Ever have a day when you just feel off? When you can’t seem to muster much enthusiasm? And you can’t seem to write anything worthwhile?
Sometimes, when I try to write anyway, I push through the inertia, tap into a current, and the words flow.
But other times, nothing works. When that happens, I need to sit with my mood to give it a chance to tell me what I need to know. Moods are messengers, and when I’m feeling seriously blocked, something needs my attention.
I resist the temptation to pretend I’m not feeling lost. I don’t dust my mood with sugar sprinkles.
Don’t get me wrong—I value positive thinking—but not as a diversion to keep me swimming safely on the surface.
When life gives you platitudes, dive into the profound.
(Yeah, I just wrote a platitude.)
It’s uncomfortable. I fidget a lot. If I’m not careful, I’ll unconsciously try to drown my discomfort with a chai or a cookie. (Or TV, Facebook, the latest New Yorker.) Or outrun it with activity (clean, sweep, go to the store).
But when I shut down the computer, put away my phone, turn off the TV, put down the magazine, stay put in the chair and simply notice—I’ll find a lot there that I haven’t wanted to feel. Grief. Fear. Confusion. Anger. Doubt.
Mixed in is the overwhelming desire to know everything will be okay, that I won’t fail. And behind it all is the existential whisper, “What if it’s all for nothing?”
I know that everything won’t always “be okay.” And I know sometimes I will fail. And existential angst will grip me many more times in my life.
These are the times to be with my vulnerability. Instead of trying to rise back to the surface, I need to feel the pressure, my shallow breaths, the tightness in my back against an unseen future swimming up behind me.
Where I’m feeling most vulnerable is a passageway to honesty. I know at some point, I’ll notice something bright and intriguing, and follow it to the surface. If a subtle current brushes against my skin; if a thought, an intuition, a feeling brings me buoyancy, I’ll listen.
But until then, I sit in the deep. This is where the real words come from, if you stay curious and open. Before you can describe the light, you have to brave the darkness. This is the difficult and exciting part of being alive, and finding your true voice.
Listen to what you have to say, especially when it’s just a whisper.
When you push up from the bottom, you might find that your fear and uncertainty brought poignancy and meaning to your words, floating beside you, up to the sun-dappled surface.