Stress is a nasty element.
It’s like catching a cold in the middle of July. You feel miserable, you want it to go away, and you keep pushing yourself harder because you’re certain that you can overpower it by sheer force of will. Then, eventually, you give in to the reality.
I hate stress.
For the past two weeks, I’ve worked close to 80 hours a week. My full-time job required additional time, and my ICL work and my writing both suffered the consequences. I finally had the time this weekend to work on my novel. I was excited, enthused, ready to go.
I couldn’t write.
I sat down in a comfy spot, my cute little laptop right there in my lap. I opened the file and read the last few pages I’d written. My fingers were poised over the keyboard.
I couldn’t think. I knew what I wanted to say, but the words wouldn’t flow from my brain to the tips of my fingers. I typed – it came out crap. I deleted. I typed again. I deleted. I started to shake. I started to cry. I fought like all-mighty mayhem for more than an hour and gave up in tears and frustration.
I’ve been here before – the familiarity of this pain is saved in a righteous spot within my cerebral cortex. If I thought it would help, I’d scream at the top of my lungs “I HATE THIS!”
It doesn’t help – I’ve tried it before.
So I have to take two giant-steps backward. Natalie Goldberg refers to it as returning to “beginners mind” – deleting all the voices, all the wisdom, all the workshops and conferences and returning to that primal place that just wants a good story.
Awkward segue – hang with me on this . . .
My dad showed up in a dream last night. I tend not to write about my dreams very often. Typically they’re weird and make no sense to anyone including me. Dad shows up periodically. He’s usually just visible in the background – no real expression on his face, just a presence.
My dad was a larger-than-life kind of guy. Love him or hate him – if you knew him, you had an opinion. He was amazingly generous. He was a small-town Southern boy who made it big with a limited education and a lot of smarts. He died almost three years ago at the very young age of 70. I miss him dreadfully.
But there he was . . .
I was sitting at Rino’s Italian Restaurant – a family favorite. I was on the patio, drinking a glass of Riesling, waiting for my lunch to be delivered. The patio is covered by an arbor that hangs heavy with grape vines. I sipped my wine, nibbled on bread, and looked up to discover that Dad had joined me at the table.
“You’re too full,” he said, pouring his own glass of wine.
“My lunch hasn’t even come yet, and this is only the first piece of bread I’ve had.” I was insulted at the perceived meaning of his comment.
“Did you order dessert yet?” He put the wine bottle on the table with a thud.
“Dad, I haven’t even had lunch yet. I probably won’t eat dessert. I’m trying to get back in shape.”
“You’ll be too full before you get to it, so you won’t have dessert. You know that.”
Frustrated, I looked him in the eye. He had a twinkle in his eyes in life that always indicated some sort of mischief was lurking in his head, looking for an opportunity. I saw that twinkle as he looked back at me across the table.
“Dad,” I said, “I’m trying to do all the right things. If I don’t save room for dessert, it’s not the end of the world. It’s probably better for me anyway.”
“But you’ll feel empty,” he said.
“Not if I eat my lunch.”
“Especially if you eat your lunch and do all the right things.”
The waiter appeared at the table and set a plate of shredded paper in front of me. “Would you care for fresh-ground pepper?” he asked.
I looked at him, then back at Dad. Dad just smiled – something unusual in my dreams. I looked back to the waiter. “No, thank you.”
I looked back across the table, but Dad was gone. The shredded paper on my plate had multiplied and was spilling across the table. I looked to the waiter. “May I see the dessert menu, please?”
I didn’t fully get the concept until a few hours after I’d gotten out of bed. It started becoming clear to me in the shower. I’m too focused on doing things that are “good for me” – which may sound odd. Yes – I have to work. I don’t have the luxury of spending my days creating stories. But I can’t let the required things get in the way of the necessary things. Writing is what gives me joy. Writing is my dessert.
So it’s back to beginner’s mind.
I am collecting words today. I’ve done this before, and I have found it to be very beneficial. Today, I am looking for words I find inspiring and adding them to my journal.
Tomorrow, I’ll add to my list of humorous words –
As with most blockages – this, too, shall pass