Hi Mom (A post from the archives)

It’s almost five years since I wrote this and posted it at my other blog.  In  many ways I feel like I am still stuck in the same place. But I also know that I have  made progress in my journey toward wholeness.

When I wrote the post below, I had recently turned 50. In a few weeks, I’ll be 55. Kind of a milestone birthday, one that is arbitrarily dictated by society, but a milestone nonetheless. I am still learning to accept myself as I am.

You could get away with calling me a navel gazer. It’s true. But I believe my introspection helps me to be a better person, which directly accrues to the benefit of my family. That’s really good. And it keeps my belly button lint free.


I’m fifty.

I’m sitting here today having such a hard time doing anything productive. I’m doing a lot of thinking when I really want to be doing. I’m supposed to be writing a book, but I’ve just been thinking about it all day long. Thinking about how unqualified I am. Thinking about how I don’t have enough material. Printing out all the writing I’ve done over the last 15 years to prove to myself I can write 50,000 words for a book. Not believing it. Not buying it. Checking my email, checking my Facebook; checking anything else I can think of to avoid having to write something because I’m so damned afraid and why? Why am I afraid?

Someone said, “life sucks and then you die”. And it’s not really like that; my life hasn’t sucked, but there are elements of it that are disappointing. Kids don’t stay kids. They’re not supposed to, but it hurts when they leave. Youth goes away; whether it is your child or your body. And sometimes, when it is a rainy day and there’s no sun to warm your head, you start to wonder if any of it is worth it. And this is not a good thing to be wondering when you have a book to write that is supposed to encourage, enlighten, and motivate people by the dozens. Or more.

So you reach out to a group of people who are writing books too and you share your insecurity and you get back a comment or two that just make you feel more shitty. And you think, well, should you have expected any different? And it is ok. But you delete your reaching out post and try not to feel inferior all day. And the Mac tells you every hour that it is another hour later in the day and you haven’t done anything yet of value. You wonder what the heck is wrong with you, why can’t you live in the positivity and flow with optimism and… what do you really believe anyway? Maybe, you start to think, maybe the reason you can’t write anything is because you’re trying to be something you’re not. Maybe you’re trying to be all Eckhart Tolle in an effort not to be John Hagee. But maybe you’re somewhere in between and maybe you need to just be that. And maybe it has been far too long since you were just you.

So, hi mom. I just wanted to write you a letter and tell you that I understand how you must have felt. I’m about the same age as you were when all the shit of your life hit the fan and I want you to know that I know how it feels to be this age and to feel like you’ve done some things you wish you could undo. I know what it feels like to struggle with things that you can’t seem to shake. I know how it feels to start feeling the wrinkles and the dry skin and the hips and hurting feet. Oh, and I know how it feels to have teenagers and big flashing billboards flashing in your face about how you failed here, and there, and there. I just wanted to tell you that I understand it must have been supremely difficult. My husband didn’t leave me like yours did. On top of everything else, you had to try and live through that. And I get it. It was really just too hard. I just wanted to tell you that it is ok, I’m not mad at you and I understand. And I love you. Wish we could have coffee together some time.

 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

You’re not falling behind; you’re getting wiser

As I have grown older, I’ve felt the distinct slowing in my being. The world seems to be speeding up all around me and I find myself not wanting to keep up as much as I used to. It takes too much energy to follow every trend and stay on top of new things.

Those fast moving things don’t feel so important to me anymore. I want to be relevant so I listen to all kinds of music and expose myself to new technologies as much as I can stand it. But it doesn’t seem so vital or even very easy anymore.

The pace of life seems so much faster now than it was when I was younger, before technology zoomed us into hyperspeed all the time. I find myself craving a slower pace. I like the move toward slow food and the trend toward disengaging from autopilot. I saw an article about slow making the other day, going back to the older ways of building things and putting things together by hand instead of completely relying on other machines to make it happen.

There isn’t much that can compare, for instance, with a hand tailored suit, where the lapel interfacing is sewn in manually, curved over the seamstresses hand to give it the shape needed to make it a fine garment.

As a writer, I feel left behind some when I look at what magazines are publishing, magazines that I used to write for and feel perfectly comfortable with knowing in my knower what the editor wanted. Now, I’m a bit lost. The topics don’t feel so evergreen to me now, instead they are fleeting and flying by, and they don’t feel so weighty.

As a writer, I find myself gravitating toward more classic themes, like character, old fashioned customer service, the importance of family and self-awareness, natural treatment of disease, and independence.

I just need to remember my pull to the timeless whenever I start to feel overwhelmed by the transitory. It’s going to be OK. I have a lot to offer to this hyperspeed world and I am really settling into my voice. Life is good.

Photo by Maite Tiscar on Unsplash

Do you want a breakthrough in your writing work?

I sure do. I got one this morning. It feels so good to just let the words flow with nothing hindering. What worked for me this time? I think there are a couple of ingredients in this soup.

First, I’ve been working hard on allowing myself to write imperfectly. Normally my inner critic/editor is right there with me, reading as I write, constantly interrupting me with her opinions and directives. This is maddening and makes me give up more than anything else. I’ve been in talks with her to convince her to allow me to just get it all written and then I will hand the project over to her. She doesn’t really want to do all of her editing and criticizing at once. She’s a bit low energy like me and prefers to do it a little bit at a time in real time. But for now she has agreed to step aside. This really helps me to let down my guard and just write.

Second, I’m taking off the masks. I’m not trying to “be good” at what I am doing or make it sound like any certain “good writer” that I’ve read. I am not trying to do it like Jeannette Walls or Ann Lamott or Cheryl Strayed or even Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m going to do it like ME and I don’t care if it doesn’t look the same or look like what a memoir is “supposed” to look like. There’s no law. So I am committing to a.) being myself, right to the bone, and b.) telling the truth, as impoverished as I may think it is. I never made anything up but I did try to make it sound a certain way. Not doing that anymore.

The result? This morning I sat down and poured out 1000 words and could have gone longer but I wanted to get a blog post in before it is time to take coffee to my man. It feels so good. I hope it lasts this time.

What do you do to get the words flowing? Do you ever struggle with your inner critic?

Photo by Alexa Mazzarello on Unsplash

 

The cold shock of meaningful writing

I’ve distilled the source of my happiness and contentment into three daily things: eating right, moving my body, and writing something meaningful. If I do these things, at the end of the day the odds are great that I will be at peace with myself. I like peace.

I want to focus on the meaningful writing. For me that means it can’t be stream of consciousness stuff like morning pages. I have given morning pages the old college try. I’ve done 750words.com for years. I’ve have a few streaks of writing my morning pages by hand as soon as I wake up. I love the feeling of the ink on the page. But no matter how I do the morning pages, by hand or typing, I always end up asking myself, why am I doing this? It is meaningless to me to write to myself about what I am going to do today or how much yesterday sucked.

For me, meaningful writing is beautiful, or it works out a dilemma, or both. Meaningful writing is structured in some way and it is directed and purposeful, not aimless. It leaves me feeling satisfied that I have “done my work” as a writer.

Meaningful writing is not easy to do. It accesses everything that is vulnerable inside me and for that reason it meets with resistance. It taps into the pain and shame of the past, or the insecurities of the future. If I show them who I really am will I be rejected again?

Because of the pain that lurks inside the work of meaningful writing, I find myself dancing on the threshold of it. I long to do it and I need to do it but I avoid it. It’s like how I used to feel as a kid, toes curled over the smooth concrete edge of the swimming pool, half-naked in my suit. I wanted to swim, to dive down and touch the depths while holding my breath, to feel the freedom and weightlessness of the water.

But the water is shockingly cold. I dip my toes in and confirm this. It doesn’t feel good and it will feel worse to be enveloped in that cold. And what if I jump in and my bathing suit dislodges from my body? Old traumatic memories die hard.

So I hesitate. I hem and haw and dance. I go inside and get a snack. I tell myself I don’t really want to swim in this pool. My heart tells me different. I try to shut up my heart. And then I have no peace.

When I was a girl, and I finally screwed up the courage to jump off the side into the chilly clear water, the shock of the cold was striking. It was uncomfortable. I would rise to the surface and draw in a shivered breath. But now that I was in, it was much better to stay in then to climb out and expose my wet skin to the air. I was committed. The cold wasn’t so cold anymore.

So it is with my meaningful writing. I have to jump in to get past the pain. I’ll feel it for a few moments but as I swim and stay with it, the water feels much warmer.

Photo by Léa Dubedout on Unsplash

When you’re an INFP

When you’re an INFP, you can find tragic beauty in everything. You can cry and laugh at the same time, for the same reason. When you’re an INFP it’s hard to accept things just as they are. They could be so much better. But you don’t have the energy to change them. Unless you’re pissed off and then you can move the world. Until someone looks at you funny and you stop to wonder why. And then you’re paralyzed and you cry and hide. And you play sad music and you cry some more and then you write something beautiful. You put on your black clothes and tie flowers in your hair and color your toenails black with a sharpie. Even though you’re fifty five years old.

When you’re an INFP, your kids know you’re weird but they love you anyway because no other mom could connect with them the way you do. Except when you’re in one of those moods and you hide in your room and pretend you don’t hear it when they knock. But then they text you and you answer instantaneously because you love them, after all. You just can’t bear to have them look at you right now. So you answer all their questions digitally, diligently, and give them advice that you haven’t followed all that well but you know it is the right way to be. And you would follow it if you weren’t so emotionally fragile. You know your kids are much stronger than you.

When you’re an INFP, you love your husband because he’s perfect and because he’s broken, all at the same time. He’s your hero and he irritates the snot out of you but you would give anything for him and do anything for him. You’d give up writing for him – at least your public writing. The journal is never going to be sacrificed for any reason, except if you just don’t feel like it today because the world seems too dark to relate to but that’s when you need it most so you put on some sad music and you let the words and the worlds come tumbling out. Then you take him coffee and massage his temples and read to him and laugh together and it’s a new day.

When you’re an INFP, you keep pushing onward each day, starting over again with all your commitments and promises to yourself and others. Hope drives you to never give up, and when it seems like hope is running out you find a way to find some more because hope is the battery of the engine of your life and you know that without hope you’d have been dead a long time ago and you’re not done living, dammit, so wake up body. Blood cells flow to where they are needed, by your command, and body parts relax when you tell them to. You control the very processes of your existence. You are in your body and you know it intimately and care for it intimately. You are the master of your destiny and the captain of your soul.