Getting through the steps

I feel the end of the year rushing toward me. In a few weeks I will collide against the annual family trip, and the pieces will scatter where they will.

Yesterday I went to buy supplies to make these. I want to give them as presents to my mother and various other people I know on the island we all gather to in this season. Except when I stood in front of the shelves of clay at Joanne’s I couldn’t decide which colors to buy. Or whether I should buy a multipack or separate blocks. Then I couldn’t decide which kind of paint to buy. Metallic? Gold leaf? Or what size brush.

The choices stymied me. I picked some clay, walked over to the paint aisle, picked a paint, went back to the clay aisle and returned my choices in lieu of others, went back to the paint aisle and did the same, and repeated this exercise for another 45 minutes. It was exhausting. I no longer felt inspired by the project. I left the store without buying a thing.

This happens to me more and more often. The imagined future becomes so bloated with expectation that it bursts right into the present and bowls me over. I wasn’t seeing clay or paint on those shelves. I was watching myself hand out beautiful objects I had made to people I care about and they were so happy…. And suddenly, I could no longer envision how to actually get to that time and place. The steps required – buy the material, roll out the clay, mix, press, bake, paint, pack, find right moment to give – how on earth could I possibly manage all of those steps in the right order and right way so as to find my way to my imagined future?

Here’s the thing. When I was younger, I believed in the possibility of those imagined futures. That belief carried me through all the steps. And sometimes it would work out. But most of the time it turned out differently than I had hoped. And sometimes my efforts resulted in failures. Big ones.

This is life, right? Grownups know this. I know this. But for some reason, instead of learning to accept failure (or its possibility), I find it increasingly difficult to convince myself to make the effort required to move forward. Even though intellectually I know it’s still worth trying, regardless of outcome, I no longer possess enough faith to get me through the steps, let alone begin.

Even so, I endeavor, because otherwise I truly have failed. It’s not faith but fear of miring myself in that black hole of hopelessness I tumbled into among the aisles of Joanne’s that drives me now. I came home from the disastrous shopping trip and bought the materials online. Although I still spent an inordinate amount of time making choices, at least I could do it from a seated position. Step one accomplished.

It’s just one step. Like many activities in my life right now, this one is progressing incrementally, and I don’t know if I’ll get to the finish line. I take back what I said about not having faith, though. Maybe I’m growing a braver kind of faith – the kind you have when you can’t see where your foot might fall on the next step, but you take it anyway.

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