Last week was filled with many emotions. The heartbreaking headlines about Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain and all of the following posts* by acquaintances, friends, and strangers describing their personal experiences with anxiety, depression, despair, and grief left me feeling a certain hard-to-explain heaviness. I’ve been there, maybe not to the same extent, but close enough to know that sometimes it all gets too exhausting.
There was also relief and some joy as I made my writing deadline. That’s not big news as I have always met editors’ deadlines. The difference this time was, instead of writing one or two articles, I got the big idea that it was time I challenged myself, and my writing. I accepted three assignments/articles to be written in two weeks. I figured this was my chance to see how I was progressing along the freelance writing path. The old tough-love test of sink or swim. I stressed
a little quite a bit, but I survived. I discovered more about my writing, and myself. I found a few several weak spots, mostly having to do with self-confidence and journalistic experience. I also realized there is always going to be more for me to learn, and I need to be more patient with myself. I want to be my best at what I do, my own personal best. I still struggle with perfectionism, but I’m much better than I used to be. I read to learn how other writers deal with common struggles associated with writing. I just relistened to ‘Word by Word’ by Anne Lamott. It’s the audio version of her classic book, ‘Bird by Bird.’ There is so much practical writing (and life!) instruction between the pages of that short book. One of my favorite things she says is:
Life is not perfect. Life is like sloppy and messy, and it’s all based on mistakes and accidents. That’s where things spring from.
Yeah, the messy, the sloppy, the imperfect, the mistakes, the accidents… those all add up to a life. And writing! There’s more to it, of course. But, if I can just remember to keep stretching and growing, all the while knowing there will be setbacks, mistakes, rejections, as well as some accomplishments, well isn’t that the soul-soup of living?
I have a Toolbox full of tools that helps me in a variety of difficult situations. They’re great as long as I can remember to use them in the thick of it all.
Getting outside and listening to the sounds of nature is always a salve for my frazzled nerves. Can you hear the wind in the grasses and the birdsong? I wish you could feel the gentle breeze captured by swaying browns and greens in this clip. I forced myself to get up from my desk, take a break, and find a new place to walk the day before D(eadline) Day. It worked! It was just what I needed to finish my articles–a fresh perspective.
Another tool is reading encouraging words. In the midst of my 2-week deadline period, I picked up the current issue of Parabola magazine, one of my favorites. Edward Espe Brown’s article on a simple Thich Nhat Hanh teaching on compassion arrived right on time to soften the edges of my self-imposed tension:
“As you inhale, let your heart fill with compassion, and as you exhale, pour the compassion over your head.”
I pictured gentle waterfalls of compassion pouring down upon me. Read the article in its entirety here.
I keep going back to that practice because it really does help me to be kind to myself. When I’m more compassionate and kind to myself, I’m more apt to pass on that compassion and kindness to others. I fill my cup, and then I have enough to share. Hopefully that compassion and kindness gets passed along to even more folks that need a refreshing drink. It’s an important cycle. And, like lovingkindness meditation, it begins with me.
*One of the most authentic and moving posts that I read last week dealing with mental health and suicide was on my friend and fellow blogger’s site, The Green Study. Take a look at what Michelle wrote here.
Photos and video mine except for the To Do List. I found that on the internet with no author stated. I’m happy to give credit when I know to whom it is due.
Find Anne Lamott’s ‘Bird by Bird’ at your local library, bookstore, or purchase from Quail Ridge Books here.