I had been slowly acquiring archery equipment since Christmas. While Katniss was admittedly and unashamedly the tipping point for me, there have been others. Buffy. The Amazons from Xena. I wanted to know what it would be like to be able to kick ass.
I took my intro to Archery class and shit got real. Not in a I AM MOMENTS AWAY FROM KILLING AND EATING MY OWN PREY AND BECOMING A PREDATOR sort of way. More in a, girl this is going to be a looooooong ass journey. Our class was taught by a perky geeky girl wearing a red shirt with the Chinese blessing cat wrapped up in string. She was relentlessly upbeat while she drilled safety issues into us , all the while managing to be incredibly assertive. Her calm demeanor had a steel undertone from being Olympic trained in competitive archery and the Vice President of the NJ Archery association. She would decide who would be allowed range privileges. She was a little younger than me and I was deathly afraid of her.
Half the class claimed to want to learn the recurve bow but they were traitorous cowards who bent under her sharp glare and meekly took up the compound. Watching me be scolded from the moment I stepped onto the range until the moment I left probably didn’t help the cause either.
I would not be deterred however. A. The equipment had been bought (although now Jow is having doubts about the bow because it says something about having to wash my hands just to touch it, blahblahblah whatever) and B. I didn’t want to learn the compound bow. I wanted to learn the recurve. Katniss would not have looked nearly as cool with a compound. I could talk about skill level and artistry that’s there with a recurve but my jerky friend Mr. M called me a hipster at my party for speaking earnestly about those aspects (don’t worry, I made fun of his Mage tats in return) so we’ll leave it there.
The recurve is hard. Getting honked at about my stance and the way I held everything and did everything did not do my always tenuous-at-best nerves any good either. I almost cried, out of frustration at one point until she said softly but strongly, It doesn’t matter for the rest of them. They will still get really close to their targets consistently. You’re different. You need to be good at this or you will never get good.
I pulled myself together and shot my arrows.
I needed more than a week before I felt brave enough to go and practice what I learned. I went during the day on a Monday when I knew no one would be there because I needed to practice without getting distracted by being told that I suck beyond measure. In some ways that made it better and in some ways it made it worse. I felt less anxious but my internal monologue was less than kind. I put myself through a half hour before I felt like crying again and then I left.
I’m impossible to teach anything, especially anything physical thanks to being left handed to write and right handed for everything else. My brain gets jumbled and confused. I’m one of those rare female INTJ/ENTJs (I’m a cusp, why wouldn’t I be?) which also means that I suck at listening when being taught because, naturally, I know best.
But if I really want to learn something? I will keep pushing and pushing no matter how much it hurts. This has always been my saving grace. I’m a pusher, Cadie.
It’s not uncommon for me to be faced with people I care about a great deal telling me why they can’t get to the next level like I did. I have to have a lot of years in with you and feel really comfortable that you’re not going to boot my ass out of your life for my bluntness. (Un)Luckily, for Jow, it would cost him a lot of money to get rid of me so we had a frank conversation recently.
We were driving home from brunch and talking about his career. Private clients in any profession are a complete pain in the ass to get and maintain so it’s really hard to get really jazzed about working six days a week, an hour commute each way on four of those days while working in a very physical profession. But he loves it. It’s just not maintainable for the rest of his life at the rate he’s going. Which means he needs private clients.
Because I’m an amazing wife, I very calmly stated that right now it’s not a high enough priority to him and that’s okay. You know what the knee jerk reaction to this statement is, right? HOW DARE YOU TELL ME THAT IT’S NOT A HIGH ENOUGH PRIORITY. I WORK REALLY HARD AND SHOULD BE TOLD I’M AMAZING AT EVERYTHING AT EVERY TIME AVAILABLE. Jow, to his credit, calmly said, I don’t agree with that.
I followed it up with examples from life, Right now writing on baby naps has not been a high enough priority for me post-first book. I haven’t started research/field work for my next book. I haven’t revamped my Etsy store yet. I haven’t done yoga since January. I haven’t made as many Nuno scarves as I possibly could have made. I don’t blog very much. I haven’t had much of a daily magical practice post-book. I have chosen to make other things higher priorities for myself. Sometimes to retain sanity. Sometimes because of the time of the year. Sometimes to make enough money to pay my bills. Sometimes because I’m feeling lazy. Sometimes because I need a break and some self care. All of those reasons are perfectly valid, but they’re choices.
I spent most of last year profoundly uncomfortable. Overworked, stressed out and feeling pretty fucking hopeless. If you want to kick ass, if you want to achieve the next level in your whatever, you can’t do it and be comfortable. Sorry. Scratch that, rarely does anyone get to get to the next level without being profoundly uncomfortable. It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of stress, it’s a lot of changes and it’s not the hottest thing to bring to your relationship. You have to take risks, you have to put yourself out there, you have to work a lot. A whole lot. Just because you like doing something doesn’t magically make it not work. I work pretty much from the moment I get up until the moment I go to sleep with some breaks for socialization and leaving my house. My bff Ms. R teases me about how much television I watch (um, a lot but she’s a Netflix junkie so whatev!) but I watch a ton of television because it’s something to do while I spin. I have friends over and I spin. I bring my spinning with me. I write during my day job during naps. I’m going to start reading during them too for my research for my next book. I never stop working because that’s what I need to do to get to where I’m going.
If you don’t want that kind of life, that’s more than okay! Most people like working eight hours a day, making a comfortable salary, having benefits and a decent amount of free time to spend with friends, family, lovers and on an occasional hobby as well as an hour or two on their spiritual practice. This is a lovely way to live and it’s why most people chose to live this way.
But if you want to start a business, climb as high as you can on the corporate ladder, start a serious meditation practice, get a black belt, do a daily ritual, write a book, lose 50 pounds in a year or anything else in that vein, don’t ever think you can do that comfortably and without sacrifice. Because you can’t.
More to the point, when has magic ever been comfortable? We do magic to change ourselves, our universe and to shake up our local antfarm. When has finding reputable magical training been easy? When has it been easy to find three hours to do a complicated ritual when you don’t live along and work a full time job? A lot of people like reading about magic a lot more than doing it. Understandably so, you’re inviting the Universe/Spirits to notice you. You want them to change things with you. You want to work your will. You want to take control over your minuscule thread in the tapestry of the Universe. But you can’t always solve for X and magic is one. big. X. Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it. As Workers we live in a constant tension, strung between hope and fear that we will become what we pretend to be.
What are you willing to sacrifice on the altar of your dreams? Is it worth it?
Only time will tell.