I’m just going to start. So much mental back and forth! Do I write by hand first to access the “me” within, or start on the computer? Where and when can I find a bit of solitude to concentrate? I want everything to be perfect before I begin; that has held me up before. I want that desk at the window overlooking the rolling hills, with sunshine and birdsong and a perfect cup of coffee steaming by the side of my notebook and freshly sharpened pencil…and a servant to bring me fresh coffee, water, snacks, lunch—oh, and to take care of my responsibilities so I can sit there and be self-indulgent.
Aha! Writing is self-indulgent? Hmmm…is that belief why I never seem to be able to do this? I’m writing for myself and not a client, so I’m not making money, so it has no value. It’s worthless. Because Lord knows, anything that isn’t productive is a waste of time. For Pete’s sake. This is the belief I battle all day, every day, instilled in me by well-meaning but damaged and fearful parents.
Over the last few years as I have accelerated my quest for peace and everyday happiness—or at least most-day contentment—I’ve come up against this bugger a lot. I try to sit in the sun each day to relax after a busy morning. I’ve just been quite productive so I take a short break; yet I feel guilty about it, and often have to make myself. This concept of “filling up our well”—that we can’t give to others if we are not full—I believe this. I’ve definitely experienced it. But I still criticize myself for needing to take those breaks. It is frustrating to be trapped in that loop.
This compulsion to be constantly productive also keeps me from being still and accessing my inner voice. Everything I read tells me that stillness is the key to finding peace and joy. Sitting quietly, calming the mind, and allowing that wise woman at your core to speak up—that will show you the way. In our culture, busy-ness is prized above all else. I’ve read recommendations to schedule alone time into your calendar just like a meeting or an errand, and when someone wants you to do something you say, nope, that’s my time to be quiet. OMG, can you imagine? I have a long way to go before I can say that with a straight face. I do have my son trained not to bother me when I have my headphones on, because I am doing a guided meditation (I do the Abraham-Hicks ones, and I highly recommend them), so that’s a start. And I just started waking up earlier each day to sit in silence for five or ten minutes. I find it’s much easier to do this first thing in the morning, before my mind is fully awake. And by getting up earlier, I’m using “bonus” time, so my inner boss doesn’t berate me for being unproductive. In fact, he’s pretty gleeful that I’m up early. Early bird gets the worm and all that.
Beyond preventing me from reaping the benefits of being quiet, this belief also keeps me busy with life maintenance chores, rather than activities that feed my soul. I would love to spend most of my time reading, painting, or relaxing on the beach, but my Puritan work ethic tells me those are a waste of time, and I can only indulge in them after all the work is done. After all the work is done?! Seriously, tell me, have you ever had even one minute in your life where you thought, “Ah, now ALL the work is done!”? Ha. So I keep running like a hamster on a wheel, making calls, washing dishes, preparing meals, doing laundry, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera (as the King in “The King and I” would say). And unless I consciously CHOOSE to relax, or paint, or write for myself, it simply will not happen. And that, my dears, is how we wake up one day at 48 and think, “WTF? What happened to all of those things I was going to do?”
I have several other belittling beliefs that I’m aware of—and probably a few more that I don’t even realize. One I’m battling right now is that my writing should flow effortlessly onto the page in glorious complete sentences that need no editing. (If I’m a real writer, that is.) When I write, and it’s not immediately perfect, I get discouraged. I have to give myself permission to write that “shitty first draft” (as Anne Lamott calls it in "Bird by Bird") and know that I will have to do the hard work of editing and polishing. And I’m not lazy if I dread that! It’s hard! I don’t know of any writers who say they relish that process. (Or, come to think of it, any writers who say their sentences flow effortlessly onto the page in glorious completeness!) I think this applies to many areas. My husband, a musician, says he feels the same way when trying to write a song.
Here’s another, major one: that I’m not worthy. This shows up in many ways. I question my writing and think that no one wants to hear what I have to say; it’s not important, it’s not helpful, and it doesn’t matter. I think a lot of people have that critic inside, whispering (or shouting): “Who are you to write a blog/paint/try for that dream job/speak your truth if it inconveniences others?” This type of self-doubt can be extremely corrosive; feeling this way in one area can spread to others like rust taking over a car until you’re questioning everything you do and denying your dreams.
Have you ever had this feeling? Do you have any beliefs like this that are limiting your ability to chase your dreams—or just enjoy living your life?
We can spend most of our days on autopilot, especially as busy moms, wives, and career women—taking care of others while ignoring our own needs, and allowing unconscious beliefs to run our lives. When you sit down with paper and pen and ask yourself questions like, “What is keeping me from my dreams?” or even “What thoughts do I have that make me unhappy?” you might be amazed at what flows forth. There is a voice inside of us that knows what we need. We just have to make space for her, and politely but firmly tell our mind to take a hike for a little while.