Monday Musings on Writing and on Being

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.

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Note to Self

    Rules

These ideas have all been expressed before, in list form even. Probably even all together in the same list. But suddenly, today, standing in the bathroom just before bed, they seemed to come to me in language I understood. I need to repeat them. Once or twice. Daily.

1. Don’t allow yourself to be such a perfectionist that you forget to allow yourself to be good at and dedicated to the things you choose to be.

2. Do not allow yourself to be so guilty that you truly don’t see the difference between certain oft-judged behaviors that you truly enjoy and ones that are truly harmful.

3. Do not allow yourself to be so replete with thee, that you forget to be truly you (Or, you know, whatever that poem by Sir Thomas Browne says…).

4. Do not give your thoughts so much credence. You needn’t perceive every negative thought as a failure to be grateful.

5. Do not devalue your contribution to the world, no matter how small.

6. Do not feel that you need to numb yourself to get through the day – YOU ARE HAPPY NOW.

7. Don’t waste any more time imagining the person you should be.

8. Don’t listen to the fears in your head – They are lying to you! All those bad things won’t happen.

9. Embrace your happiness today, not when you think you deserve it at some point in the future.

10. Stop thinking that there are any requirements to happiness other than the ones you’ve already got.

“Talk about your Blessings more than your Problems”

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photo credit to Sun Gazing

I just saw this on Facebook (I know, I know… Why even go on Facebook anymore?) and my first thought, as it always is, was: “Don’t tell me what to do!” After I laughed at myself, as I always do, however, I got angry. I am so sick and tired of all of these pithy posts about the wonders of being grateful and positive. Because you know what? If I talked about my blessings more than my problems, I would probably already be one of those shiny happy, joy-filled hippies who goes around giving out free hugs. But I’m not. I’m far too negative and therefore, I need to do something drastic like create a blog that sort of loosely forces me to talk about my blessings.

Is it a good idea? Of course. Does it make sense? Of course. Do I need Facebook to remind me that I suck at it? No. Especially when that reminder comes in the form of Jim (sans Huck) on the raft playing with doves. Seriously; WTF?

My real problem, of course, is that it’s perfectly sound advice that I should follow. Particularly fitting is that I just spent an hour on the phone with my mom, complaining about my problems. It should be noted also that I did this whilst the cleaning lady I just hired cleaned my whole house and my husband and sister-in-law took my son to the zoo. Oy vey.

The thing is that these sort of simple one-liners make it sound so easy. Oh, right. If I just focused on my blessings… I hadn’t realized that focusing on my problems made things worse. Well, duh. Of course I realized that. Everyone realizes that, don’t they? What I need is a step-by-step method of actuating it, not a one-liner that I can just like on Facebook to seem wise to all my friends and acquaintances (or to annoy them, as is probably more accurately the case).

Hmm… buy a self help book, you say, rather than sitting around in my pajamas eating cheese, watching Master Chef and tooling around on Facebook? Do you have a step-by-step method of actuating that? If not, probably not going to happen…

Why rainy day gratitude?

I have been trying to find a journaling/blogging/writing style that will result in my being: A, an excellent (and quite possibly published) author and B, a happy, successful and, while we’re at it, thin individual. As you will note, this is my first post on this blog (that I started months ago). So far? Not published. Not successful. Not thin. Sigh.

In 2011, I tried listing three things I was grateful for every day, in the hopes that I would magically turn into one of those people who wakes up every morning beaming sunshine instead of wanting to punch my morning-person husband in the face. I think I made it about 66 days or so, which is pretty damn good, in my opinion. I still, however, want to punch my husband in the face in the mornings (or more so now, my 1 year old child – which I’ve heard is an even bigger no-no). I also noticed a pattern; A slightly disturbing one, if I’m being honest. I would say, generously speaking, at least 60% of the things I was grateful for were food or food related. hmm… Not really helpful for that whole “thin” thing, for starters.

Now, was I grateful in the “Thank you, Lord for this food which nourishes my body and gives me energy to take on my day with zest and joyful intention”? No. It was more like “Yay, pizza!”. Don’t get me wrong. I love me some pizza and am truly grateful for the Domino’s man that brings it to me on Pizza Fridays (Yeah, that’s how we roll around here). But there’s something seriously wrong when your husband takes you on a weekend trip to the glorious city of Milan to see the spectacular Tori Amos in concert and all you can write about is the freakin pasta (mmmm…. pasta).

So, what’s my problem? Well, my issue with the Milan trip is that I was 2 months pregnant and terribly nauseated the entire time (and let me tell you, that bus ride from the Milan airport into the city center is NOTHING to be grateful for). My issue currently is that I live in a country where I don’t have many friends, I don’t speak the language and it rains. A lot. My “bigger picture” issue is that I have battled depression and anxiety for most of my life. (And, after all, what’s the best way to deal with a social anxiety disorder? Why, move to a country where you know no one, don’t speak the language and have to deal with new and horrible situations every day. In the rain. Of course. SMH.)

Am I here, then, in this blog, going to try to rectify all that by again trying to make grandios declarations of my gratitude for all to bask in how wonderful I’ve dealt with this ridiculous situation I’ve put myself in? No. Here, I am going to be real (finally). Sans “shoulds” and “should nots”. I’m going to acknowledge the striving towards true gratitude I have always had, but I’m also going to allow for the rainy days, even if they come weeks in a row (which they do – seriously, this country sucks).

I am also NOT going to feel bad for being extremely happy and grateful about pizza.