Why struggle? Drop that crocodile!

American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus). This p...
American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus). This photograph was taken at La Manzanilla, Jalisco State in Mexico, on the Pacific Coast. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the umpteenth time, my life felt like I was wrestling a large, wet, thrashing and dangerous creature — a crocodile, as it were — that was the drama du jour. It might have been the crappy relationship with my mother, half-brother, stepmother, an editor (or three).

It might have been a fight with my sweetie, now my husband. It might have been my own insecurity or fear over my weight or my work or my income.

The more I wrestled with it, the more it thrashed, its scaly and powerful tail smacking me in the head, metaphorically speaking.

Hold it tighter! Make it submit! Then I had an epiphany, one that’s shaped my life ever since.

Drop the damn crocodile!

Just drop that slimy scaly sucker and walk the hell away.

Oooooh, that feels so much better.

It’s counter-intuitive for some of us to let something drop, to allow it to simply not matter anymore. We’re taught never to give up. To try our best. To work at things.

But, you know, sometimes that damn crocodile will kill you if you keep hanging onto it, its ferocious strength draining all of yours as you keep wrestling it.

Here are just a few of the crocodiles I’ve dropped in the past few years:

— obsessing about my income. And, funny thing, it’s rising, up 40 percent in 2011 over 2010. I expect 2012 to rise even further. Neurosis is rarely appealing to anyone, especially clients.

— whining about my weight. I need to lose 40+ pounds. I could go nuts or just try to do it in my own way. I’m working on it. It will take months. Whatever.

— worrying about whether or not I’ll be able to sell my  next book. Probably will.  If not, something else will come along.

— caring what my Dad thinks. Yes, I still do. But not nearly as much as I used to.

— keeping a spotless home. I used to waste a whole ton of productive work-time on house-cleaning. Now we have a maid coming twice a month, for a total cost of $110, which is less than my lowest hourly rate. I have more time to make more money.

— fretting over the normal costs of running my business, like my web designer and hiring paying assistants and lawyers and others for their help and expertise. Outsource! It’s all a tax deduction next year anyway.

— managing some of my business associates. Too difficult. Time to move on.

— trying to please my mother. Impossible. We no longer have any relationship at all. Sad to say, I have never been happier.

— keeping up friendships that actually left me feeling miserable. Just because someone was once a dear friend doesn’t mean they’re going to remain one. You change, they change and habits that might once have seemed normal can become unworkable. If you’ve tried to resolve them and it’s just not going to happen, time to drop that croc.

— getting my hip replaced.  Two years of increasing pain, exhaustion, depression and frustration are gone since I had a new hip implanted in February 2012. I was terrified of the surgery and a poor result. I have my life back! I’m happy and strong once more.

What crocs are wearing you out these days?

Can you drop a few of them?

30 thoughts on “Why struggle? Drop that crocodile!

  1. Grace

    Ooh this was a brilliant post! Loving the analogy! Something I have been starting in various areas of my life also – sometimes it’s easier to work your way up the stairs but bloody well done, sounds like you are well on your way to a much happier, healthier you! Right behind ya! 🙂

  2. love love LOVE this post! I need to get way more comfortable with letting things go sometimes and it’s inspiring to see someone successful (that’s you!) talk about how that’s not only okay but necessary. Thank you!

    1. Thanks! It’s so not what women are taught to do and rewarded for doing, but sometimes saying “screw it!” is exactly the right choice. The more I do it, the happier I’ve become.

  3. That is absolutely brilliant! My crocodile (and boy it’s a mother of a saltie, as we would say here) – “making it” as a photographer. All that worrying about competition placing/winning, getting published, getting jobs, business etc. Have dropped it all. I don’t practically need the income, the accolades, the commercial clients, to keep up with the industry etc. I have a day job. My bills, living expenses etc are taken care of. Yes, it leaves me with a lot less time to shoot, but if I was a working photographer, I would probably spend the same amount of time running the business, doing the marketing, getting clients.

    What I need is to enjoy photography without worrying about getting up in this particular world. Focus on its process, its community, the creative outlet it affords me. Work on personal projects, collaborate on others, write and think about it, try new stuff.

    It’s taken me a while to remember this, but even without the validation (which I will admit, I want, bad), the ongoing work, I am still very fulfilled by it for one reason or another. And that will be enough. All that other stuff, if it comes, it comes.

    So far, it’s working brilliantly.

  4. barbfreda

    Knowing this and DOING his are two different things, aren’t they? Congrats to you for both knowing and doing.

  5. My crocodile is definitely worrying about (or day dreaming to the point that I focus on it more than the present) what my situation is going to be in one or two years. I work so hard to get somewhere and then I’m off wandering around in my imagination – which soon graduates to wasting time researching the possibilities on the internet – when there is still a job to be done in the present, or for the immediate future. And right now, my immediate future is what needs the most addressing. I know it’s important to have long term goals but …

    1. I hear you! I did a post on this a while back, the difficult of arranging one’s priorities…I find it a daily, if not hourly, challenge to decide which is most important as it ALL seems important to me.

      I hired a PT assistant last week and off-loaded a pile of admin. tasks to her. That both stopped me worrying (because they were getting done) and got the damn stuff finished…for a grand total of $70. Worth twice that for the peace of mind. If there’s ever a way to share or re-distribute your worry-load, I find it most helpful. Our brains get overloaded!

      1. You’re dead right to hire an assistant, especially for the menial work. I often joke with my students if they’d like a job as my secretary as I struggle to organise assignments and documents into a folder, and without fail I get the nervous/terrified but polite laugh in response.

        I could

  6. I love this! I suppose the crocodile I’m trying to wrestle is my sense of failure. Which is why I’m blogging about success and planning a book. I really need a mentor–are you in the market for a (not too irksome and clingy) mentee?

  7. Failure at….?

    That’s a very large croc to be carrying. In my darkest moments (and I’ve had many) I know that even if I’ve “failed” (i.e. not YET succeeded) at something, I’m still an excellent friend, wife, cook, etc…I always count on multiple skills and talents, not just one thing, for my sense of confidence. We rarely succeed at everything and often releasing pressure on IT (dropping the croc) allows the room for “it” (this elusive success) to happen more organically.

    It may also look quite different than you’d originally imagined.

    I no longer have time to mentor, sorry to say. I do do it for an hourly rate…feel free to email me privately, which is listed on my “about” page.

  8. What a great post — and a timely one for me! Last night I announced to my husband that I was going to quit blogging…and this morning, while doing my morning journaling, I changed my mind. I began to see what changes I needed to make and what worries I needed to let go of. I let go of the angst and started to make plans and formulate ideas. It is a more powerful place to come from, and I’m feeling much better. When I read your post, it gave me quite a chuckle!

  9. Good timing!

    I took an eight-day Buddhist retreat last summer, silent, and finally had time to realize how much energy I was wasting every damn day in anxiety and worry. Crazy!

    Now I fix it, forget it or do whatever is necessary to find someone with the correct skills to delegate it to — today! (That means paying people, which is fine with me, because now I’m totally mentally free to get ON with paid work and better assignments.)

    For example, I wanted wise, skilled totally objective advice on my book/film/tv contract — I am using an entertainment attorney (found through two contacts) to review it and advise me. It also puts everyone on notice (i.e. my two agents) that I am watching *their* work carefully as they’re cutting 10 to 15% of my earnings out of every check from Malled. I could have sat there stewing and anxious or, as I did, take action.

    It’s too easy to sit and fret that some problem is unique to you — when it’s likely VERY common and there are good solutions out there to it. But you have to find them.

  10. Well said! I spend countless hours cleaning only to find the house messier then it was a few hours before. Sometimes I have to say to hell with the house and take the kids out for a day by the river or at the park…anything to get us out and enjoying. Lifes too short to carry so much worry around. Love your post! Thanks for sharing!

  11. My kid just got diagnosed as highly gifted. Oh, and he’s volatile, deeply unhappy in school, and his psychologist found possible depression and anxiety alongside the 99.8th percentile intellect. It turns out that being really smart isn’t all that practical. Yeah, so that’s a crocodile. We’re struggling to figure out what the heck to do.

    1. That’s great news actually…My immediate thought (if not too forward of me to offer one, being a pretty smart cookie from a family of smarties with not-great social skills) is to do everything possible to focus on his EQ. Have you read Daniel Goleman’s two books about Emotional Intelligence? I found them very helpful and insightful. I spent a lot of time thinking that being smart was enough…when in fact it pisses everyone off (you scare them and intimidate them, from peers to teachers).

      It may seem totally counter-intuitive, but I’d start focusing your attention and his on everything about him BUT his terrific intelligence…an athlete still has to study….a smartie MUST be well-rounded to succeed, emotionally, spiritually, physically, not just intellectually. Smart kids can be snotty and cold because they know they’re so much further ahead. But in many ways they are very far behind others…

  12. Wow! I think I have found my daily read. You help me realized how easy it is to eliminate stress in pressures in your life just let some of the things go in your life. I luv it!!

  13. You are so right. If we were being honest, most of the time, the reason we continue to struggle with toxic relationships, bad situations, etc… is because we have been taught, somewhere along the way, that we are supposed to. You are doing something right!

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