on. Permission to suck at the thing I’ve always wanted to do more than anything else since I was a little girl, I cannot seem to give myself, no matter how hard I try. I know I have to. Don’t you think I know that? I’m like my seven-year-old, who currently has a bladder infection and has to drink two teaspoons of antibiotic twice a day and it tastes like hell. She knows she has to drink it. She knows it’s better if she just chugs it down and gets it over with so she can have a Scooby Snack. She knows if she doesn’t drink it, it’s going to start burning again when she pees. So she’s motivated, but…gah, it just tastes so horrible! She brings it to her lips and remembers how bad it tastes and she just shudders and puts it down again. Rinse and repeat, for about 10-20 minutes. That’s me, only instead of 10-20 minutes, think 10-20 years. I’m not sure where I’m at in the journey just now.
So that’s why I find myself considering things like being a dental hygienist, even though there was never any danger of me actually becoming a dental hygienist. If I can’t succeed at this totally useless thing I’ve always thought I was good at and meant to do, I need to have a back-up plan. That is why I’ve managed to maintain this blog for nine years, even though at this point it is really only just barely, technically maintained. That’s why I still blog at BCC even though I don’t really have anything to say about Mormonism anymore. It’s not the kind of writing I want to be doing, but it’s something, and if it’s not great, who cares, because it’s just blogging anyway, and moreover, if I give it up, I will be writing nothing. That’s what I’m afraid of.
Did I mention something at the beginning that seemed somewhat optimistic, like I was going to choose a path instead of remaining at the crossroads indefinitely? I was just kidding. No, I was actually just more optimistic when I started than now, when I’m ending. For now I am ending. Tomorrow maybe I will post something cute that one of my kids said. Or I will tell you about how I’ve become an expert on Regency romance novels. Or I will just skip blogging for another eight weeks. I think I said that six weeks of not posting was the magic number for a blog dying, which means that this blog is officially dead, no matter what I do. It can never be resurrected again. This is just Zombie Giraffe talking. Eventually someone will do the thing to me that you have to do to kill a zombie. I don’t know what that is.