I have been writing since I was a child; I can’t remember a time I didn’t have a notebook next to my bed. I’d wake up in the middle of the night to record my dreams. I wrote plays and forced my friends to perform them (I was a very demanding director, I hear…). When I wanted to learn Spanish, I started writing short stories in Spanish. I learn by writing things down. I think in written words. Writing is who I am, or who I should be.
Why is it, then, that I stopped? I still have a notebook by my bed (albeit an empty one). I still think in words and revel at the sound of them, at the glorious way they are spelled: that two or three or four sounds come together in just such a way. I love imagining what different people understand as they hear words, and trying to fashion them in such a way as to create a replica of my image in their head, however difficult and futile an intention. When I meet new people, I create elaborate background stories about difficulties they might have faced or the unique lives they’ve led up until this point or imagine in depth characters and dream about the stories I could insert them into. Yet I never write them down anymore. I never go beyond the dreaming phase.
My father has always imagined me his child of action. He tells me I’m the business mind in our family, whereas my brother is the artist and the creative spirit (the latter is true). He tells me I’m strong and determined and can do anything I set my mind to. All of this may be true of my character, my real character, hidden deep inside. However, I haven’t actuated many of my true goals. I don’t commit 100% to anything that I do. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t even committed myself fully to my family and my life.
Don’t get me wrong; I love my children – and my husband – with the depth and breadth of my very being. I would (and do) live and die for them. But those are the easy things. They came out of my body, small, needing me, pure souls with eyes that could break right through me. The hard part is committing day to day to be there for them 100%. To get up in the morning the way (and at the time – meaning, early) that is best for them, to set my husband up for success in his day and to give all of them my full attention and being when we are together.
Of course in this modern world of mobile phones, iPads and constant news chatter, there are few that even think of being so mindful in their daily interactions. But this is where suffering comes from (at least, according to that Buddhist CD my mom gave me…). The days, even the small moments, I choose to give my all – to anything, even cleaning (without the TV on or the news or anything else), that’s where joy lives. That’s where I feel connected to my children, my husband, my friends, my neighbors and more importantly, to myself.
And in those moments, it flashes back to me. No matter what I’m doing, even if it has nothing to do with that moment, my soul whispers, “I want to write. I want to be a writer. I am a writer.”
Of course, that scares the crap out of my head and my heart and I instantly start to think about all the ways I’d do it wrong (as if that’s a thing – writing wrong?), all the ways I’d fail, all the ways people would judge what I wrote and all of the ways I’d be lacking, always lacking. Why is it that our consciousness believes that in order to protect our tender souls, it must push us away from being who we truly are? From what we truly desire?
It is a lie that one can fail. There is no such thing as failure, or success. There is only doing. There is only joy and fear.
I am always, constantly, daily tired of living in fear and I am always, constantly, daily afraid of letting go of my fear. Yet this too is because I’m afraid I’ll fail. I’m afraid I won’t let go of my fear properly. I’m afraid it will come back (it will) and that this will mean I can’t do it (it doesn’t). When in fact, I did do it, it just came back and I must do it again. Constantly. Every moment. I must do it again, until it too, just like living in fear is now, becomes habit.
“Yet,” my brain says, “how tiring it will be to be so vigilant, to constantly be aware and mindful of your thoughts. To have to stop yourself and reprogram your mind. Aren’t you tired already, just thinking about it?” However, I’m already doing that. My mind is so vigilant that even when I’m asleep, if I try to let go, it grasps ahold of me, sometimes even waking me up to make sure that I don’t let go of my anxiety and my fear. To ensure that I am always aware of it. That is tiring already. So, why does it matter if this would be tiring also? Exhausted with a purpose and all that jazz.
I have a home now. A beautiful home, surrounded by trees and covered in their fallen leaves. My children pick them up and excitedly show me the colors, in awe of what they’ve just created by their finding. In the morning, we wake up and gaze out the window to see deer wandering through the leaves, eating the grass underneath.
I have friends. I have kindred spirits who make my heart burst with happiness just to think of them. People that truly love me and want me in their lives because of the unique joy I bring.
I have a husband who loves me and chose to live his future with me, combining our lives into one family, one shared experience. Yet I doubt this. Constantly. I fight with him to make him prove how he loves me, as if our life isn’t daily proof. As if his going to work in a job he doesn’t like in order to support our family isn’t proof. As if his living in America and always making the best choices for our family isn’t proof. As if his care and love for his children isn’t somehow connected to me always and isn’t proof. I committed to him, yet I didn’t accept that commitment, either by him or by myself. I am still holding back in order not to get hurt. But were anything to happen to our relationship, to our family, to our love, I would be devastated. So it didn’t work; I haven’t protected myself at all.
Years ago, after I was hospitalized for an overdose, I made the tentative decision to choose life. I asked for help. I “got better”. Now, and ever since, I grow. I change. I better myself. I strive. I take my medication. I want to live. Yet, I never committed fully to that choice either. I chose to live, but I didn’t choose to live in joy. I didn’t chose to let go of everything that was holding me back. I’m striving and seeking to better myself blind, with my hands tied behind my back. Of course it feels hard. Of course it’s a daily struggle. If I just release my binds, my life would soar, I would soar.
A therapist I came to trust once told me it was like flipping a switch. I didn’t believe him at the time because if it were that easy, why wasn’t I already doing it? Why wasn’t everyone doing it? I don’t really know how to continue the metaphor, but I believe there is some truth to it being that easy in theory, it just must be done over and over again in every moment until it’s habit. Because my thinking now, my deliberately turning the switch off the moment any glimmer of hope creeps in, is a habit. One that is harder to break than the drugs, harder to quit than cigarettes.
“Live mindfully” has become as common an expression as any (at least in the circles I run in), but it’s rarely talked about what that actually means. Or how hard it actually is to start. Imagine how hard it is to quiet your mind the first time you try to meditate? That’s what living mindfully is like, except every second of the day. Every second you must silence the chatter that your brain is feeding you and calling your own voice. Yet you must do it without a struggle, or else it is just your brain fighting with itself, and that is not actually being mindful at all.
So, here I am. Sitting by my window with a cup of coffee on this cold, dreary, rainy Monday morning and I’m writing. I’m not thinking. I’m just writing. So, that’s a start.