On Writing: Kublai Khan, My Wrecked Pants and the Freedom of Humiliation


I don’t have enough time to write this post. Officially, I’m crazy busy stressed out pushing against deadlines I’m not sure I’m going to meet and working with time I just don’t have. But I fell down while walking like a normal person and destroyed my pants a little earlier today and it was awesome. I should digress.

I have written before in my blogs here about being aware of and valuing your support network as a writer. Part of my support network, what I like to call my Kublai Khan War Council, is Tiffany. Tiffany is my life coach (her marketing) but I prefer to think of her as one of the Mongols that hangs around my writer’s throne room and advises me on invading walled cities in China. Metaphorically. I’ve worked with Tiffany for a few years now, talking about goals, unraveling my various anxieties and angsteses and helping to focus and refine my goals and harness my forward momentum. She’s a trusted part of my Khan-dom. Another way to put it – and one that I think most accurately defines the relationship we share – she’s the advocate of my better angels. She applies her training, expertise and our rapport to help the strong, confident voices in my head shout out the weird, neurotic voices that try to come down out of the hills and kill my horses.

So, I’m having a hectic month. I’m working on an aggressively ambitious project, I’m worried about not hitting the dates I’ve set to meet the milestones I want to meet and I have a slew of other things all coming at me at the same time. I met with Tiffany today and we spent a lot of time talking about that stress, about how it aids and hinders. I sometimes have big “AH HA!” moments during Tiffany’s life-coaching sessions (come on, war counseling sounds cooler) but more often than not, I have those “AH HA!” moments on the drive home or a few days later when that introspection and personal honesty stuff just starts to fall into place like mental Tetris and little dancing pixel people come out and celebrate. Today though, I had my “AH HA!” moment walking from her office to my car.

This brings me back to the pants I’m going to have to throw away and, obviously, to failure and how the fear of it looms large over all of us. What happened was this: I walked back toward my car and I just fell down. My ankle did a weird roll and the grass was wet and I tumbled down like a sack of potatoes in the mud. Then I tried to stand up and the combination of slippery ground and the angle of my pants-crotch teamed up to split down the center with a riotous sound like an embarrassing pants-thunder sounding out all over the Portland metropolitan area. If you were out and about this afternoon and heard a rip and suddenly felt deeply red-faced for some fool that was now in public with demolished pants, that was me.

Obviously, I started laughing. I looked up at the rain that was drizzling down on me (because: Portland) and laughed. AH HA!!!

What stresses me out the most is the fear of failure. This big project I’m working on, I’m worried people won’t like it or I won’t have executed it properly or I just won’t know what to do with it. The closer I get to accomplishment, the more I feel a nagging sense of dread. But what is the fear of failure anyway? It’s a fear that I’m going to fall down and look like a fool. Today, I did that. The worst thing that could happen, metaphorically, happened. I did the best I could at walking around like a normal not falling down person and I fell down anyway and then I ripped my pants and for a little while (before I hastily walked to my car and drove away) the block around Tiffany’s office saw my pasty Portland thigh and a little bit of my underwear. All of my worrying, all of that dread, in the end it didn’t matter and now? It’s not like I can’t walk anymore. All I can really do is laugh at the perfectly timed cosmic joke, have my little epiphany and put on new pants.

There are three morals to this story: be good to your war council, laugh when you fall down, and always maintain at least two pairs of pants in case of ironic calamity.


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