Like many writers – cough, Cheryl Strayed, ‘achoo! – I enjoy taking long, meditative walks.
I used to walk all over my hometown as a kid, so walking all over my current town kind of reconnects me with my inner child. Plus something about being alone and surrounded by nature gives me the sense of space and freedom I need to contemplate shit that I might otherwise leave bottled up.
The results of any given walk are typically healing and awesome.
During my after-dinner walk on Sunday, though, things didn’t start out so well.
After thinking about my career aspirations for a few minutes, I found myself on the verge of falling into a spiral of self-pity over the fact that I want to do everything. I want to write everything. Book concepts, blog ideas, freelance gigs, ALL the essays, short stories – these things ganged up on me like a mental army of “YOU’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO DO IT ALL!”-screaming assholes.
I started thinking about how beginning one project always feels a lot like neglecting another project, which, given the fact that I have a full-time job and a highly active social life, feels a lot like making a big ass commitment to something that might not be the best project – which then makes it really easy to just be like, “Okay, fuck it. I’ll do nothing.”
I approached a big hill and kept walking. As my elevation increased, I moved on to feeling pity for myself over the fact that I’ve already devoted two years to finishing a book which is still yet to be represented. Then I felt more pity for myself over the fact that it’s probably because I don’t have enough space or time to write (or edit, for that matter) to my highest potential, because again: full-time job and highly active social life.
These are ironic and silly things to be upset about. These things are blessings.
So then I went into angry, tough-love mode on myself: Why are you so fucking impossible to satisfy? Boo-frickety-hoo, Nic! You work for a great company and you’re just too popular? Man up and figure your shit out. Stop sleeping so much. Maybe don’t go to happy hour. Maybe write. You could be writing right now instead of walking. MAKE A DAMN SACRIFICE, ASSHOLE.
And then finally I gave in and was like, Yeah. I just need to write. Start something new. I’ll do that.
And then I thought about all the book concepts, blog ideas, freelance gigs, essays, and short stories I want to work on — and I soon found myself right back at square. Fucking. One.
This walk had set me off on a mental cycle of doom, and it was a problem.
I started picking up the pace and feeling extremely tight and anxious – sensations that are usually reserved for when I obsess over my career in less tranquil scenarios such as when stressing over my workload at the office and/or peeing in dirty commuter train bathrooms.
As I reached the top of the hill, I saw an intriguing piece of litter sitting by the curb outside someone’s driveway. As I got closer, I saw that it was a coffee sleeve.
I soon recognized it as one of those new green Starbucks coffee sleeves that are given out to promote Oprah Chai – the new Oprah-Starbucks-Teavana partnership that benefits educational opportunities for youth.
I immediately thought to myself, WWOD?
(Note: This means “What Would Oprah Do?” and I should mention that it’s unusual that it took me coming across a discarded coffee sleeve of hers to finally ask this question in this situation. Usually it’s the first thing that comes to my mind in periods of distress, sleeve or no sleeve.)
The timing of this query couldn’t have been better, as each Oprah Chai sleeve comes complete with an inspirational Oprah quotable.
I bent down and picked it up to read my fortune:
Live from the heart of yourself. Seek to be whole, not perfect.
And THIS is why Oprah fucking WINS. AT. EVERYTHING.
Because of Oprah, litter is no longer litter. Because of Oprah, litter can now change lives. Or at least momentarily brighten them.
Because of Oprah, my anxious, existential crisis-y, mental-cycle-of-doom walk led me straight to an undeniable sign from God that everything is going to be okay. I can trust my intuition. I don’t have to be perfect. I do have to be myself.
Everything is going to be okay.
And then I saw a bunny.