On Becoming “Better”

on becoming better erika napoletanoBetter.

An odd word, isn’t it? Nebulous as a blobfish with meanings as varied as the patterns in winter’s snowflakes.

Is it the same as what some of us would label “good enough” (a cop-out) or is it progress, an incremental step that takes us from where we are to an inch closer to fuck yeah?

Today, I can honestly say that I’m better — the reason being a combination of three things (facts). Perhaps you’re better on account of them — or will be one day — too.

Acknowledging Bullshit

I’d never really thought of it before this year, but everything that holds me back is bullshit I’ve created. Bullshit I’ve allowed to control my life and keeps me from reaching that level of fuck yeah I see others reaching — yet for me, seems out of reach. Coincidentally, it was my own bullshit that kept me from seeing all the bullshit I had going on. But enough about calling bullshit on bullshit. How did I come to acknowledge it?

I made excuses for nearly 20 months to not live after losing Jason. I didn’t much ride my bike. Hike. I sure as hell didn’t climb. I stopped reading. I saw the world as being in my way of coming out on the other side of this…chasm. Somehow in that 20 months, I wrote two books. I cranked out a magazine column each month. I took clients. Blindly. But the one thing that made me acknowledge that “the world” excuse was a machination of my own fears was a single trip to Las Vegas. No, I didn’t lose my shit and win a gazillion at the craps or poker tables. I just decided to do something I used to do every goddamned weekend when I lived there.

I went an climbed a mountain.

I thought I was just getting out of the house, but I found myself once again standing where I’d stood for nearly three and half years of my life. In the process, I realized exactly what I needed to do — what I must do — in order to begin living again.

So how can you uncover the bullshit that’s invading your life and acting as a colossal roadblock on your path to where you want to go? Ask yourself: what do I miss? And then, go do it. You don’t need permission, a sick day, or a partner-in-crime. Just fucking do it and remember what it feels like to feel the way you do when you’re doing it.*

*Disclaimer: if you miss having sex, I do not condone getting a hooker. Especially if you are in a committed relationship. Maybe you really miss intimacy — which is what I miss when I’m on Celibate Island…even though they do serve up a nice hamburger.

Owning My Bullshit

Yeah. I found my bullshit. Everything I thought was everyone else’s fault. You know — death, failure, disappointment, my ass being a size I wasn’t happy with, not riding/hiking/climbing/camping or doing anything that didn’t involve making myself feel worse as soon as I’d done doing it. Owning it, however, was another matter entirely.

When it came to my business, I had to admit that I wasn’t getting where I wanted to go because I was spending all of my time and resources on things I didn’t like doing. Sometimes, things I hated doing. But how to you stop doing what you don’t like doing when the rent, car payment, and cell phone bill are due and your dog needs $700 worth of dental work done because he’s somehow broken two teeth the same week your cat turns up paralyzed and runs up a few grand in vet bills?

Well, it came down to this: you stop. If I didn’t stop now and just made yet another excuse for doing the stuff I hate just this once, I’m just perpetuating the problem. And it’s funny what happens when you work without a just this once-flavored net — shit starts happening, and fast.

As for the rest of my life, owning my bullshit meant that I stop putting it on other people. Stopped trying to make it their fault that I was in the shit and not getting where I needed and wanted to be. And it brought me back this weekend to thinking about being a kid and all of that bullshit I’d brought with me.

When you live a lifetime of being told any (and perhaps all at some juncture) of the following things:

  • You can’t…
  • You shouldn’t…
  • You’re an idiot.
  • Hush.
  • Why would you do that?!
And that your style of living out loud and uncensored isn’t appreciated, welcomed, otherwise right — you stop. You shrink back into the corner and spend a life filled with questioning whether you’re crazy for thinking and feeling what you do.
The only way to own your bullshit is to show all of those people that they’re wrong. You can’t tell them (as they won’t hear it), but this video I caught this weekend exemplified what my speaking coach always pounds into my head: show, don’t tell. And yes, you assholes, the video made me cry.

Seeking Better

So today, I’m seeking better. Whatever incremental improvement I can find that gets me not only back to being the person I fell back in love with while on a wild and crazy, mostly celibate yet never solo journey from 2005 to 2009, but onwards towards a better version of that person. I know I can never go back to doing business the way I used to do it (as it just doesn’t work) and being who I was while leading my first trad climb in Red Rocks, Las Vegas. But what I can do is commit to the process of becoming better. Loving the process and laughing with every trip and fall, victory and misstep that finds me standing sure-footed on unfamiliar terrain.

What will you do today in the interests of becoming better? Maybe it’s finding out that you have bullshit. Maybe it’s owning it. But my hope is that you’ll do a little of it each day so you never find yourself in the chasm again. It’s a dark place. And even if you’re in the shit of it now, better is waiting. I never thought it was possible, but as I come up on the two-year anniversary of Jason’s death, I see more than possibility.

I see me again. And I look forward to seeing what she’s got in her and how she’ll pursue better. Daily.


24 replies
  1. Barbara Goldberg
    Barbara Goldberg says:

    Loving the process is the whole key. I’ve learned from my own journey to pursue better that it doesn’t happen overnight. You have to be willing to work hard at putting the bullshit behind you. It’s all worth it when you get to embrace the true you!

  2. Nikki Groom
    Nikki Groom says:

    Have recently been facing up to my own BS . . . FINALLY.

    Things aren’t getting done because I’M not putting in the elbow grease — it has NOTHING to do with anyone else or how “busy” I am.

    I choose what I put on my plate and I choose when I go to sleep and wake up in the morning and where I exert my energy.

    So, thanks. Thanks for putting it out there. Thanks for opening up & showing us the rawer, gentler side of Erika.

    I did seriously need this today.

  3. Cindi
    Cindi says:

    Thank god because from out here, you being you through everything; open and letting us lean into your honesty paves a way that you don’t even know.

  4. Walker Thornton
    Walker Thornton says:

    I have this book in me. It’s been sitting, neglected, unattended to because my fears and self-doubts…MY bullshit has been getting in my way. That video and your blog have shaken me up. Thank you

  5. Erica
    Erica says:

    This was great. I haven’t felt like me in a long time and no one else has the ability to go find her except the person typing this. And that video? Boy.

  6. Paul Jones
    Paul Jones says:

    Gad, 20 months? Really?

    Erika you have preached better than a thousand self help “gurus” could ever have, because you chose to dig deep and be aware of what you needed. Thanks for giving the rest of us the path to follow, in our own way, to go off the deep end of our own choosing.

    Girl, you rock.


  7. Xenia
    Xenia says:

    Cracking post as always! Firstly, I can’t believe its two years since we got to know each other – and also watching the growth you’ve done in that 2 years has been inspiring, the changes you’ve made and the hard stuff you’ve ‘owned’ and dealt with. I remember the when I first started realising I could see me again – it was and still is unbelievably freeing. What shut me down was very different to your story but it doesn’t matter, I have to be responsible for my life an decision rather than putting shit off because I can’t/won’t/don’t have time/scared.. etc. I like your phrase seeking better – good way to put it 🙂

  8. Bobbi Klein
    Bobbi Klein says:

    I loved this post! Thank you so much for writing this. I have been debating about stoping teaching because it is not getting me to my goals of working full time on my own business. However, I will give up what little income security there is being an adjunct professor. I know that there are tons of opportunities for me. I just have to take the leap.


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