Elaine Bayless is an author, life coach and retreat facilitator based in Raleigh, North Carolina. We’ve been colleagues and friends for a long time. While we were having coffee a few weeks ago I asked her what she does after a failure–because let’s face it: all writers fail at some point. I wish I was a better dancer and musician and see how far I need to go–far too often! Elaine generously offered this guestpost and I hope it helps you as much as it helped me. Live long and prosper and get back on that horse!
When I was in college I was a music major. I was due to play the piano in one of the music department’s weekly recitals. Two days before the performance, we gathered in the recital hall for a “master” class. Each one of my teacher’s students played and received critique from her and their fellow students. I played my piece and did acceptably well. The problem came in my lesson with her, immediately following the class. She told me I was too tense, and coached me in letting my arms fall loose. But in my mind, my teacher was simply going back on everything she had told me. She was forcing me to reverse my technique. I was utterly frustrated. After the lesson, I flounced into the music office and removed myself from the recital, without a word to my teacher. Soon after, I refused to give up my spring break to go on tour with my choir, and was told that I would be kicked out as a result. After that, I quit my lessons, switched to a business administration degree, and never looked back.
I didn’t want back in the saddle. Who would?
I was a high achiever. Straight A student, merit scholarships, academic honors societies, president of my sorority and then of the Greek student body. I was a speed reader, held down a job and, prior to the recital event, did all this while practicing and singing between two and six hours a day. Failure was not in my vocabulary.
How do we get back on the horse, us high achievers? We’re a special breed, and call us what you will, we face a unique challenge. Life comes easy to us. Maybe we’re especially suited to the academic world and breeze through school, more worried about how that A- will wreck our GPA than whether we’ll get enough Cs to pass the grade. Maybe we’re athletically gifted, able to play any sport, catch any ball. We love to learn and pick up new hobbies the way kids pick up rocks. And every so often, we hit a challenge. We try something new and we don’t get it right away. So what do we do when we realize that we have to work at something and that even as much as we give it, we may never master the skill?
Right now I do hot yoga. I love it. However, despite several years of practice, I cannot do Crow. I can’t even do half of the poses that require balancing on one foot. I am definitely not going to become a yoga teacher. In class, I can often be found lying on my mat rather than attempting a pose. But I don’t give up.
There are two things that keep me on the yoga horse, two things I didn’t have when I was a musician almost 20 years ago.
I love yoga, and I do it because I love it. I don’t care if I never succeed at Crow. I don’t care if I fall down every single time I do Balancing Stick. I love yoga and I love trying. We are soaked in the competitive spirit. Even workouts are supposed to be a time when you compete “with yourself.” Bullshit. Do it because you love it. Do it because there is something inside that lights up when you walk into the hot yoga room, or lace up your running shoes, or lift the 20 pound weight. Do it for sheer joy and pleasure.
My yoga studio has no mirrors. And I LOVE that, because it means I can visualize myself as I want to be. When I do Warrior One, I feel strong and powerful. I imagine myself standing on a mountain in a stock photo, lean and beautiful, Photoshopped into perfection. Not as a “thick” 40-year-old wearing Target yoga clothes dripping with sweat. I don’t see my flabby arms, or my muffin top, or my bunions. My story teller announces to me that I am the model on the mountaintop holding Warrior One against the setting sun, not some aging woman who lost her waist years ago.
Here’s the secret: your story can be whatever you want it to be. You are the storyteller. As writers, we often turn our storytelling abilities against ourselves: telling stories of failure, worthlessness, and criticism. We beat down our love of writing by telling toxic stories that stop us in our tracks. If you’re a writer like me, you already know the love you have makes it impossible to stop writing. But maybe you’re afraid to get back on the horse after that rejection letter, that lost contest, or that 1 star review. So harness that storytelling energy and tell yourself a new story. Tell a story about how when the horse bucked you off, you experienced what it’s like to fly, not what it’s like to fail.
To read Elaine’s thoughts on motherhood, feminism and theology, check out her Blog
About Elaine Bayless:
Elaine Bayless is a life coach and writer in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated from Regent University in 2009, with a Master’s degree in Divinity and Pastoral Counseling, as well as a peer coach certification. From 2010 through 2011 she worked at Evergreen Community Church where she organized retreats and personal pilgrimages, and served as a pastoral counselor and a life coach. She took off the last half of 2011 and first half of 2012 for maternity leave, and founded InSpire coaching in July 2012.
Elaine’s credentials are not limited to academic knowledge. Beginning in 2002 she volunteered for a sexual assault hotline, working with survivors individually for two years. In addition, she has dealt personally with anxiety, seasonal affective disorder, and post-partum depression, along with the physical effects of those issues.
Elaine is the “voice of reason” for overwhelmed moms, perfectionists, and control freaks, helping women create a reality that works.