“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft." -- Anne Lamott
When I’m most tired, and most challenged, I tend to write the very least. It’s counterintuitive for a writer, and against what I advise. It seems like lately all that comes out of me in terms of personal writing are very tiny bits, what I call tiny essays (though it may be generous to call them that).
I had been saying, “Oh, it’s been a crazy few weeks,” or “crazy few months,” but really it has been a tough year. More than a year. The TimeHop messages that pop up each morning on my phone tell little stories of someone who appeared to be happy, traveling all over the place, and eating fabulous food and going on many adventures that she’d later write about. Those things were good -- sometimes.
But there were also bad parts. Very bad.
“I can tell that the pain that you’re in affects your quality of life,” my internist said today. He meant my joints, my ankles and wrists, and my muscles. Oh, those muscles, the ones that react to stress by curling into a self-protective ball. That react to excitement by clenching up. That react to the stories I tell myself, that if I just push a little harder ...
I used to run away from the pain, distracting it with the pleasure and adrenaline that came with travel. Now that I don't travel constantly, I feel it all, and it hurts.
In the past two years I’ve faced my mom’s compromised health, the mounting pressures of the job I thought that was my dream, that job changing and that dream radically shifting, a couple serious health scares, saying goodbye to parts of my identity I held on to for dear life, and starting a new job in a new industry. And managing a family, friendships, a house and two dogs. You know, life.
Some of these things I’ve done better than others. Priorities have shifted and then shifted again and again.
Looking for guidance and for relief, I’ve gone to church -- two of them. I’ve gotten massages. I’ve gone to therapy, for my wrist and for my heart (the figurative one). I’ve posted inspirational Instagram quotes and read inspirational Instagram quotes. Had coffee meetings with friends. Read. Prayed. Read and prayed some more. Received encouraging messages and a lot of support from family. I’ve slept, but never enough. And written, but never enough.
What now will I do differently? A whole lot, some of which I can share and some of which I prefer to keep tucked in my pocket for now.
In the summer, I went to the IVOH (Images of Voices and Hope) Summit, where during the retreat portion, we were encourage to write a story that told our truth. I began writing something that opened up a groundswell of emotion, of physical and emotional exhaustion. One I never told in its entirety, just in veiled bits and pieces here and there.
Perhaps I've been running from that story ever since I put it on the paper. But not anymore. I write small sentences now, before I fall asleep or now, while I watch my boy at baseball practice. It is fall again, with the skies getting darker earlier. By next week, he'll be taller. If I'm lucky, I will have eeked out a few more new sentences, despite of or because of the pain.
I'm a big believer in hope and in a God of second chances. (<----That's what we call in the business the "buried" lede.) It's only with grace that we stop running, stand still, and feel.