“I quit, I give up, nothing’s good enough for anybody else, it seems”…that Edie Brickell song was running through my mind as I awoke this morning and I got to wondering what’s so wrong with quitting anyway? We associate quitting with failure, and failure is, well, bad, right? Who says? Not Wayne Newton, who summed up his life to George Stroumboulopoulos with: “I never learned anything from the stuff I did right.”
Failure aside, I’m beginning to suspect quitting may be under the category of Taoist Problem Solving anyway: do nothing and see if the problem resolves itself. Safety tip: this isn’t always the best choice. If your house is on fire get off your butt and Get Out Of The House! Then you can do nothing as you stand by and watch it burn.Other than the burning building thing, I’m a fan of Taoist Problem Solving; you’d be amazed at how often it works.
My current problem is wicked mental burnout. I had a really stressful go of it over the holidays and it seems to have fried my brain. I can hardly put a coherent sentence together and would lose my own ass if it wasn’t following me around – and being as my main occupation is writing, that is, well, a bit of a problem (er… the not being able to put a sentence together part; the ass problem is, as I mentioned, self solving).
In the middle of this, my biggest consumption of energy, and greatest source of stress, is arguing with reality. In the rock/paper/scissors of life, reality trumps all, but even knowing that doesn’t stop me from arguing with it. So here’s the spin in my head right now: I’m freaking out because I feel like I can’t function, and if I can’t function, I can’t get anything done, and if I can’t get anything done I can’t earn any money, and if I can’t earn any money, well, that’s another whole list of I can’ts on the angst thought train. It all leads to me feeling very trapped, all because I can’t function.
So, I can’t function. There’s the reality. Option A: freak out about that and push through all kinds of stuff trying to force functioning, not really accomplishing anything and perpetuating the burnout that has caused me to not function in the first place. Option B: say, “yeah, I can’t function” and do….nothing. I quit, I give up – the next line in that song is “and being alone is the best way to be.” And it occurs to me, maybe this isn’t a whiny song about giving up, but a secret path to liberation (I’m only half kidding here). So quit, give up, be alone for a while – it’s the best way to be. Lie down in that ditch for a while, have a nap.
Written on the giant white board in my living room, along with the myriad of things I need to do to move my writing career forward, is the phrase: if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Bloody brilliant! Dead obvious when you think about it, but consider how many of us have got our noses down, pushing through something that just ain’t working for us. So, here’s an idea: just quit. Quitting means stopping what you are doing, means you can just chill while you wait for new resources to develop, find circumstances change, or even in the light of a new day discover a path you have never even seen or considered because you were too intent on doing the thing that wasn’t working.
So yeah, I quit. Spent yesterday reading Harry Potter and watching Jackie Chan movies (lord knows what that has done to my brain). Never even got out of my pyjamas. I finally said, rockpaperscissorsREALITY and let reality win (although I think I got to do a bit of an In Your Face to reality thanks to Harry Potter, and the Forbidden Kingdom). And it was the first time in a long time I didn’t feel wound up or worried. I finally let go, quit trying, and took the time alone for myself I needed. And today, also for the first time in a long time, woke up with this article bubbling in my brain, one I couldn’t have forced myself to write, wouldn’t have even thought to write, just a few days ago.
So, I’m going with the quitting thing, acknowledging I can’t function and opting to sit and stare at trees instead. And I’m gonna sit there until it’s time to do something else. Action arising from stillness – another Taoist idea, and being as I can’t seem to promote any action these days, I’m all over the stillness thing.
One final argument if you’re not buying into this quitting thing – consider Romeo and Juliet. If Romeo had come across Juliet’s cold lifeless body in that tomb and just said: “Well, this really sucks! Fuckit, I quit” and just lay down on her tomb and QUIT (the important part being NOT plunging a dagger in his heart, or taking more poison), he would eventually find his beloved Juliet awakened. Ta Da! Happy ending. Do nothing, problem solved. And heck, even if the woman didn’t come back to life, perhaps Romeo’s time lying on her tomb would get him to thinking: he’s still young, this will be a great tale to tell his grandkids, providing he quits thrashing about fighting people and lives to have grandkids, and would Juliet really want him to be miserable for the rest of his life anyway, and it’s kinda cold in here, and a sandwich or something might be good about now… and so eventually gets up, goes out into the warm Verona sunshine and gets on with his life. Cold and stiff and sad, but gets on with it none the less.
Not the captivating ending Shakespeare would have enjoyed, but the way things go for most of us in the real world. Better living through giving up – now there’s a title that would sell books.
Like the idea of quitting? You might enjoy the conversation of those in the ditch.