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Breaking the October Ceiling

"Ok, that's enough success for now."

[This day's writing started with a kind of Morning Pages. It then turned into a blog. I have included the scrappy prelude for clients taking my Living by Divine Guidance course so they can see how directly daily automatic writing can lead to concrete acts of creativity. The 'real' article is lower down.]

The need to write comes before the ‘what’ to write. I’m in a cafe in Lisbon named after Versailles. I want to leave an imprint that marks having been here. I am definitely the only person North American enough to be in here on a laptop and that means I’ve come to a good place. I ran out of my morning pages notebook yesterday so today that means I transition into a morning writing routine. Maybe that’s what’s been meant to happen.

‘Meant to happen’ is present and future combined. ‘What has been’ is past. What is meant to be now and into the future has been. Same thing.

It’s been years I’ve been more in an expression component than in an ingestion one. I have less desire to consume, research, scroll. I do inner work to centre into the depth and spaciousness I feel and through that negative space I long to create something to fill it.

The issue of being a writer that doesn’t read endures. But less so. I have seen many brilliant people I know with ADHD-leaning traits express their difficulty to read and retain the information, and I am well aware of having very developed faculties in other areas that require quick thinking.

I seem to have the capacity for absorption when I’m on my feet rather than sitting in a chair. I can sit and write and sit and meditate but I struggle to sit and learn. I used to study my lines while walking the streets and learn them in a flash.

Nietzsche wrote while walking - yet audio recorders didn’t exist then. Funny. Because I don’t have WIFI access here I still can’t tell if I’m writing for myself or an audience on the blog.

[This is when the writing became focused into a blog (accidentally).]

You can tell something means a lot to you when you feel overjoyed that even one person is experiencing and choosing to present themselves to it. The few people that are reading this blog (and sometimes more than a few) feel like individually wrapped Christmas presents each time I publish.

I felt that way about my first few followers for Tour de Soul as well. But then things change. One can be habituated to momentum and become attached to surging forward. When I begin to feel reliant on the reception to a service, product or form of expression, I return with an empty hand rather than one cupped warmly in gratitude (as if on a face).

Every time I have a good month of sales, I become self aware. Not at first. When I’m in the streak, I am usually in a quiet state of solitude and gratitude. I whisper thank you to each booking and the person behind it. Then I hit/approach a certain number or monthly target and I stop the movement. I pause and celebrate. And the sales go back to being numbers and the clients fuel to my progression. And I forget.

I become afraid that my self awareness will halt my winning streak. I do not know where this mentality came from but when in traumatically stressful romantic relationship dynamics in the past, I would become hyper vigilant when things were good and begin to bide my time until the happy accident crashed to its rhythmic end.

It was as though whenever I got lucky and successful, it seemed by complete chance and lack of calculation.

Simply being in flow and present would bring the gifts without my needing to steer the situation. Like beginner’s luck when trying a new sport (this has happened to me in nearly every physical activity I’ve attempted - pool, golf, tennis, surfing etc.). Then I'd become self aware. ‘I am doing good’. ‘How did I get here?’ ‘What did I do that worked?’ ‘How do I make sure to repeat this even though I did it unconsciously?’ ‘What if I am unable to repeat it since I don’t know what I did right?’ And suddenly, the muscular and intuitive intelligence exercised by every cell in my being loses concordance and fearful ego preservation tries to take the reins (and fails - insert all the sports I listed above).

I hit a wall or ceiling of success. What my unconscious thinks is the height I can reach before it’s time to interrupt my own ascent.

In school, this ceiling was October.

No matter what the subject - including my academic nemesis, math - until October my grades were in the 90s. Good intentions, pristine routines, keeping my word, mental freshness and clarity - these were the signposts of a steady climb in my classes. Then mid October, it would start to slip. One foot would miss the rock as dirt crumbled downhill and I'd look over my shoulder to see how far I'd fall if I missed another step.

Usually there was a ways to go ahead of me if I really wanted to excel and reach the summit of my potential. On the other hand, if I fell now it wouldn’t be so bad. I might bonk my head but recover quickly without feeling I had wasted too much time approaching the top while not quite making it.

Better to fall from a third or halfway up the hill rather than too close to the peak (and - what peak?).

The foot missing the rock in high school was skipping one piece of homework or pushing it off until a later date at which point the consistent rhythmic attention became too difficult to maintain. What shifted from the daily commitment to pushing one thing aside for a later time? How did the foot miss the rock?

“I got this.” That’s what happened. A little flush of ego.

In my brief foray into sobriety meetings, one of my charming and entertaining mentor figures used to make hats for his group that said “you don’t got this.” While this may sound pejorative to some, it does seem that to remember your success is precarious actually fosters a more sensitive maintenance of its continuation.

And the same can be said for my finances. I can keep a tight lid on my spending that lets me live like the most scrupulous of undergrads surviving on tricks, gifts and clever deals. But when the money starts coming in consistently, I unbutton my proverbial pants and allow my appetites to increase. “It’s safe to relax now,” I say, and one purchase rolls into another until I’m back at square one. As my income increases, so does my spending. Duh.

This is why I quit working full time for others many years ago. I realized it brought me absolutely nowhere financially. The more I worked, the more I would spend on clothes for work, restaurants during and after work, travel to escape from work, transport to and from work etc. I thought to myself, as long as I always end up back at zero, I may as well work for myself.

As a freelancer, I would spend my earned money on basic bills and groceries, cooking for myself, buying mostly used clothes, and making my own skincare or doing my own haircuts, putting off bigger investments - and this worked for me.

But now I am hitting my October. I have come to the place in my business where I have some momentum. I have months where I earn enough not to simply make minimum payments on my debts, and maybe even leave some aside for the next month in case work slows down again. And I’ve been here before. I usually increase my spending. All the things I have wanted to purchase or procure (consciously or unconsciously) start to surge through the bottleneck of the new cushion in my bank account.

And the next month I’m back to being an undergrad, celebrating the chance occurrence of a free meal.

I have had periods where I’ve made a lot of money fast or very little money and I never felt a huge difference in my lifestyle. There was always this contradictory emotional cocktail of lax leisure, luxurious self indulgence and anxious restraint that peppered those periods. I would hit the ceiling then spend what I had.

I can feel now when I’ve been on a lucky streak with work (let’s call it that even if I believe it’s more deliberate) and I can observe the tightening fear that steps forward. “It’s going to stop now” it says. “You’re doing things differently and forgotten what's worked for you.” “You can’t maintain success or commitment to anything.”

I know that forcefully trying to change something doesn’t work. So I relax, accept and observe. I watch the dynamic.

“Hello end of October,” I say. Hello “time of the year where I ditch my daily planner agenda bought with good intentions at the beginning of the school year only to trail off by Christmas and get recycled the following year half empty.” (I stopped buying them and only use Google Calendar now.)

“Hello hitting sales targets only to feel powerless that it was all a timing fluke.”

“Hello, fear of loss, my old friend” that shows up whenever there is something good enough to lose.

When I was modelling and acting, I never came close to my potential. As in many careers, I had “easy success,” meaning my ratio for booking a role or getting a gig was very high proportional to the amount of auditions, castings and interviews I did. I could almost always get my foot in the door. But it was as though that was enough.

As long as I could prove my potential to myself, it wasn’t essential that I break through and become an industry leader, reach a higher income level or attain earned seniority. I was only interested in natural talent rather than expertise.

“See how easy this is for me?” my contented ego seemed to say. “Sustained effort is a bore and beneath me,” it seemed to imply.

Whether that was in year three of a romantic relationship, month nine of a full time job or two and a half years into a career, I would change course.

Novelty, yes. Adventure, yes. But where is the sustained satisfaction in finding momentum? Hitting long term targets? Reaching the next level of the video game?

It's past October for Tour de Soul. Besides a month or two the previous year, August and October were my best sales months yet. And I’m not exactly sure what got me there. It wasn’t more marketing (it was maybe less actually), it wasn’t a more devotional practice, it wasn’t a major philosophical epiphany or a product launch.

The only thing I can guess is that I was in it. And not even within the strict bounds of my business, but rather in the focused movement of showing up for my life. Presence. Attention. Trust. Commitment. Joy.

I don’t know how to “get back” or even "stay" there necessarily (even less how to "increase" it). But I know how to say thank you. For every follower, reader and purchaser. For every message, payment and commitment from a client to show up for their self healing ‘homework’. For every new idea and moment of clarity. For every word that appears on a page when I sit down to right (I meant to put 'write' but this is too cool an error to correct). For the gift of travel and all the loving, generous people around me. For my dog, comfortable clothing and every bouncing curl on my head.

Giving thanks is simply enhanced presence. It’s recognizing what is there and for me, an active awareness of the natural abundance in my life.

I know that when I started Tour de Soul and got the first few likes on my first IGTV (on radical acceptance), I felt like a rich woman. I was fulfilled by any and every act of support and demonstration of interest in what I was starting. That’s what I want to maintain and I believe that by doing that, October safely turns into November and self awareness doesn't have to halt the rise.

Natalie Vansier in a flower dress in front of large arch in a park, with a stone bench and trees behind.
The day I wrote this post. I bought an organic face cream I needed but overcame more frivolous urges to spend.

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