But what if I need an enemy?
Looking for your arch-nemesis in all the wrong places.
“To treat all subjects in the highest, the most honourable, and the pluckiest spirit, consistent with the fact, is the first duty of a writer. If he be well paid, as I am glad to hear he is, this duty becomes the more urgent, the neglect of it the more disgraceful.”
-Robert Louis Stevenson❋
Earlier this week I got an email from a company looking for specialty finance writers. This exchange led to a curiosity-driven “Googling myself” session (except I used Duck Duck Go instead and I hope you will, too).
I do a lot of financial and business writing, but the real story is the other stuff I’ve written about. Hint: It gets really random.
Here’s a short list:
how to get a Justice of the Peace license
instructions for pruning loganberries
a tutorial on building brick paver steps
in-ground pool maintenance
surviving road trips with kids
and my personal favorite, from 14+ years ago:
How a zip line works (I appreciate that this article was updated in 2017; were there major changes to the way a zip line works, do you think?)
These are the burning questions I answer.
My cause is noble. My power is pure.
Onward to the real topic of this newsletter, which is… enemies?
Also, I’ve never even eaten loganberries. They sound delicious.
Hey you, there are no enemies.
There are no people who hate you. There are no people who want you to harm you. There is no one out to get you. There is no battle you need to fight, except one.
There are no enemies separate from you.
There’s only the real you and your ego. That’s the only real battleground. The ego is your only real enemy.
Every other conflict is a shit-pile. You can wallow in it as long as you want. You can even “win.” You still come out covered in shit.
There’s only You, dealing with your ego, and other people dealing with their egos.
There’s the illusion that these egos are identities, and the make-believe stories these ego write about themselves, and the make-believe battles we fight to defend these make-believe stories created by these make-believe identities with their make-believe needs and wants.
You don’t have to go there.
You don’t have to spend your strength enabling drama that makes other people feel important. You don’t have to believe the voices in your head. You don’t have to respond to provocation. You can feel the fear, feel the insecurity of being threatened, and choose not to run.
You can stand there with those feelings and survive them. Don’t avoid the feelings. Let them in. Feel them. Take a deep breath.
Let those feelings wash in and over and something crazy will happen. Two things, actually:
You’ll realize that you were never afraid of another person, or group, or situation. You were never running away from an enemy. You were afraid of these feelings. You were running away from pain.
You’ll notice that the pain is worse when you run from it. The feelings grow when you’re trying to escape them. The expectation of discomfort and hurt is greater than the experience of it. But you won’t know that until you stand there, resigned, and let it happen. Then you’ll feel it — and yes, it will hurt — but you’ll be okay through it. You’re stronger than you think you are.
Every experience of pain is a moment of opportunity.
It comes in many forms: loneliness, discomfort, rejection, confusion, exhaustion, self-doubt, worry. The form you fear the most will come to you most often. It is not real, but you believe it is real. As long as you keep running from it, or fighting it, you will keep believing it is real and it has power to hurt you.
But when you stand (be still)
and wait (breathe deep)
and hold yourself in a space that feels like falling (but is also flying)
and let the thing you fear creep up close (it has a face, and the face is yours)
you see that it is shadow, and it bears a gift.
To receive the gift, embrace the shadow.
There are no enemies. There is no battle. There are no sides to choose. There is no war to fight. There is only you, seeing what this moment offers you, deciding what to think about it. If you want an enemy, you can always find one.
But when you’re tired of running, look again.
When you’re tired of fighting, look for the gift instead.
How to Listen to Your Anger. I reworked and expanded a couple of old posts and put the result on Medium. The editors decided to feature it, so that’s cool. Lots of comments, which I really enjoyed reading.
Newsletter Guide. An amazing, in-depth, very practical guide for individuals, freelancers, and businesses who want to do better with their newsletters. I am awful and do none of these good things that they recommend.
Why You Should Write an Intimidation List. I am a big fan of writing lists for all the things, and this is a great idea for a list. It’s another way to face the final, scariest answer to the “What’s the worst that could happen?” question. Weirdly enough, the worst that could happen often… isn’t that bad. (The fear of it happening is much, much worse). H/T Jocelyn K. Glei. Sign up for her newsletter. It’s great.
❋ Robert Louis Stevenson…
…Was a fascinating person. He died young (44!) of a cerebral hemorrhage, after battling tuberculosis his entire life. He was, in fact, very sickly, and relocated often to improve his health. After years abroad, it was a bit of a surprise when he returned to America and found out he was a famous novelist.
Ha, I love that.
Here’s a basic biography of Stevenson.
Here’s more about him and the love of his life: Fanny and Louie.
“Less than five feet, dusky, and pugnacious, Fanny rolled her own cigarettes and chain-smoked. She carried a pistol she could clean and shoot. She painted and wrote magazine articles to feed her family, since Sam (Fanny’s first husband) gambled away all their money.”
Fanny sounds awesome.
Here’s a literary think piece about Stevenson and his writings: The Double Life of Robert Louis Stevenson. If you can make it through the initial dryness (“Like the shadow in his poem, Stevenson's reputation has waxed and waned at an alarming rate. The blaze of hagiography in which he died seems to have incited critics to special fury”), you’ll be rewarded with a lot of interesting details about Stevenson’s life:
“That autumn he was back in France, where he bought a donkey for sixty-five francs. He named her Modestine, and during their twelve-day journey in the Cévennes he reduced her value by nearly half. Later he immortalized her in Travels With a Donkey.”
I think Modestine needed a hug.