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Doing the work, delayed gratification, and Harry Potter

Yes that’s a Dragon on top of Gringotts

I’m almost done with Harry Potter. Again.

The series I started (for perhaps the third or fourth time) during quarantine.

The books and characters I’m 100% obsessed with and proud of it.

And the one bit of nostalgia and fairy tale in my life that has been my little comfort food for the soul for the last 5 months.

How I deal, or rather don’t deal, has been to go to work. Whatever that means. Work in any and all meanings of the term.

Moving, list making, prioritizing, goal setting, signing up for cooking classes, running, running, running, meal prepping, trying to feel any sort of control over what I clearly was not in control over and not willing to deal with.

I’m writing this right now because I, like many, fail to stop and either recognize how far I’ve come, or more so, recognize how far I have yet to go. I’m writing this because while many things in my life feel good and okay, many things feel way harder. I’m sure you can relate, no? ‘Tis 2020 after all. I’m writing this because none of us take the time to think of what we’ve gotten through, what we’ve achieved, and what gave up on achieving because it got too hard and we didn’t want to wait that long.

And mostly, I’m writing because I haven’t written. And when I’m not writing, I know something’s off. It’s like when my workouts go awry or I miss a few days. Instant grumpy pants. So here we are, trying to shake it off, and remind myself to keep doing the work. The right work.

I promised myself about ten years ago, maybe more, that I’d do whatever I needed to do to be completely independent. In my mind my reason has always been my mom and dad. I never wanted to be a burden on their already full plates.

Looking back on my life and trying to sit STILL for once, I’ve thought about this a lot and my obsession with moving, growing, building, achieving, to prove to… who exactly… that I was okay. That I was strong. Resilient. That I was successful and I was either A. enough or B. completely able to take care of herself no one else need no sir no problem I got this.

Narrator: She did not in fact, have this. 

But what I have failed to do is stop and think about if that work I’ve done and am doing is working. Meaning, is the work I’ve put in getting me anywhere? If so where? If not, then why am I doing it?

It’s hard to keep doing the work when we don’t see the results. And it’s even harder when we don’t think about what those results really are, and that some results can’t be seen, but rather felt. For a long time I just wanted to feel like me. I let the pain and manipulation pile up, while I pushed down the weak thoughts that clouded my every movement. But I kept doing the work. Even when the work felt impossible. Knowing that one day I’d get “there.” I’d get out of the fog.

Some of that work included actual work things. Showing up, going through the motions, making people laugh. Some of that work was working out before the sun came up and after it went down. I’d write out plans, take notes from books and podcasts, set up coffees with people I thought might be able to teach me something. I’d coach, train, work, workout, walk dogs, house sit, cook meals for friends, deliver meals, repeat. Anything to make me ignore my emotions.

Rather than sit with them and feel them, I used them, turning them from grief and anger I should have let myself feel into fuel that made me pretty much live every hour of every day redlining. My pain was fuel and only fuel. Until it would build up and I’d crumble. Typically into the waiting arms of my big sister. She got it. She got me. When I didn’t get me.

I know that the only way out is through. And that there is in fact a light at the end of whatever tunnel you may be in. I’ll live by that mentality until the day I die. But boy when you’re going through it, and trying with everything you have to put in the work on yourself and your life, it’s damn difficult to see that light. But it will come. We remember, or in my case write, about the really good times and the really low times. But what about those in between times? When the work has been done or is being done and you’re living that delayed gratification.

Well that’s what I’m trying to do. I’ve been at lows and know there are more lows to come in life. It’s just how life is. And all I hope is that when another low strikes (hopefully not in pandemic form), that I am better prepared to keep my head up and handle it. That I know that even though things feel hard and bad, I’m still doing the work. And even if it doesn’t feel like it, one day I’ll wake up and life will feel just slightly easier.

I’m grateful for the work I’ve been doing the last few years because it’s gotten me out of that lonely and dark place and into a much bigger life of possibility. But it’s funny because even though I’ve been doing what I thought was work the last few years, knowing subconsciously that it was driving me into the ground, I also feel like the real work is beginning. I’ve fought my way through the real deep and twisted weeds so now I can finally look back on it and learn from it. And learn about me. I’m not seeing the world through the 4/10 version of Emily I always joked I was. She saw the world differently because the pain was too fresh. But now, I genuinely feel like all of me. Now the real work begins. Now I finally for once figure out what it is I want and deserve.

It takes time. A week, a year, a few years sometimes. To realize how far you’ve actually gotten and the person you’ve become. The work is never over. You just get smarter. Hopefully…

Of course some don’t. Some get impatient and stop doing the work because what’s the point. That’s when it’s time to call in reinforcements. This could be an emotional low. This could be the friend that starts a new diet every few weeks. It’s a long game. This game of life.

If you’re feeling great and living a lovely life right now that’s amazing and I’m proud of you for that. But what happens when your world crashes? How will you respond? Think of something small in your life that you overcame. Maybe you never thought you’d a runner but you committed to and finished a 5k. You put in the work and on race day you got your gratification.

Maybe you’re in the dark and confusing place. And have been for a long time. I’m here to tell you not to stop doing the work. On yourself. Read, listen, talk to others, write it down, anything that keeps you feeling like you even when it doesn’t feel that way. You might not know it right now, but you’re putting in the work.

I might not know it right now, but I’m still putting in the work. Writing this is hard because when I’m thinking about things like this, which is often, I write so I can get it out and hopefully make sense of it. I’m writing to show myself how far I’ve come and how far I have yet to go. And I hope someone out there feels the same way and realizes that same thing in themselves.

So what about you? Are you doing the work? Putting in the work on yourself? Whatever that means for you at whatever stage in life you’re at? Don’t get lazy. Don’t get complacent. Be nice to yourself (this is part of the work I’m trying to figure out for myself), but don’t be a victim. Wake up. And go.

Do the next right thing.

The only way out is through, friends.



  • You’ve been writing since you could hold a crayon And im so glad. I think if you didn’t you’d explode. EverYthing is going to work out and is working out! Keep writing.

    October 26, 2020

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