When things turn ugly

Photo by Steve Bowbrick

Have you ever noticed it’s pretty easy to take a perfectly good thing and turn it into an ugly thing? A bowl of chips can turn into eating the whole bag, a conversation with a friend can turn into gossip, being organized can turn into being obsessive and controlling etc.

I let this happen all the time.

Lately I’ve noticed that I’ve been thinking about this blog and my bucket list and it’s become this ugly thing looming over my head. I think things like:

  1. When will you get it together, Jess, and workout more? 
  2. When will you stop stressing over your baby?
  3. If you don’t figure these things out then say goodbye to doing anything with your life.

These are the kind of things that are happening deep in the back of my mind. I try to tell them off:

  1. I just had a baby! (Four months ago, get it together, woman!)
  2. I will never stop stressing over my kids, it’s what mothers do! (Are you sure it’s all mothers? Can’t you be better than them?)
  3. I don’t need to “do anything with my life”! I still have value even if I don’t “do anything”. (Sure keep telling yourself that. It’s just an excuse for being lazy.)

It’s weird even writing these things out because I know they’re crazy. This blog and these goals were never supposed to turn ugly. They were supposed to add to my life: add challenge, fun, satisfaction, adventure (and bragging rights?). I think it’s that last part that made things go sour. Somewhere I developed a drive to show people I can do these things. When I admit it – like that one ugly response revealed  in #2 – I want to be “better” than other people and on some level I think I am. Doing hard things validates this in me.

The last few years I have noticed a frightening trend: I’m not better (surprise, surprise) and I actually give up on hard things pretty easily.

But really, I’m regular. I’m plain-Jane-vanilla-regular and I need to get it through my thick skull that it’s not a bad thing. I’m ordinary and trying to do ridiculous things to try to be different or prove something isn’t going to solve any problems I have but only make more.

So right now I’m going to keep trying to do my little goals:

  • Be more ok with letting non-relatives watch Jack
  • Get my hair cut
  • Go to the dentist
  • Try to care less what people think about me
  • Keep going to the gym

And maybe that means I’ll be able to do some of the other bigger things on my list some day. And maybe not. But I refuse to let this stuff define my happiness even if I really really want them. Sometimes things don’t turn out the way we hope or want them to and that’s ok.
Maybe one day I’ll figure out how to chill the frig out.

Give up or Keep going?


I’m on vacation this week and taking a break from the internets. These are scheduled posts. Forgive me for not responding in the comments until next week.

I think about this question every time I make pastry. I am so bad it it. The process looks something like this:

  • This time will be different
  • See? It’s going well!
  • Ugh. Stop tearing and separating.
  • OK. Moment of truth. The part where I transfer it to the pie plate.

That last part, is where my blood starts to boil up, adrenaline shoots through my body. A string of rather vulgar swearwords come to mind and sometimes I even say them. Out loud. Because I’m just that angry at myself and the blasted pie crust that it just wont do what I want it to. Despite all the practice, I just can’t make it work. (Sure, I might be using non-traditional flours like spelt and gluten free stuff. Yes, that does make it harder. I have confirmed this as I watched my mother-in-law — the Patron Saint of Pretty Pies — struggle to make the spelt/gluten free crust work for her).

Penelope wishes she had quit:

“I was a figure skater growing up. I skated three days a week at 5am and most days after school as well. But I couldn’t do double-rotation jumps. I’m simply too large. I am tall and big-boned. I am too heavy to rotate in the air twice, even as a very skinny fifth-grader. I wish someone had told me to stop focusing on figure skating because it would never work for me. I wish someone had helped me find what I’d be great at.”

So how do I know whether in this case Practice-Makes-Perfect or Girlfriend,-Give-Up-and-Spend-Your-Time-on-Things-You’ll-Actually-Improve-On?

A Few Principles:

  1. Is your ambition leading you to neglect valuable parts of your life? I haven’t gotten to the point where I have a singular focus on making pie crust. I am not neglecting my family or values so that I can get this frigging crust to submit. It is possible that this could happen in other areas of our lives. Certain goals require a huge time commitment.  That’s not necessarily bad. But if it is negatively affecting things you really value, that might be your cue to quit.
  2. Are you afraid of success? Do you want to quit because you’re afraid of the unknown associated with success? Your life might change a lot if you get published. What if you do become a hugely successful lawyer and speaker? What then? That can be scary.
  3. Consider your commitment. Why did you say you would do this thing? Who did you commit to doing it with? What does breaking the commitment mean for you and them? If you have a physical injury that prevents you from continuing, that’s one thing. It’s another if you’re just being flaky.
  4. Do you (like me) struggle to finish everything you start? Maybe you’ve never really figured out how to coach/motivate yourself into finishing something. You’re easily distracted and can always find something newer, trendier or more interesting (for a time) to focus on. This one is a big one I’m trying to learn.
  5. Does the payoff of quitting outweigh the investment you’ve put in? You’ve put a lot of money and time into achieving your goal and you’re considering giving it all up. Sometimes it’s good to quit but we fall subject to commitment bias and think “I can’t quit now, look how much I’ve invested!” Sometimes we should give up anyways. Sometimes we should keep going. If you have invested a lot and still want to quit, consider why that is? (Is it fear of success? Reality sinking in that you just aren’t capable like you thought you were?)

I don’t think there’s an easy answer. I have thought my response was common sense, only to have people think I made the wrong choice. We don’t all want the exact same things from life, and we’re not all going to approach everything the same way.

How do you decide whether to quit or keep going?

Your turn: What do you count as a goal completed?


I barely made it out for a run today. If it weren’t for the Get The File Out principle, there’s no way I would have gone. “I’ll just put my running clothes on” was how it started and it ended when I wanted to barf cause I was running too much!

As I was running and struggling to keep going (it was a hard run!) I wondered something about goal completion. I wanted to ask you because I’m pretty confident what my response is.

When you have a goal in mind, is it enough to complete the goal (say a 1/2 marathon, no matter what your time is) or do you need to complete the goal on your terms (it doesn’t matter if I completed my first 1/2 marathon unless I get in at the average time or better than average time)?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...