Threshold Spirits

Big ideas seem to come together for me in the morning, perhaps before the rational, detail-oriented part of my brain comes online and takes charge. Earlier this week, when I was uncharacteristically up before sunrise, a larger theme came to me that will help tie my book together. And now this morning, blundering around the kitchen getting my coffee, I realized that two things I’ve been struggling with are really the same. I am on the verge of publishing my first book, and in a few weeks I have my first kyu exam. In both cases, I’ve alternately been unconcerned, and a little panicky.

One day soon I will hit the Publish button, and my first book will go live on the Amazon store. And on March 9th, Sensei will call me up in front of the class, and for about 45 minutes I will bring forth everything I’ve got. No do overs. No excuses. I will wish I might have had more time for editing and rewriting. I will wish I had trained harder, spend more time, focused more clearly… But it will be what it is, and I will have to leave it at that and move on.

I know I still have some time. Feeling rushed and stressed out will not help me. These are just stepping stones on much longer paths — there will be more books, and more exams in the future. No lives are on the line. In the greater scheme of what’s important in the world, these are No Big Deal. In one sense this is a sane, adaptive way of looking at things. But I recognize it as a defensive strategy: “It’s not that important… I wasn’t really trying…” Minimizing the importance of something is a great way to protect against the sting of failure.

On the other hand, I don’t take these things lightly at all. In each case I will be presenting to the world the work that represents me. “Here it is, the best I can do.” For someone committed to, or perhaps attached to, doing everything as well as I possibly can, that’s a frightening prospect.

My sempai, mentor, and friend, Karen, who is as smart, kind, and wise as they come, commented a few days ago when I was feeling rushed at only having four weeks left before my test:

“The anxiety is threshold spirits trying to carry you to the finish line. Remember that when they are shoving you. :-) ”

I will try to remember that, and embrace my threshold spirits, welcoming their shoving, and I will do the very best I can as I approach my two finish lines.