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Ironworker zen

Billie,

Frankly, I don’t really know how summer is going yet. School’s pace, which always seems to be furious, has given way to days on which I have to impose my own discipline.

In other words, I went from having my hair on fire all the time to sitting in the living room wondering what comes next. I’m best at panic, chaotic situations and at my very worse when things are reasonable and steady.

With an objective eye, I look back over the last few weeks, and I can see how much I’ve accomplished. I’ve decided to use the summer to complete the book and draft my dissertation.

And it’s worked. This week, I completed a draft of the book and have all the chapters in the editors hands. Two readers I’ve recruited–admittedly fans–also have the book.

Now, of course, I see some things that can be better with the writing and the story. For instance, I start the book with a mean-spirited woman who tells me the river is going to kill me, dead. She was serious. I end the book by reflecting on what she said and showing, regardless of her prediction, that the river was my salvation. This should probably be a running theme rather than just a frame.

I’ve also drafted a dissertation chapter, and, today, received feedback from my prof. The revision is going to be a lot of work, but, at least, it’s that far. Then, I’ve also started work on another chapter, which will be a whole lot more fun than the one previous.

To be quite honest, then, things are going well and I’m going to be fine. But right now, I’m scared shitless. Self-doubt has taken good hold. Am I even able to do a dissertation? Aren’t I just a guy trying to achieve above his ability? When will I prove myself to be the fraud that I am?

Of course, you and I both know that such questions are silly. I can write a longer work, my achievements are many and I can handle more, and I’m not a fraud but an earnest, hard-working person. With such questions, however, I’m trying to set myself up for defeat so I don’t have to achieve and take on the responsibility of being the knowledgeable, smart person I am.

The bony hands of low self-esteem are wrapped around me in the moment and compounded by the lack of fright, panic, and distraction that teaching seems always to have for me.

A good comparison, in many ways, are the revolutionaries who, having won their wars, don’t have any idea how to deal with building their dreamed-of societies. They are either personally lost or troublesome to their new regimes or they run off to foment other revolutions. Winning, for them, is easy. Taking responsibility for victory is hard in many ways because the pressure’s off and they have to face who they are in quiet contemplation.

I’ve achieved everything I’ve ever hoped for. I don’t have a job. I get to do what I want. And I get to be a writer and author.

Then, on top of that, I get to be a smartguy, a welder, and an ironworker.

So, you’ve asked a simple question that should be answered by a guy of my maturity with a simple “great,” “good,” or “challenging.” But I’m not sure I’m that mature. And if I am, I fear the accountability that entails.

That kind of realization is the redemption in all this. Uncertainty is something I always go through. I look into my past at these moments and realize I always get my adventuresome tasks done and almost always with stripes and banners. It’s just getting through this particular moment that’s difficult.

The way I find comfort in this anxiety is when I ask myself to just be rather than to be doing all the time. I almost feel the pressure leave like air escaping a balloon. Deflation. Comfort. Just being. In the end, all of this is made up and none of it is a matter of grave importance.

So, there. I just talked myself out of my shitty mood. Thanks. I appreciate your forbearance!

I hope you will explain in some detail about your summer. I think you are in Nebraska, a place that, as a whole, I love. What does your summer look like? Are you working? What are your plans for travel, fun, etc.? What are the plans for the coming semester? (Do you even know yet?)

I must run to get the kid. I hope all’s well.

Patrick

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