Getting Up, Again

Many of my coaching clients think I live a charmed life. I’m so patient. I have such insight. How could my life not be bliss-laden and peaceful? When I sold my artwork at art festivals people would come up to me and say, “You are so lucky!

Nope, it's not upside down, it's a cold front reflected in a puddle.

Nope, it’s not upside down, it’s a cold front reflected in a puddle.

You get to do fun things all day long, never have a worry in the world.” I learned to reply, “Yes, I do get to make art, and I’m grateful every day.” I never yelled at them, “Do you have any idea how hard it is to come up with idea and make a bunch of mistakes before your figure it out and then fix it before it works?” I did not do that because I would not have ever sold another piece in my entire art festival existence.

Other people’s lives seem easier, less stressed, not as hard, and certainly not as complicated as our own. That’s a better thing to believe than that everyone’s life could be sold as damaged seconds and someone else would be foolish enough to snap it up.

Everyone who is living a real life makes huge mistakes, does not learn from them the first time, makes them again. I wouldn’t want to work with anyone who has not risked and lost.

The reason this blog has insights, tips, Aha! moments and how-to’s is because I made the mistakes it took to learn them. All of them. Several times over. It is more important for clients (and readers)—to know that it’s not how often you feel stupid, but how often you get up, dust yourself off and start over. Learning is the heart of creativity, and risking is the brain.

So when the bombings happened in Boston yesterday, I did feel fear. I was in D.C. when the plane ran into the Pentagon. Yes, I felt fear. You did, too. What we (who are not in charge, but who feel unsure about life) can do to fight terrorism is to be fair to everyone in our work and play, to be kind, to be generous. That’s enough. Be the person who calms, not stirs the pot. Be the person who steers the conversation to interesting ideas and away from speculation.

We can’t control our fear when we hear bad news. But we can always control our actions in the wake of fear.

–Quinn McDonald is happy she is teaching grammar again tomorrow. There is something solid about teaching sentence structure in a time of uncertainty.


23 thoughts on “Getting Up, Again

  1. You talk about an inner critic; I think I have an inner idiot. This idiot part of my mind dreams up the notion that I’m afraid to do something. When, as sometimes happens, I do it anyway, it’s immediately obvious that the fear was (1) pure fiction, and (2) usually silly.

    There might be a legitimate risk riding a motorcycle, but am I afraid of that? Oh no, I’m not afraid of broken bones or worse; I’m worried that I might look ridiculous. A classroom full of college freshmen very seldom burns their instructor at the stake, but my first day as that instructor may have been the most frightened I’ve ever been.

    My universe is divided into two realms: inside my mind and everything else. There are some doorways between them, and fear is a “do not enter” sign. Which, in truly idiotic fashion, is probably spelled wrong.

  2. Feeling stupid is the Inner Critic talking via ventriloquism! “See I told you that wouldn’t work. All those people who saw that are now as aware as I am how silly that idea really was.” The IC says these things even when there are no others to see. Personally I see a lot of your wisdom as being of this type: “I have learned to take a deep breath and count to three before I point out that your cogitation center has swapped places with your elimination mechanism.” Thank you for pointing out that we have a tendency to focus on everything we see that is “better than what I have” and breathing some reality into our collective awareness.

  3. Synonyms for fear:
    abhorrence, agitation, angst, anxiety, aversion, awe, bête noire, chickenheartedness, cold feet, cold sweat, concern, consternation, cowardice, creeps, despair, discomposure, dismay, disquietude, distress, doubt, dread, faintheartedness, foreboding, fright, funk, horror, jitters, misgiving, nightmare, panic, phobia, presentiment, qualm, recreancy, reverence, revulsion, scare, suspicion, terror, timidity, trembling, tremor, trepidation, unease, uneasiness, worry
    There it is….”worry”. It took me a long time to understand that my constant “worry” was fear.
    Once I understood that I put my brave on and got on with it.
    Fear comes to us in many disguises and yes paralyzes our lives, cripples the person we want to be, thought we would be, dreamed to be.
    It only takes the act of one courageous person to motivate others to fearlessness. Be fearless, it’s the best inhibitor to those who work to create terror.

  4. I love this, “…it’s not how often you feel stupid, but how often you get up, dust yourself off and start over.” It’s so easy to get mired down in fear, negativity, and criticism but hopefully we can make a choice to get up and move on. Sometimes it’s a daily struggle but I do my best to think of loved ones who have suffered, much more than I can even imagine, and it helps spur me on.

  5. Aloha e Quinn!

    This is a post a just HAD to comment on. Fear is something I understand so well. It paralyzes me. Literally. Like full-on I-can’t-move-from-this-spot kind of fear.

    Which blows my mind a bit when I think about it.

    Because my life is FULL of things that would terrify most people. I’ve done INSANE things. A history of crazy, off the wall kind of stuff. Things that “take guts” as my grandmother would say. “Lots of ’em.”

    But when 9/11 happened, an old “fear prison” returned to my life. Events from my past–things that happened that caused what feels like irreparable damage when I was a kid–suddenly flooded back. And that I-can-do-anything person faded into the shadows and the paralyzed-by-fear man stepped forward.

    I’ve been dealing with that ever since.

    And the habit of living in fear became stronger and stronger because I reinforced it every day. I was waiting for the day when the fear disappeared. When I could go back to the way things had been. I remembered them as “fearless” days. (Note: My memory was wrong.)

    Not very long ago (really, it was only a few months ago), I read something that shattered the prison walls. Well, maybe it didn’t shatter them, but it certainly caused some major cracks!

    I don’t have to wait for the fear to disappear. In fact, that’s never going to happen. The fear will always be there to some degree.

    What I can do is recognize the fear and then act, anyway. Make wise choices based on whatever material/knowledge is in front of me.

    Feel the fear. Make the choice to keep moving.


    And that only took me 12 years to learn. (I say that sarcastically, but in truth, that’s not so bad. Some folks live in fear paralysis a lot longer. So maybe 12 years ain’t so bad, after all.)

    Feeling the fear. And moving on.
    Yes, please.
    Right on.

    • this is so moving to me. I was in Washington, D.C. on 9/11. The blast cracked windows in the house. I know that fear. And you have done amazing work. One of your sentences really hit home: “I don’t have to wait for the fear to disappear. In fact, that’s never going to happen. The fear will always be there to some degree.” And we learn to live with it. And we build a life around what we know now. And live on.

  6. Thank you, again, for your thoughtful and thought-provoking words of wisdom! Perhaps it is time for me to start a journal for “Quinn Quotes”! I believe that we can own fear, but should fight to not let it own us. As a crisis interventionist, that is the fourth time in two days that I’ve had to remind myself and/or others of that!

  7. “Other people’s lives seem easier, less stressed, not as hard, and certainly not as complicated as our own.” Remembering that this is not true is the first step to being kind to ourselves. And the hardest.

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