Volume 2, Issue 16: On Doing Hard Things

Hi friends and welcome to the new subscribers! Since quite a few of you are new, I recommend checking out this post to learn what you’re getting into. Also, the new folks this week probably know me as Suzi and yet I write under my first name, Patricia. It’s complicated, but I go by my middle name (Suzi) at my day job and I write and podcast using my first name, Patricia. I answer to both.

This newsletter alternates between an issue of resources and an issue of something more thoughtful and personal. Last week was a resource week so get ready for some FEELINGS.

It’s time for some more real talk. Every time I mention real talk I feel compelled to share this short Twitter thread as a refresher. One of my dad’s favorite things to say to me, ever since I was a kid, was this:

“Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do in order to get what you want.”

And unless you have amassed an unethical amount of money and have privilege dripping from your pores, this saying is going to be true at some point in your life. For some of us, it’s true even more often than not. Most of us work to afford housing and food and other things we need to exist with some semblance of happiness because of capitalism, even though I’ve made it clear that I do not dream of labor.

I have a confession: I rarely like writing. I love it when it flows and comes easily but otherwise? It’s a chore. As novelist Frank Norris wrote, “Don’t like to write, but like having written.” (Not Dorothy Parker, much to my dismay). I also get incredibly nervous recording my podcast and rarely want to in the moment, but then I love having recorded a podcast. I have to hype myself up to do either of these things, because sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do in order to get what you want. I am a writer and want to continue to identify as such, but that means I actually have to write. Sounds suspicious, I know.

Sometimes the thing you have to do is homework. Or be civil to a coworker who you don’t vibe with. Or strength training because you want to be stronger. Or laundry. Or writing.

But sometimes the thing you have to do that you don’t want to do, is to say, “No.”

I’ve had Simone Biles on my mind a lot lately, as many of us do. I absolutely cannot speak for her; however, I imagine that her decision to step back during the Olympics to take care of her mental health was a very hard thing to do. I imagine that she didn’t go into the Olympics after having spent years becoming the G.O.A.T., just to step back. Stepping back was probably something she didn’t want to do, but she did what she had to do to maintain what matters most: her mental health.

At the beginning of this month, I wrote about self-compassion and the idea of being enough as we are. I am not perfect at saying no. I get excited and I take on things because they sound fun and our lives are never long enough to do everything we want, especially not to read all the books we want. Or I do things because they’ll “set future Patricia up for success” when what would really set future Me up for success is a fuckin’ NAP. Seriously, just laying my ass down for a minute would probably do me wonders.

But, again: sometimes the thing you have to do that you don’t want to do is to say, “No.” Because saying no is what may truly set future You up for success.

And yes, the noes can be really, really hard to say for many of us but the noes make room for the emphatic yeses. The yeses that jump out of us when the opportunities arise that will fill your cup and not empty it. I want more of those opportunities for all of us and also I don’t want us to be so burned out that we can’t say yes when they show up.

That’s it for this week! You can shop any books I’ve mentioned in this newsletter at my affiliate shop, The Infophile’s Bookshop, and support independent bookstores. If you want to send me some snail mail, you can find me at P.O. Box 21481, Oakland, CA 94620-1481. If you want me to send you some happy mail, feel free to give me your address.

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