There have been a few moments in my life lately where I’ve had to ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” We should always be asking ourselves that question, so we’re always sure we know, but sometimes settling into a pattern or getting lost in an uphill battle makes the edges blur and the mind lose focus. We get used to the idea that we’re doing something because it has to be done, and we stop asking ourselves why.
It’s like thinking that you’re in love with someone, and thinking you want to be with them, until you ask yourself why you want them. The answer should be a long list of things that they make you feel and ways they show you the world anew and support they give you and how you make them happy and so on. It should be a much, much, much, longer list of positive than it is negative – though of course there are always things we need to work on. It should never be, “because I love him,” unless the answer to the next “why?” is all of those things. If “because I love him” is explained by “because I do”, then you have a problem.
Sometimes you get to a point where you can stay together or you can let go. If the end is coming, it’s better to do it quick and clear and as painlessly as possible, which drawing it out never seems to allow for. You ask yourself, “why are we together?” and if the answer is something other than “because we’ve been together for a long time” or “because we’ haven’t broken up yet”, then maybe you’ve got a chance. Those recursive ideas, or I love her because I used to love her because we used to have a good time because we used to be happy together so therefore I must still love her, chase each other around in circles and feed on each other without really giving clear support for the why of here and now.
Once in a while that fork in the road comes and you can let go or you can stand up. I’ve done that. Once, anyway. I’ve been on the receiving end of it too. The Henry the 5th speech. The grand moment, love unfurled, secrets revealed, let’s rise and fall together baby. The other person either takes your hand and says, “yes we’re in this together,” or they don’t.
Maybe, usually, they don’t. But at least you know.
The worst thing in the world is to get caught in the chicken-and-egg scenario, wondering if you’re doing something because you want to be or because you said you would and now you have to because you said but who did you say it to and do they still care? It isn’t just relationships that this happens in, though I can make a comparison there that most people will understand. It happens with your family (“Why I am still talking to someone who treats me like dirt?” “Because it’s my mom/dad/sister/aunt/relative.” “Ok, so, why?”) and it happens with work and it happens with writing. Which is what you all come here to talk about.
I’ve been thinking and talking and tweeting a lot lately about getting myself in over my head because I can’t let go of the idea that I have to. Whatever it is, I have to. Why? Because someone else needs me to. Doesn’t matter if it’s my things, as long it’s something that would be better if I took care of it. I feel, then, compelled to do it. I end up taking on too much, promising (myself, mostly) that I’ll get it all done. Why? Because I have to. Why? Because …. I have to?
Well, no, I don’t. I thought of this originally in terms of Dagan Books, and the past-due projects I’ve got queued up there. Things that aren’t done solely because I’m the only one to do them, and I haven’t been able to yet. Why am I the only one who can? Because I am. Well, aren’t I?
No, of course not. In some ways, I am the only one I have. In others, I’m really not. It’s just that I was the only one I had, back when I was putting together Cthulhurotica by myself, back when I started to think that making a few more books might be a good idea. That’s not true anymore, and would be less true if I actually told people that I was poor, overworked, stressed, and needing to delegate some of the things I’m behind on. But I put it off, because I think I have to. Because I thought myself in circles. Because it didn’t occur to me to find the first turtle and ask what he was standing on.
Writing, relationships, family – ask yourself why you’re holding on, or holding them at arm’s length, or pushing them away. Be sure it’s because it’s what you truly want to do, that you’re the first step on the path, all decisions start with present-you, not past-you, not longing-you, not lonely-you. Be the first turtle, as far down as you can.