I have returned. It has been a while. In my absence, much has happened. Mark Twain is attributed to having said something along the lines of “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, most of which have never happened”. Whether MT said it or not is in dispute. It doesn’t matter – I can relate – except for the part about being a man. All that shit that goes on in the head can be troubling indeed when I take it seriously.
You may or may not have noticed my absence. I have. It has been present to me every single day. The running commentary of “I should be writing my blog. I should be writing. Why am I not writing? I love writing. I should be…but I haven’t got time…” and so on and so forth (as my Aunty Irene would say). I observed the commentary. Was it a voice of guilt? Guilt can potentially be a motivator for action and there was no creative action happening. So maybe it was shame? Shame keeps me stuck. Was I having a ‘post blog’ shame attack? No, I was enjoying the blogging experience, feeling easy about what I had written and shared. Fear then? All of the above? It was something. It was habit.
I have been a reader since I was a wee girl. It was a great source of connection and comfort for me. I wanted to write a book too. I was waiting until I knew how. I waited. Perfectionism kept me caged. The decades passed and with a little help from my friends, I got easier on myself. Caitlin Moran, writing about women and ageing, said somewhere, ‘we may lose skin elasticity, but less fucks are given’. At my advanced age, I have found this to be so. I am easier in my skin and have found my voice and I realise I don’t need to have a perfect book in me ready to go. I can practice, and blogging is a great opportunity to practice writing in manageable bite sized chunks. There is something in me that wakes up and comes alive when I sit down and write. I feel engaged in creativity and connected. It brings me joy. It is the opposite of habit.
Why is it then, you may ask, something that brings me joy is to be avoided? That seems irrational yes? A couple of years ago, I was writing from a 12 step guide when I came upon this question “What feelings are you afraid of?” I had been through this same steps guide a few times before and in answer to that question I had previously written something like ‘anger and shame’. This time round though, what came out of my pen in answer to that question was “joy”. Jesus! That took me by surprise.
On reflection, I realised I wasn’t afraid of anger and shame. I had lived with the habits of fear and shame and (supressed) anger all my life. I knew them. They were my familiars. What I was afraid of feeling was JOY!!
So I had hooked back into the crazy busy as a method of avoiding doing what I enjoy and what brings me home. There wasn’t enough time to sit down in front of the computer and begin writing. I was too tired. I was too old. I had nothing to say. I had an important project on the go at work and needed my creative energy for that. I work in the addiction sector. We were developing a booklet of recovery stories. It was exciting and worthwhile and involved making decisions about design and wording and consulting with others in the process. A planned holiday was on the horizon as the deadline for the stories approached. I started taking myself seriously and in my mind was becoming indispensable. Control issues, which I thought had (mostly) left the building, were discovered parked in a cellular storage compartment and thrilled to be given an airing. And upon release, began doing their best to make up for lost time. I was driving myself nuts and seriously considered delaying the holiday or at least, taking the laptop and doing an hour or so of work each day so I could control the process remotely.
Sanity won out and I gave ‘the stories’ into the care of a colleague, put the laptop down and went on holiday in the Wet Tropics.It was fun. And apart from the regular ‘writing myself right’ in the mornings I did not write a word. Tomorrow.
I came back to work and picked up where I left off, immersing myself in the project to hand. All very enjoyable. We launched ‘the stories’ at Addiction Leadership Day and it was great. Yet something was missing. I didn’t write a word. I didn’t have time. Tomorrow.
It occurred to me that I may be procrastinating. “Oh right, well, I know all about that, I’ve been there, done that, got the t shirt. So I will make a decision to get off the CrackBook for seven days and utilise some of that time writing. Great idea”. Yes. However, great ideas without action don’t bring about change. Instead of writing, I substituted the ‘Crack’ with episodes of “The Good Wife.” By this time I was unwell with some kind of viral razor blades in the throat (who knew how many times I need to swallow FFS?) which had me in bed for days. Twenty five episodes later, having made a decision to jettison all my clothes and emulate Alicia Florrick by investing in several beautifully tailored two piece suits, I was nearly educated enough to sit the Bar Exam for my new career as a lawyer. Despite knowing I was going to look fabulous in those suits, and kick arse in the courtroom, I did not feel good about myself. Not a word was written. Just one more episode.
I googled. In “Psychology Today” they point out that “All procrastination is delay, but not all delay is procrastination.” Procrastination is a very special type of postponement; procrastination is irrational. This important distinction is increasingly recognized. The American Heritage Dictionary, for example, defines procrastination as “To put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness.” Mmmkay!
Addictive behaviour can be a bitch. Time to turn up the recovery volume. A stronger intervention was required. Half measures avail us nothing etc., Julia Cameron and Liz Gilbert, writing about being ‘stuck,’ recommend several days away from all media to get things moving. No radio/TV/Netflix/CrackBook/Instagram/Twitter? Several days? Fucks Sake! I can’t do that! What about my legal studies? What about Will Gardener? And Eli and Kalinda? Noooo…
Thankfully I have people in my life who love and support me to get real and face into the fear. Who ‘get’ me. In order to be accountable and follow through, I told them of my scary intervention intention and was reminded I only need to do it for one day. This day. Today. Simple. Sane. So here I am, getting out of my own way and facing into the places that scare me. Writing and breathing and being open to the joy. The return home.