And then there was a bit of winter break, which here in northern California looks like a chilly spring break, what with all the green everywhere. We had some rain and some wind, we look out the window into bright blue this morning, we find how to best fit our bodies, glorious with the aches of morning, into our chairs so that we can pick up the pen and write into a new year.
Happy 2013 to you! Do you have an annual reflection and/or intention writing practice? What were the words that best described or shaped 2012 for you? What words do you want to hear more from in 2013? What if we could start this new year by honoring exactly where we are, and moving from there?
This morning I am an ache and a tightness, I am delighted to be able to sit in my chair at my computer. I read poems, avoiding the demands of email for a bit longer. Today is the first day of my new work life, after a two-month surprise detour into the land of pain and recuperation, and as I make plans and set intentions, both macro and micro, I think about how to ease my anxiety and panic with sheer acceptance, breathing deep into exactly what is.
I make a gentle schedule, with some help, and I think about what must be done today. What tasks are nonnegotiable just for today: the newsletter must go out, this blog wants writing, and there are new writers I need to connect with about the workshops. Other nonnegotiables, just for this day, include frequent breaks from sitting, a long walk, and eating well.
A practice for me, as I move into this new year, is to accept exactly where I’m at on this day, accept the state of this still-healing body (and psyche!), accept that nothing is or will be perfect, accept what is, what I can change, what I cannot. Acceptance is a practice, an aspect of mindfulness (as I understand it), and I am breathing with this possibility today. Over the last couple of weeks, especially as my body has been feeling better and I’ve been more able to engage with writing and other work, I’ve found myself caught often in loops of self-recrimination, blame, shame and guilt: what’s the matter with you? why are you so lazy? why aren’t you doing more? don’t you know you need to respond to emails, flyer for your workshops, write your book, write up feedback for your writers’ work, clean your house, schedule and take meetings with schools and nonprofit organizations — I mean, come on! Shouldn’t you be doing all of this right now, Jen? Why are you just laying around reading and stretching? Why aren’t you better already? Why can’t you do more now?
How do you feel, reading that? Just writing it, my heart beats faster and my shoulder, back and jaw muscles tighten; my belly hurts and I feel inclined to stop writing, turn off the computer, blow out the candles and pull a novel from the shelf. That litany of demand, that idea that we should be able to do everything right now, that we should be in a different place than we are — is that familiar to you? I’ve experienced this for years, a sense that I should be more healed than I am, that I should be better already, fixed, ready to go on with my life. How come, that inner-critic voice asks, you still have to go to therapy? Aren’t you better by now? Isn’t it time to move on? And when that voice hooks me, I go ahead and spend some time feeling shitty for not being more healed now, for still struggling with flashbacks or sorrow or rage, for still being exactly who I am.
When I get caught in that urgent spiral of shame and blame, I get tied up in a knot almost instantly, and can’t move, can’t write, can’t engage, can’t do much besides feel bad for being human. My breathing gets shallow and my body gets tight, and I have to turn away from the work (whatever the work was going to be in that moment), maybe turn the tv on, just to get out of my difficult head.
So the practice of acceptance, for me, is in direct response to this voice, the perpetrator in my head that wants me stuck in crazy-making shame spirals instead of creating the life that’s possible for me. Acceptance, for me, is letting it all in, even the inside madness, is breathing yes into what’s better about my body and what still hurts, is breathing yes into my fear of failure and my fear of success, is breathing yes into loving, is inhaling yes into the friends who love me even though I’m sure I’m a disaster, is gently exhaling the voice that wants to take me apart, is grounding with breath into exactly this moment, exactly as it is. I’m not different right now, I’m just exactly myself. I’m not the worst person to ever live and I’m not the most important voice in survivor writing, I’m just this body-mind-pscyche-human love who gets to step into the bright blue of another year with her arms open and new experience to learn from. And from this groundedness, I am unparalysed; from here, I can touch what serenity might look like, I can taste the idea that serenity might be something I could deserve, and I can take a few steps in the direction of the dreams that have shaped this life so far.
Thank you for the ways you are accepting all the difficult beauty that makes you exactly who you are, for accepting that you deserve love for exactly who and how you are, and for writing what wants writing on this day.