Absence makes the heart grow

Mental Health, Writing Process

I haven’t written anything in seven weeks.

Those first couple of days were panic-inducing, the week that followed terrifying. Then the terror eased to discomfort and then the discomfort finally gave way to something I haven’t felt in my creative life in so long…peace.

I was resting.

I was letting myself rest.

Something that has felt utterly impossible since becoming an adult. I am a master over-functioner, incredible at multitasking, and lost without my hustle. If I’m not doing, I’m spinning, my mind filling in the idle quiet with nightmare after nightmare until every cell in my body is convinced they’re real.

But here I am, seven weeks since closing scrivener, and I’m not spinning.

I’m not worrying or exhausted or wrecked with guilt.

I’m ready.

I’m excited.

I’m actually looking forward to receiving my edit letter for book two and I can’t wait to dive back into this story. I can’t remember the last time I longed for writing. I don’t think I’ve ever spent enough time away from it to warrant missing it.

But I do. And I’ve come to realize that that longing, that excitement about getting back to work, is a crucial piece of my creative process that has been missing. For years, I’ve been running on empty, sustained by fear and the pressure to produce. But not only is that unsustainable, it’s unkind.

And I deserve kindness.

In my work, in my art, and in my relationships (especially my relationship with myself) I deserve to experience joy. Because it’s as much fuel for creativity as the fear and anxiety and all of the other things that typically propel me forward. Except joy burns so much brighter.

Joy illuminates all the beauty we miss when we’re stuck in a cycle of worry and doubt.

So not only has this time away helped me find the joy in writing again, it’s also expanded my view of my own creative process. It’s taught me that creating and toiling aren’t one and the same and that struggle is not the only sign of progress.

I can make things without breaking some part of me to do it.

I can make things without breaking.

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Obsessing Over Money

Mental Health, Motivation & Inspiration

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Anxious people also tend to be a little obsessive. What keeps the wheels of disaster spinning in our minds is this uncontrollable urge we have to fixate on the negative. In other words, we have anxiety because we can’t stop thinking about all of the bad things that might happen and we can’t stop thinking about all of the bad things that might happen because we have anxiety.

It is a never ending cycle and one that might not just manifest as an endless stream of thoughts. Often, that anxiety manifests in our lives as nervous ticks and compulsive behaviors. Things we do on a regular basis to try to control the anxiety when all it really does is make it worse.

One of my compulsive habits is to balance my budget every morning. A task that should take twenty minutes tops but that sometimes stretches to two or three hours simply because I can’t get off the hamster wheel.

I count my money and then I count it again. I estimate my royalties months into the future. I plug in different numbers representing different scenarios to see how long it will take to reach certain goals. And I drive myself crazy in the process.

What I realized when I took a step back and examined this behavior from the outside looking in was that my obsession with this simple task came from a mindset of lack. I feared that I never had enough money so I crunched and tweaked until more magically appeared.

There is a time and a place to think about the money flowing in and out of your life and I still believe that balancing your budget on a daily basis can be a beneficial practice. But only if you are approaching it from a mindset of abundance and gratitude, not fear and lack.

I was using this task as a way to procrastinate the real work, which for me is writing books, and I let the fears I had about money keep me from making progress on things that would actually earn me money in the long run. Essentially, I’ve been self-sabotaging and then blaming the universe for my mistakes.

I was so caught up on the what ifs and worst case scenarios that I wasn’t actually seeing how money is there for me when I need it. How it has always been there for me. How it has never run out. How all of those fears that caused me to obsess over my bank balance had never actually come true.

When my father passed away the IRS came after his life insurance policy and then my childhood home. My mother and I were on food stamps. I had to figure out a way to put myself through college. At the time, it felt like we had nothing. At least, those were the fears I was focusing on. What was lacking; what was gone and never coming back. But somehow we managed to keep our home and eventually rented it out. I used my skills as a writer to apply for dozens of scholarships and received several. I got a job. I traded in my car for one with better gas mileage.

I found a way.

When I really needed money, I found a way to get it. It never abandoned me.

Please, do not hear what I am not saying. I am not saying that poverty is simply a mindset in need of shifting. I am not saying that if we had started shouting and declaring that we were rich that we would have suddenly manifested millions of dollars.

What I’m saying is, choosing to focus on lack is painful, stressful, and can slow you down. Choosing to focus on how you will earn money, how you will use money to pull yourself out of a negative situation is comforting, inspiring, and can help you overcome obstacles.

Now when I balance my budget, I focus on how money is constantly flowing into my life, even if it’s just a tiny trickle as opposed to a roaring stream. I look at every single dollar and give it a very specific job to do. This one goes to my cell phone bill, this one to my emergency fund, this one to student loans. I earmark x amount of dollars to go toward my goal of paying off debt by the end of 2019 but even if I don’t earn enough to pay off what I’d originally hoped, I am still grateful for the money that did show up.

This mental shift isn’t about trying to summon wealth from some celestial being. It’s about syphoning pain and fear from my life and replacing it with things that bring me comfort and joy.

Money brings me comfort and joy. Saying it, thinking it, might feel icky at first. But if it feels icky because, deep down, you don’t believe that you actually deserve wealth, then your problem is not with money. Your problem is with you. Because you do deserve wealth. You deserve the kind of peace of mind it brings and the kinds of blessings it allows you to bestow on others.

So next time you sit down to crunch your own numbers, say thank you to the money that has shown up in your life. Say thank you to yourself for showing up and doing the work to make that happen.

Mental Health Check-in

Mental Health

My ability to construct my own version of reality makes it possible for me to imagine people who don’t actually exist living detailed and nuanced lives that aren’t actually real. My affinity for living in my own head instead of in the here and now allows me to create something from nothing every time I sit down to write.

These “abilities” also make it difficult to function sometimes.

It takes practice to be present. It takes self-discipline to be still. But sometimes when my mind races I don’t know how to stop it. Even after 26 years of living with anxiety and all of the paranoia, delusions, and self-loathing that come with it. I know that voice inside my head isn’t my own–the one insisting that nothing is real or nothing is good enough. I know my fears are irrational and that all it takes is one sentence out loud or one word down on the page to expel the worst of them. But it is possible to be aware of the fallacy of your own anxiety and still be trapped in it.

So…I started seeing a counselor and even though my mind has already tried to sabotage the experience more than once I’m going to keep at it. Because I want to be in control of what my mind creates instead of that creation controlling me.