Learning to Keep Your Balance

Did you ever have a moment where a challenge you’ve known of for a long time seemed seemed to suddenly, magically resolve?Susan Mermaid

My lovely, talented, rapscallion son, Skitch, graduated from college two years ago.  He needed five years to complete his studies in engineering.  I was happy to give him that extra year – he chose a very affordable state school and I had (at the time) sufficient funds to help out.  We were thrilled when he was ready to fly the coop, get a job and spread his wings.

squidolin6But the graduation gift…  what to give this only son, who spread himself among so many interests and passions?  He suggested, and hubby liked the idea of, an electric violin.  But the best electric violins cost many thousands of dollars.  They need accessories, expensive ones.  We don’t know anything (much) (nothing) about electric violins.  And even Skitch wasn’t sure which one he might want.  Or how much he would use it.  Did an elementary school viola career equal (merit) the cost of such an expensive instrument?

Plus, the family was now short on cash (thank you, recession).  Our dearest son didn’t press, and the idea was dropped.  His father fretted from time to time, feeling we were being ungenerous.  A graduation gift is customary.  We’d let it slide.  Were we good parents?  Over and over, I assured him that we were, our son loved us unconditionally, and a gift would eventually be discovered, procured and delivered.  And we would forget all about it again for several months.

Last month, I exited CVS with my usual mix of necessary (toilet paper) and unnecessary (lipstick) items.  New York, for once, was enjoying a perfect blend of sunshine and mild weather.  I glanced left and, as usual, and saw the rows of bikes outside the village bike shop.  Bikes.  Surely, after all this time… Could it be so easy?

My request was simple:  bike for 25-year old man.  Needs more than a sidewalk cruiser, but not that $2000 cliff jumper over there.  No tricks, or challenging courses, no big drops.   Young man in question still gets crazy ideas, so it needs to be able to take a beating.  And he still lives in a college town, so any lock or cable needs to be able to survive that caliber of thief.


Forty minutes later, I was texting my son with questions and sending photos.  Two weeks after that, we arrived at his apartment with a bike, carrier, helmet, tire pump and (most important) a gnarly cable lock.  Since then, he’s gone riding several times a week, hoping to build up enough mileage to cycle-commute to work and back.

Happy boy, happy and relieved father, brilliant mom.  Thus, the saga of “what do we get Skitch for graduation?” closes.

Which brings me to the real topic today:  how many grand plans for our writing have we made that go unattended?  How many minor disappointments do we harbor?  In some ways we allow ourselves to construct these disappointments, all on our own, simply by allowing the time or opportunity to slip past.  Okay, circumstance occassionally visits them upon us and we watch, helpless, as all our lovely plans are shattered.  The editor or agent request gone stale.  The rejection that continues to sting and fester.  The rewrite that goes so badly we give up – and can’t forgive ourselves, even when we know it was for the best.  Or, the story that’s dry, parched, neglected and, sadly, left alone (thank you, dearest husband for that addition). Sometimes we allow ourselves a little moan but, mostly, we let ourselves “live poor.”

In Skitch’s case, the lack of knowledge, compounded by lack of money bred the lack of gift – a kind of “living poor” that wouldn’t let go.  We don’t have the money for a violin.  We don’t know how to buy a violin.  Hubby let this fester and I tried, very hard, not to absorb his disappointment as my own.  I had to believe that one day we would be able to solve the problem.

Enter Bikeway!  I do have the money for a bike, Skitch already knows how to ride a bike, I can afford a bike!  Once I had the Smaller Gift idea it happened.  I even used my new “live with the money you have” mantra and paid cash.  Well, debit card, but it really was “cash.”  My bank account knows the truth…

Having gone through this now, I want to bring this lesson to my writing.  Enough disappointment with what I have not accomplished.  More celebrating the tiny steps.  The finished (begun) paragraphs, pages, outlines, scrawled notes, gathered ideas.

This journey as a writer is a process of discovery all its own.  The more I know about my writing, the more I try (and fail), the better I know myself.  How can I mine this newly realized (lesson) (discovery) knowledge of “small victories” and use it to conquer “living poor?”

What would you do with this discovery?


About Susan Jeffery

I am loving the challenge (sometimes) of re-entering the contemporary romance market after a lifetime of raising two fantastic children (it never ends, btw). Just when I thought I was done with kids, I accepted a position as librarian to 900 boys in a Bronx private school. I'm a vintage published author, Harlequin American #206 Fair Game (1987). Winner of the Golden Heart, 1986. Currently exploring the possibility of indie publishing under my new pseudonym (see fresh name, above).

17 thoughts on “Learning to Keep Your Balance

  1. Susan! I really and truly love this post. What a powerful phrase — “living poor.” I know I will think of that phrase the next time I spend too much time dwelling on my disappointments. How to celebrate the small victories? I think by “celebrating” them. Too often we let them slide because we think it’s not good enough or important enough — it doesn’t measure up to the true victory we really want. But that is, just as you say, “living poor.” I will share with you the next “small victory” I have, and I hope you will return the favor, my mermaid friend.

    1. Pin! A wise addition to the post! Thank you, I will remember the “not good enough, not important enough” trap the next time I fall into this whole stinkin’ thinkin’ pattern.

  2. Awesome post, Susan. I love those practical application gifts–for both my kids and myself. Before giving (and even for getting rid of stuff), I always ask, is this necessary, useful, beautiful or meaningful? If the answer is no, it’s off the list. As for celebrating those small victories, that takes a concerted effort for most of us. We’re conditioned to see the “end game”. The finish line/goal is always on our visual horizon. But when we look too far ahead, the destination seems daunting and sometimes beyond our reach and it can be defeating. More importantly, we miss all the awesome sights/experiences along the way. I have a “to-do” list longer than some small countries, but if I pick three to do every day, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. If i can get one or two extras done, even better, but I don’t attach myself to the outcome–a lesson I learned many years ago from listening to Deepak Chopra.

    Staying in the present moment, celebrating each small step toward that finish line–is what makes the journey so worth it. There’s no guarantees we’ll finish our race where we thought it would end, but putting one foot in front of the other will definitely move us in the right direction–no matter where the path leads.

    1. “Present moment” – another phrase to remember. It’s powerful stuff. Thank you so much, Paula, for stopping by and adding your wisdom today. I always enjoy hearing your perspective on these twisted questions.

  3. What a fantastic post! OMG – I “live poor” with writing all the time. Hell, I do that with my life too even though I always say that everything happens for a reason. I’m such a hypocrite! Ha-ha!

    Pintip’s right too. I do that all the time. I focus on the things I didn’t get and completely dismiss the small victories just because they aren’t the original things I wanted. Silly Kerri!

    1. You are most welcome, Denny. I think it’s important, especially as summer winds down. Change of seasons – that must be what’s in the air, and we’re thinking Deep Thoughts as we prepare for the growing season to pass.

  4. Susan, lovely post. Great story about the graduation gift. You can write a book titled “The Graduation Gift.” Sort of like “The Red Shoes.”

  5. Gifts are tricky business. I remember receiving $5 in a card for my birthday. From my grandmother. She’s been gone a long time and I wish I’d kept the card. It is the thought that counts and hopefully kids get that part.

    1. Thank you for the comment, Mary Jo! I think one of the reasons this gift succeeded so nicely is because it was so unexpected. He would NEVER have thought of a bike – but once I did, it seemed unbelievably obvious and desirable. And I had an estimate for the total package before I even approached the rest of the family with my idea. Win, win and double win!

    1. Thank you, Carlene! There was one year when I decided we all needed nicknames and Skitch was what he got. Lovely older sister got Daisy and I became Muffy. Mine didn’t really stick, though, because Daisy decided to call me Gumby instead.

  6. Thank you, Diana, for your wisdom – and thank you for hitting exactly what it was that kept me soft-pedaling that gift. He didn’t push for that gift, not one bit. It’s not in his nature, but if he truly wanted it, we’d know. I am so happy that one of his FB posts last week was “7 miles on my new bike, I’m never running again.” Win!

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