Here’s a funny thing. I was planning to write “Q is for Quest” for some time. For the life of me, I couldn’t think of something to write, but I was determined that it somehow fit into the theme of “Q is for Quest”. Then the other day, I was sitting with one of my customers (we call our clients customers) and she had some really cool nail varnish pens. She wanted me to do the outlines of circles on her leopard-print nails, which I had just painted. I said I didn’t want to, as I was scared I would mess it up. She persuaded me to do it anyway and, once I had, she was pleased with the result. “See?” she said, “you didn’t mess it up!”
And then? “I think,” she said, “that it should be your quest in life to be less scared of things.”
I was really surprised that (a) she had picked up on my nervousness about messing things up and (b) she had picked the word “quest”- my word for my next blog post- and used it in a context that made sense to me!
I had had all these ideas floating around my head about Quests- a course I did on post-colonial quest literature, Arthurian knights, absent centres… and it hadn’t occurred to me, not really, to work out what my personal quest might be.
Is that it? My quest- to stop being scared? I think it might be. I wrote before about perfection and this ties in nicely with that. As I mentioned in my last post, I am no longer a perfectionist. Perfection is no longer something I strive for, or crave, because I am learning to see the bigger picture. But that doesn’t mean I’m not terrified of messing things up. All the time: big things, little things, medium-sized things. From a customer’s nails to my entire life, I worry that I will get things wrong and sometimes this even stops me from acting. “I don’t want to,” you’ll hear me say. “I’ll probably get it wrong.” Sometimes this might not be inaccurate- I am, for example, phenomenally clumsy, so it is probably best not to hand me a stack of plates and ask me to carry them across a room. Other times it’s unfounded. I won’t want to be in charge of ordering a shower curtain because “I’ll probably get the wrong kind.” Or to make certain phone-calls because “I’ll probably give the wrong details.”
As I’ve got older, these fears have become less restrictive but they’re still there in many ways. I don’t refuse to make phone-calls (that is part of my job) and I don’t shy away from things like calling the bank (that is, sadly, part of adult life). My fear of messing up even led me not to want a job because I was convinced I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I have a job now and so far I have handled it fine. But that doesn’t mean the fear isn’t still there, that strange old fear of screwing up.
The definition of “quest” is “a long or arduous search for something.” In wanting to overcome my fear of getting things wrong, what am I actually questing for? Something like peace of mind, I guess, a life where days don’t leave that unrest unsettled in my stomach (did I do the right thing? Did I get it wrong?)
If it is my quest in life not to be scared of things, then it is my quest in life to find a balance somewhere between foolhardiness and terror. That will be a long and arduous search, because the fear of getting things wrong is something I have known a long time- known, I would say, my entire life. So, like many other things in this larger quest that can be loosely termed “recovery”, the quest for peace of mind- the quest to rid myself of that fear- will be long and difficult. There will be mountains and dragons and flames and oceans, probably. Me, armed only with determination. And of course, as I’ve said about “recovery” before, no true sense of an end-goal, no tangible destination.
Funny that it took a chance encounter with a customer and some nail varnish to make me aware that this was even part of my quest at all.
The nails, by the way, looked great. We painted mine, too.
What’s your quest?