Saturday, November 12, 2011
What’s on your mind?
Forgive me. It has been three days since my last essay. It will be many more until my next. I have stuff in my head, but until I learn to type and read with my eyes closed I will need to deprive you of my thoughts. If you care to hear what you’re missing, join me for coffee. I would love to share.
I do not believe in failure. I know that may hit some of you like nails down a chalkboard, but hear me out. Yes, I believe that failure happens, but I feel it’s not the end, as many believe, but rather a beginning, a jumping off point to a better you, a sign, a message, an angel sent from Heaven. That last one is a bit of a stretch, I know, but at least you get the message. This November project of mine is a great example. The challenge was to complete fifty thousand words in thirty days. I’ve got a good fifteen thousand. Not too far off target from where I should be at this point and not too bad for a getting-focused sort of effort. I could work hard to catch up. I could, but I won’t. I won’t because my eyeballs have drawn up picket signs and gone on strike. They refuse to do their work until they get their requested vacation and sick time. My will is strong, but theirs is stronger. Some would see this as giving in or quitting or, uh, failing. I see it as listening, as tuning in to a higher power, as an opportunity to learn a bit about myself.
I have not always been a good listener. My body has spent many years yelling at me, pleading, begging, doing everything but knocking me down and dragging me away from whatever it was I was doing in an effort to guide me toward a better place. Actually, it did that a couple of times, too, but I failed to get the message. I am stubborn like that. My body is smart. It knows what I need. It knows what brings me true joy, what is good for me. But my head is not a very good listener.
My head is bossy and bullies and thinks it knows everything. It tries to play leader and take charge even though it is greatly lacking in leader-type skills. My head is too worried about what others think. It is too concerned about the easy way, the appropriate way, the expected way. A good leader is strong and confident and not afraid to step out and take a risk. A good leader knows when to back off and when to strike. A good leader is many times a very good listener. What are the needs of the group? How can I help the group move forward? Am I going the direction that is in the best interest of the group? My head is not the person for this job.
My head is interested in only what my head wants.
My body, on the other hand, is strong and confident and listens to the needs of the group. My body will say in a very gentle way you are doing a wonderful job, honey, but you are going in the wrong direction. Let’s try this, instead. My body has a very soft and nurturing style of communicating, but sometimes when I am not good at listening my body talks like this: I am overworked, stressed, tend to four kids of my own and a house full of neighbor children. My husband works long hours, long, and travels more than I can say. I am like single parent to fifteen children. I love the activity, the busy environment. I love the laughter, the noise, the play, but I am pushing it. I have lost myself and have forgotten where to look. I clean and cook and tend to pets. I bathe and teach and carpool and do my best to live up to Mother of the Year. I have no time for fun or frilly girly things. I have no time for pedicures or lattes or entire afternoons spent shopping with a friend. I have no time for a walk in the woods or a movie or getting lost in a bit of soothing music. I have no time. Or, rather, I take no time. I am exhausted. I am used up. I am just about to send my emotional self packing. In fact this is exactly what I do. Enter panic attack number one.
But do I listen? No. Hello, panic attack number two.
My family and I are vacationing in Disney World. I have organized the entire trip. This particular vacation comes just after the holidays. During the past two months, I have orchestrated three children’s birthday parties, planned, prepared and packed for one Thanksgiving out of town trip for six, played Santa to four small children, including planning, shopping, wrapping, and setting up the festivities, and organized, booked, and packed for a two week vacation for a twelve-year-old, nine-year-old, six-year-old, two-year-old, one husband and me.
We are standing outside the Great Movie Ride. As is every other Disney attraction it is dark and loud and packed with people. I am beginning to feel hot and dizzy, as if I might freak out should I go inside. My heart is racing. I am sweating. I never sweat. My breath is coming faster. I cannot get enough air. I feel, for lack of a better word, strange. I know that I cannot go inside the ride or I will not be able to get out. I love Disney. I love crowds. I am absolutely fine with noise and activity and the like, but I really must get out of here. I must get out now. My husband stays with the kids. I head back to the room. Our room is tropical and floral and happy and fun. The staff walks around with luau type shirts and leis. Olaha, cousin, they greet me as I pass. I am here, but not here. Once in my room I open the patio door. I must have air. My walls are coming down, coming in, seemingly shifting, though in reality not. I am suffocating. I should loosen my collar, but I have none. Why does it feel so tight? The families pass outside my door with their Goofy hats and giant Mickey suckers. They are smiles and fun and strollers and shorts and laughing and such. I am struggling for breath and watching my walls close in around me. I do not do this. My only rational thought is that I am flipping out at the Happiest Place On Earth.
My head was trying to live up to an image, an image that was not me. My body would have none of it.
My body isn’t always so loud in its objection. My body sometimes offers subtle hints in the hopes that it will not have to resort to stronger measures. My head has been suggesting, for example, that perhaps I am on this earth to be a writer, to entertain or educate on paper with my words. The thing is this. I tried once before to write full-time. I wasn’t very good at it. I was tired and crabby and restless. I was lonely. I would go out just to be around people. I went to the store, to the coffee shop, to the mall. I went anywhere I might see others, but that wasn’t enough. I was still restless and bored and crabby. I had a strong urge to talk to those others. I wanted to round them up and engage them in a bit of conversation, explain something to them, entertain them, make them laugh, encourage them to make some sort of positive change in their lives. My head is not always on top of things, but it was pretty smart in refraining from lecturing the Barnes and Noble crowd. Still, I was lonely and bored.
So, this month I tried again. I have been writing every day for a couple hours each day. My head is happy to get my thoughts out, but my eyes are rebelling. I should be able to do this. I am, after all, a writer. My body says no, there is more. Writing is not everything, says my body. Writing is only a part of what you are here to do. Spread your message, but do it in front of people. Do it on a stage and with a crowd, enunciate and project. When I think of such my heart sings and my body smiles and I know that I am one step closer to goal, whatever that goal might be. I am almost looking forward to failing again.