I learned something this morning. Well, re-learned, actually.
Pamela Slim gave me some great advice at the first MisfitCon in Fargo in 2013:
When all else fails, CREATE SOMETHING.
This morning, I woke up feeling heavy and depressed. I planned to get up at 6am and write. When my alarm went off, it was obvious to me that my head wasn’t agreeable about that, so I sat up next to my wife and attempted to meditate instead. I fell asleep almost instantly – sitting up – and woke again when Bel’s 20 minute meditation timer went off.
I argued with myself for a while (about 10-15 minutes probably) about getting out into the fresh air and exercising. Unsuccessfully.
It was cold and wet outside, and the bed was warm and dry. I chose immediate comfort, rather than the discomfort of sitting in the cold and typing, or going outside into the damp morning air. I lay back down, and slept some more. I woke a short while later with my kids pottering around the bus with Bel, and sat up looking outside my window. I felt numb, like nothing in the day held any appeal.
Fortunately my amazing wife Belinda made a delicious breakfast of eggs, vegies, and crepes, which I devoured. I made us a cup of tea, and explained to her that I was having a crisis trying to understand my answer to the question “Why?”.
I was stuck in “should” … I SHOULD exercise. I SHOULD write. I SHOULD be happy – after all, I’m living a dream most people never realise. But the writing part was the kicker. I was frustrated with myself, overwhelmed, and feeling heavier with each minute.
“Well, why did you go to the writing workshop with Joanne Fedler?” Bel asked.
“Because I wanted to learn how to tell my story better,” I responded.
“You’d started writing before that workshop, so why did you start writing the book?”
“Because I wanted to share my story of how we got here.” Even as I said this, I noticed myself resisting it.
Some small part of me thought then – and still thinks – that there’s an inspiring story of perseverance and courage in there somewhere. That telling my story of how I learned to manage my depression, how my wife and I re-designed our business and our lives to enable us to travel full-time in a big frigging green bus, might be interesting to a few punters here and there.
My hope is that maybe it will be a lighthouse to someone caught in their own personal storm. Maybe it will encourage someone to leap out of their unhappy circumstances and choose a brighter future for themselves. Maybe it will be the inspiration someone like you needs to dream a new dream, and take the first step towards it.
So I sat with that for a while.
I thought about how all the self-help stuff I’ve learned over the years. About how I could instantly choose to be happier, to let go of the feelings of overwhelm and pointlessness. I half accepted that idea, and half dismissed it. (The black dog was hairy and heavy this morning, as he lay on my chest, straddled my shoulders, suffocated my nostrils with his long fur…)
Ultimately, I realised I should at least attempt some writing. I have set myself a deadline for having the first draft completed, ready to send to an editor. I’m not ready to share that deadline publicly, but I have at least set it. Sitting in a hole feeling miserable wasn’t going to get the book written, and the date keeps creeping inexorably closer.
So I poured a cup of English Breakfast with goat’s milk, set up my laptop, and opened the Word document which contained my book so far.
Reading a passage I’d written a week or two back, I was surprised and a little impressed.
“This is actually not a bad read,” I thought.
A glimmer of inspiration and positivity ignited at the base of my skull, gradually warming my brain and cocooning it in a gooey, mild happiness.
I started to write.
In the space of about forty minutes I wrote something like 1200 words, and I can say honestly that I feel better, stronger, more alive, than I did before I sat at my computer.
When all else fails, CREATE SOMETHING.
I now feel like I’ve accomplished something already, and my day is looking brighter. Sure, the 1200 words might not be awesome, but they’re at least written. The shape of the story is beginning to be revealed more clearly.
The point here is to simply force ourselves to start creating something. Without judgement, without second-guessing or doubt. Just push on and create something. The act of creation – in my experience – becomes consuming and intoxicating, and tends to burn away the funk.
It worked this morning.
Thanks, Pam, for the advice of a few years ago.
Thanks Bel, for graciously making me breakfast when I felt (and acted) like a lost cause this morning.
Thanks Joanne Fedler for your gushing enthusiasm to see me write more.
Thanks to my kids, for cuddling and encouraging me when I most need it.
Thanks to you, dear reader, for sticking with this. Hopefully it’s been useful.
The photo accompanying this blog was taken out my front door after writing it. We are in Beardy Creek Camping Ground, about 10kms North of Glen Innes, in the New England region of NSW. The weather is alternately freezing cold and searing hot. I can’t figure it out. But it looks like this, which is lovely.