On Quitting Stuff (6-12-16)

I’m no quitter. I pride myself on this. I take on some big things, see it through. I’ve had natural births. I’ve breastfed even though it was a rough go at first. It was almost impossible. I’ve done some big races. I’ve been determined to never quit pretty much anything. I’ve kept a sourdough starter alive for several years, even in the midst of several cross country moves. It’s a character trait I hold dear. Never quit anything. Finish what you start (except trim work. Wait until you move to do that). Quitting shows weakness.

Except this past year and a half, I’ve become a quitter. I don’t know what it is, maybe I finally quit something and then started quitting more and more. Maybe I got addicted to quitting. Maybe I held on to everything for so long, when I dropped one thing, I dropped my whole arm load. Maybe, like a juggler with 97 bowling pins in the air, the second I dropped one, the rest came crashing down. I used to think there was never anything good that could come out of quitting. Once, in college, I almost quit. Of course I didn’t, because that would be silly. Just finish even if you don’t know what you will do next. What good comes out of quitting? Maybe you change paths, but you don’t drop anything in the middle. Finish it out, and then start something new. This past year has been enlightening, especially my personal convictions on quitting. Maybe, sometimes, it’s exactly the right thing to do.

After the birth of my fourth child, I was in an upswing of taking things on, if you will. I was just starting my childbirth classes, decided to become a doula, then breastfeeding counselor. Midway through my pregnancy I was crazy about birth. I decided when he was born I would start studying midwifery. I had a plan. I would slowly build my business when the babies were small and by the time they were all in school I would be a professional midwife. I started building a business simultaneously. It would morph and change but it would be building. I opened a shop when he was 1. I was taking on my own clients, apprenticing, and running a shop. I was married to the guy I dated back in college, 15 years. I had a dog on top of everything. Then we got another puppy. I was doing it all. Who needed sleep? I sure didn’t!
Around the time my wife and I were realizing our friendship was something more, my empire started crumbing. Not because of our blossoming relationship, but the pieces are all intertwined.

First, I realized that I was in a possibility of a pretty severe financial bind. I was apprenticing for free, if not paying to do a lot of work. I did actually try to push through, finish early, bite the bullet, move heaven and earth to accomplish what I had set out to do. I mean, my bigger philosophy on life is that if there’s a will there’s a way, and I’ve never been accused of not having an iron-strong will. But, sometimes life hands you a “there may be a way, but it just ain’t happening” card. Door slammed in my determined face. For the first time in my life, i took a deep breath, and I quit the path to becoming a midwife. It’s hard not to take quitting as failure. But I HAD tried everything in my power and then some to find a way. It wasn’t there. I had some pretty serious hurdles ahead of me anyway that I needed to focus on.

After that, I started quitting things all over the place. I was a mad, quitting machine. The next thing I quit was my almost 16 year marriage. Something I would never have imagined quitting. This, of all things in life, was something you Just. Don’t. Do. My highest conviction in life. It’s complicated, this choice I made to quit, and so many thoughts and feelings, and guilt and relief all rolled together. But mostly, guilt that it was a relief. I just quit something that was never on my radar. I had just quit the impossible quit.

Long life story short, I then quit my shop. I shut it down. I packed it up. I held on to some parts of my birth, nutrition and breastfeeding consulting but quit that for the most part too. And right now, I’m not super keen on being on call for births even though I adore it. I may just quit that for a while too.

I also run an Airbnb in an apartment in the back of our home. I started that about 3 years ago, and have been doing a pretty solid business there. Over 120 people have stayed there. But guess what? I'[m going to quit that too.

So, those are just a few of the big things I’ve quit. There’s a few crazy things that I’ve noticed have happened since I started quitting things. I don’t know how I was doing all of it. I honestly don’t. I think it’s a mixture of things, but to all the people out there who look up to all the people “doing everything”, somethings always got to give. The house, the kids, relationships. You have to let go of something in order to take on more. It’s not always apparent from the outside, or the inside, what it is.

The biggest thing I’ve realized is that quitting hasn’t killed me. It hasn’t made me crawl in a hole and die of embarrassment. It hasn’t made my friends turn their backs on this quitter. I realized it was harder to let go of the IMAGE of being married, owning a business, becoming a midwife, than it was to let go of the actual activity. I don’t miss the things I’ve let go of. I sometimes miss my ability to TELL people how much I’m doing.

I honestly don’t miss the things I’ve quit. To be fair, I did get remarried. 🙂 So I didn’t really quit marriage in general, just to the other person. I’m not quitting that again. Lessons have been learned. I think the scary and exhilarating thing about quitting marriage once is that it opens this door that it IS actually possible to quit something you didn’t think could ever happen. Scary because you’ve done it once, what’s to stop you from doing it again?Exhilarating because since you KNOW it’s now possible, you do your work. You don’t rely on the idea that it’s not a thing, and realize that since it’s a thing, you do the work it takes to prevent it from happening.

Everything else? Sure, there are parts I miss, but I don’t really miss anything. I think it’s because that while I have quit everything, all that energy has to get transferred somewhere (hey, isn’t that physics? Energy is neither created nor destroyed?) and I’m just concentrating my energy on my family and immediate surroundings.

My big secret fear is that I will lose my motivations, become a lump on the couch. Will I give up everything? Will I lose all desire to become something? Am I respected only because I do the impossible? It’s a fear but I also have to be honest and fair with myself. I’m seeing that energy does just get transferred. I take on challenges all the same, Becoming more purposeful and mindful each time. And I’m sure I’ll be up for my next big idea, my next niche, my next business venture.

I’ve realized that I could only look at the things I’ve quit. I could ignore the little things that have crept into their places. I’ve started racing again. I have more children. I’m investing my summer time with them. I’m remodeling parts of our home. See? A vacuum that is always being filled. And, now, my energies will shift into our family’s next big adventure.

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