I feel that I have bad writing habits carried over from school years; the most egregious, of course, is trying to force my writing to a close, wrap it up in a bow by the end of the show sort of closing. End on a high note! End on a call to action! Close with a hook! I can hear my old professors whispering in my ears. I had this argument with them then, and I have it with myself now–life just doesn’t tie up neatly in a thousand words or less. It doesn’t wrap up in hundreds of thousands of words, else why would we have libraries and libraries of books full of people wrestling with the human existence?
Such is the argument in my head as I consider what I wrote last week.
Perhaps my second egregious habit is to constantly and consistently self-censor, and not speak the whole truth, for fear of offending someone or being disliked or be called out- whatever the reason might be that day. I am heavily resisting the urge to delete what I wrote. It feels a bit too much like a ‘essay for a grade’ writing, but I will let it stand.
A reader’s comment jogged my memory as to what I really wanted to say, and so here, I will attempt to reconstruct my inner dialogue instead and leave the editing for another day.
How do you keep your sense of self when everything that defines you keeps rapidly changing?
How do you hold on to the dreams you have when you’ve almost forgotten how to dream?
I’m not really sure.
I have watched many aspects of myself die- aspects that I never would have dreamed I’d be forced to let go of, that I thought would have to be pried out of my cold dead hands. And oh, how I’ve grieved.
Sometimes I just feel completely hollowed out.
I have an extremely odd sense of time dilation now, and it makes me not trust my memory of situations (a common side affect of trauma, I’ve come to learn). I mean, yeah, we all joke that the 90s were only ten years ago, but my memory of time is really distorted. Things that I swear happened a year ago happened four, five, six years ago. I will look up from a situation I’ve been dealing with thinking days have gone by, only to discover it has been weeks or months. (I apologize publicly here for so many emails that have sat unanswered- I’ll get to it tomorrow-only to realize that when tomorrow came, a month or two later, the whole need for a reply has long gone past. )
You can imagine the affect on my relationships. So many friendships have fallen away over the years, and I don’t particularly blame the friend; I blame the fact that my attention has been so diverted by what we’ve been going through. It is the rare, patient person that can continue to keep checking in on me when I go utterly quiet and understand the reason I’ve disappeared has nothing to do with them and everything to do with the weight of our life.
So when it comes to dreams and goals…gosh. I don’t fit in your standard paradigm at all. I’ve found a lot of standard advice about goal setting to be utterly useless. And that is only worsened since I’ve been diagnosed. I will complete XYZ by X date just does.not.work. at all for me. What I have come to realize though, is that the process is the goal, at least for me. It’s the routines. Prior to all this, I tended to be both very free-spirited and whimsical, but also very perfectionistic. I’d probably not start on something if I couldn’t do it the way I wanted to, right then, from start to finish. So so many things languished under this paradigm, and projects and goals never, ever got accomplished.
When all the medical stuff cascaded in, there was just a period of desperately trying to keep head above water. There’s nothing left for anything else. But now, farther down the road from all that, I’m realizing my dreams and goals happen in God’s own timing so long as I just show up. And when I gaze back over the last two to three years, I am honestly amazed at some of the things I’ve managed to accomplish, at least as pertains to creating art, because not one of them happened because I said “I’m going to make THIS.” with intention. They happened in tiny bits and pieces over days and weeks, one mark at a time, a journey of- ‘well what happens if I do this next?’
This has taught me to trust the rhythm and routine, which my formerly free-spirited self still balks at, to be honest. I want to just dance in and out with the muse and not be tied down. But every single thing I’ve produced lately hasn’t been like that at all- it’s this- I’ve got ten minutes, I’m going to do this one thing and if it works, great. Walk away. It doesn’t. Oh well. Walk away. Interestingly, some of the stuff I walked away from swearing it wasn’t working, I’ll come back to in the next pocket of time and go now wait a minute, what if… and something wholly new and wonderful emerges.
I guess what I’m saying- because I think this is a pretty widely held feeling right now as the pandemic shifts and we return to ‘normal’, but nothing feels even the slightest bit normal and it’s leaving us feeling disconnected and discombobulated, maybe even dis-integrated- ONE, that’s a normal feeling after such an experience (at least from where I’m standing, after what I’ve gone through)- and TWO- trust the process of who you are to pull all those pieces back to you. They are going to be very different, and you might not even remotely resemble the person you were before, but that’s okay. Trust the process. Trust the discipline of routine. Keep making the bed. Keep drinking that favorite drink. Keep lighting a candle every time you get to work. Keep your prayer rule. Whatever it may be, lay your goals down on the rails of that routine, and I can attest that you will be mighty surprised just how far down the track they might carry you, even when you swore you weren’t accomplishing anything. This becomes that much more true if you are ill for any length of time. Energy becomes such a precious commodity and it is so hard to spend energy if you can’t see a return. How I know this feeling! But trust that whatever you can spend will pay off. But it won’t pay at all if you never start it or you wait for the world to stop changing around you or the storm to pass- if you do that, you’ll be waiting a very, very long time, and you’ll be even farther from that dream.
How about you? Are you a big goal-setter and list- maker? Free spirit? What have you learned in your own life? I’d love to hear.