Tag Archives: overwhelmed

Get off and Walk

For regulars who rely on the writing prompt – forgive my delay. The week seems to have become crowded, like an elevator that continually stops at each floor and fills with people, before you’ve reached your destination. Every time the door opens you wonder, should I get off and walk? But you stay inside feeling more and more breathless and trapped. I think that’s what our lives can feel like sometimes. Even when we don’t have much to occupy us… thoughts and anxieties and pressures and worries can overcrowd our hearts and be just as cumbersome as tasks and to do lists.

Maybe it is time to get off and walk?

What does that look like to you? You don’t have to take this literally…  simply reflect on what you might need in your life to allow you some breathing space.

I was drawn to this sign the other day.

I know people who don’t actually give themselves permission to relax, because it is served up with feelings of guilt and obligation. They remain focused but closed. Stressed about all the things they have to do and all the things they haven’t done. They live their life going up and down in that airless elevator, wondering why they are feeling increasingly flat.

I like the idea that when we truly relax and release the vice like grip that can repress our energies, it is then that we learn how to be open. The kind of relaxing I’m imagining brings with it a sense of checking in and not just checking out.

How lovely if we walked through the world occasionally with this sign around our necks, hanging loosely, declaring to others…

I’m present.

I’m not bound by anxiety.

I’m breathing freely.

I’m listening.

I’m here.

Write about this sign and how it relates to your life at the moment. Give yourself ten minutes to let the words flow. If you feel the urge to use this image as a springboard for a story, then go in that direction instead. Practice relaxing your grip on yourself as you write. Don’t edit and dictate… invite the words to flow.

 

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Welcome to Wavering

There’s a distinct difference between writer’s block and writer’s blah.

Writer’s block is dense. Brick. Concrete. Slab.

Writer’s blah is foggy. Murky. Swampy. Slump.

Writer’s block is hard to miss. It’s the desolation of a blank page. A flashing cursor taunting you. A pen frozen in your hand.

Writer’s blah on the other hand is more deceptive. The words come but they arrive tangled or flat. They crowd your brain pressuring you to create some sort of tasteful order.  Or they plod onto the page lumpily like small farting creatures sticking out their tongues.

Either way you feel cheated.

You reminisce about past words which flowed from you organically. You become nostalgic as your mind drifts back to the poem you wrote in the fourth grade – the one that earned you three shiny stickers and the round face with the black smile.

When I come up against both block or blah, I have a tendency to lean into ‘what’s the point?’.  It’s a well worn phrase in my repertoire.  If I repeat it enough times ‘what’s the point?’ grants me permission to walk away. To stop trying. To stop struggling. To take myself out of the running.

And my god – that feels like sweet relief.

But the feeling is short lived.

Very soon after, I start prodding myself. Sticking insults like old, rusty pins into the tender lining of my soul.

“Idiot – you always give up.”

“You never follow through.”

“You’re hopeless.”

And so the cycle begins. And the cycle is not only vicious, but cunning. It provides no obvious escape route.

If I write – I’m rubbish.  If I don’t  write – I’m rubbish times two.

I’d love to come up with some perky quotes to help us all through the block and the blah. But if you’re looking for perky quotes – Write To Be You is not your destination. I could hop onto Instagram or Pinterest and design a motivational banner, declaring in a curly font that GIVING UP IS NOT AN OPTION!

But truthfully – we all know that giving up is an option. We get hurt. Or tired. We lose focus. And that’s normal.

In the midst of Olympic mania, I  notice a feeling of inadequacy in the face of  extraordinary human beings who push themselves to inhuman limits in order to compete.

Watching a long distance run event this week, I was more captivated by an athlete who strayed off the track halfway through the race than I was by the winners. I felt an urge to find that runner. To give her a hug. To gently wipe her tears and tell her that it’s okay to cry.

Being human involves trying and failing. Giving up and getting up. Banging against blocks and battling the blah.

It involves wavering – finding yourself on the side of the track when just a moment before you were running the race.

So what is the Point?

I can’t say I have any idea… but I do know that writing, even when it’s the last thing in the world I feel like doing, helps me to make some meaning of that eternal unanswerable question.

Are you familiar with asking yourself ‘What’s the point?’ Write about blocks and blah. Write about giving up or getting up or both. Write a response to this post – even if you don’t want to. Notice the resistance and write anyway.

 

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“You Got the Part!”

When I was just married, I was known to spend hours in a galactic tailspin in the supermarket. I felt as if I had been launched into an unknown universe, punctuated with beckoning aisles, lurking black holes waiting to suck me into the vortex of indecision.

I hated all the choice.

I second guessed every item I picked up. I browsed for far too long, lingering on inconsequential decisions which I imbued with intense hues of vibrant importance.

Fusilli or rigatoni?

Barlotti or garbanzo?

1% or 2?

I studied packages and boxes and cans looking for answers- as if I was scouring dusty volumes of ancient poetry searching for wisdom. Instead I was confronted with confusion and long lists of ingredients – a litany of preseravites that would never know how to protect me. I wanted to be a confident shopper. I wanted to be focused and intentional. With a meal planner. And a talent for cooking. And a special intuition which would guide me to the just ripe fruit and the organic cashews spiced with chili and mint.

But I usually left Sainsburys an hour and half later, burdened with two or three bags of ready cooked meals, a few apples, a punishing headache and a depression that weighed down upon me like a heavy dark cloak.

I remember glancing around the parking lot at other women, balancing babies and full shopping trolleys. Getting on with it. Coping. And I thought to myself. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be normal??

I had been asking myself that question since I was a kindergartener with big glasses, skirting the fringes of groups. It was one I continued to ask myself as a teenager – an English girl in an American high school fidgeting to fit in. It would be a question I would ask myself as a new mother struggling to breast feed a baby who had other interests in mind. But when I was 25 and recently married, I was simply trying to decipher how to be a wife. I knew how to write poetry and lose myself in a book and develop black and white prints in a handmade dark room. I knew how I wanted to love and how I wanted to be loved.

I knew how to be a dreamer. A walker. A hand holder. A sister. A daughter.

But how to be wife stumped me. I wasn’t looking exactly to fit into a traditional mold, but I was looking to begin providing something I felt should come with the territory. Nourishment. Clarity. If I couldn’t manage in the supermarket how was I going to navigate this new grown-up role? The role I had auditioned for and then readily accepted the part?

The truth is – life allows us to play hundreds of different roles, but often we don’t meet our own unrealistic expectations informed by a myriad of influences, so we end up asking ourselves where did we go wrong? We end up feeling like we have been miscast in our own stories….

We hang onto the word ‘normal’ like it is a lifeline, when in actuality it can be a noose with the power to suck the breath out of us. Let’s re-imagine normal with a million different definitions. Every flavor on the shelf. Every taste imaginable.

18 years have passed since those first supermarket space travels. Do I still compare myself to my fantasy of others? I do. But I realize now – it is just a fantasy, and one that only comes to life when I give it oxygen. Those same women in that parking lot all those years ago might well have had their own fantasies about me – carefree, with a light load and long blonde hair.

Little did they know.

We’re all playing parts and wondering if the rest of the cast have a better handle on their lines.

I’d like to believe it’s never too late to re-write the script….

Write about he roles you play or the ones you would like to play or the ones you have grappled with. Do you struggle with comparing yourself to others? Use the word ‘normal’ as a springboard and jump…

Share your findings in the comments!

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Not Going To Do It

I’ve been writing this blog regularly for six months. For six months the ideas have been flowing – like turning on a tap and finding water.  It’s been eerily effortless. I’ve felt confidently creative. Pleasantly productive.  I’ve been taking it for granted.

Until now.

I had a crazy, busy weekend, full of celebration and story, but when I thought about writing Monday’s blog, my mind drew a blank. My faucet sputtered and gulped. Obstructed by air in the pipes, I confronted manic bursts of feeling, but no free flowing, inspirational thoughts or words.

So I paused.

In the past I might have panicked.

In the past I have retreated, sometimes for years at a time. I have become a bear, addicted to hibernating my ideas, restricting them from light, killing them off with dreary dampness. I came to rely on the dangerous safety of defining myself as ‘creatively blocked’. It felt so much more manageable than rousing my soul and tentatively crawling out into the open air. I was possibility adverse. A quiet sulk always seemed a better option.

But when the water didn’t flow this week, I simply gave myself a break. I didn’t write. I slept a bit longer. I tried to ignore the vitriolic voice within – the nasty naysayer who was filing her horribly long nails and muttering, “Don’t flatter yourself. You’re most likely boring everyone silly. They’ll be relieved to not get another tedious email from you.”

And then I heard from a friend late last night, “I noticed you didn’t post anything today – Monday being your day…I always look forward to it.”

It was straightforward. Honest. Resonant. I paid attention. I took my finger off the PAUSE button and I pressed PLAY instead.

I’m grateful to my friend for nudging me. I’m grateful that I’ve learned to reflect and respond rather than only reacting and running. It’s all too easy to imagine ourselves irrelevant when we encounter the slightest hurdle.  This happens in every area of our lives. We adopt a position of defence. For me that position was clinging to a musty blanket in the corner of my cave.

No more.

If you’re hovering in a creative netherworld I hope that these posts can provide a chink of light.  It has taken me three times longer than usual to write this! But I’ve become stubborn. I’m not going to return to my default position. I’m resisting the pull.

There’s a comfortable log just outside the entrance of my cave. It’s under a tall Robinia tree with kindly spreading branches and delicate lime green leaves. I’m sitting there for now. I’m listening to my breath. I’m lulling words from thin air.

Come and say hello?

Choices: Write for ten minutes using the word ‘cave’ as a springboard or share a story of struggling with a creative obstacle. It  feels good to share experiences. I’m listening….

 

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Unpacking

Photograh by Mr Woodnz

My family and I moved from London to Los Angeles almost exactly two years ago. While packing up our lives, I found myself unpacking a plethora of feelings related to change, loss, endings, beginnings, doubt.  I was showered in sadness. I cried so often that looking back it’s hard to believe through those tears I managed to cope with all the practical tasks. I was a soggy mess. Our boxes arrived in Los Angeles stained with my teardrops – a reminder of my emotional confetti.

Moving is incredibly challenging and as human beings we are frequently confronting displacement and relocation in various guises. Moving house. Moving country. Moving school.  Moving jobs. Moving relationships. Many people package up their feelings about these ‘moves’ along with their external belongings. Sadness gets taped up. Fear gets shoved in a side pocket. Anxiety gets filed away in a folder titled ‘UNHELPFUL’. And we forge ahead, still in possession of these feelings, but desperately hoping that concealing them will make them less potent.

In England we call this a ‘Stiff Upper Lip’. But isn’t it true that we have all seen that ‘rigid’ lip wreak havoc in many ways, in many countries, translated into many languages?

Repressing profound emotional states can have major repercussions. Feelings that have been filed away, unprocessed, have ways of finding the oxygen they need. They follow us through life, festering, waiting to leak out like toxic fumes or explode into billowing clouds of anger. Or simply collapse, leaving us in fragile heaps.

I know from experience that people are afraid of revealing too much emotion. Keeping it safely hidden away feels so much tidier. But release can take different shapes for different people. You don’t have to have a personality transplant. Find ways to gently tap into your feelings if they have been locked up for a while. Choose a friend who you trust. Consider talking to a counsellor or a therapist. Buy yourself a notebook and begin to write or draw. Creative expression is boundless and free and is available to everyone. But firstly, you must be willing to explore.

Two years on I feel more lucid and centered. I’m rediscovering a sense of being ‘placed’ internally and externally. Facing, rather than avoiding my grief about leaving, has helped me to arrive in each day, to stay authentic, and to feel empowered by my emotions, instead of endowing them all the power to overthrow me.

How does this post resonate with you? Write about a significant ‘move’ in your life and explore the feelings around it. Write for ten minutes. Time yourself. Share any thoughts or responses in the comments.

 

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Hold Me Now

Some mornings my daughter feels wobbly, and separating from me and the comforts of home is suddenly daunting. On those days, I promise to send her mind mail. The thought of an invisible envelope arriving in her head in the hours to come, full of Mummy love and swirly hugs and kisses, calms her considerably. In that moment I am reassuring her that I will keep her in my thoughts. Warmly. Securely. I might not be able to place my hand on her shoulder, or stroke her hair, but I can ‘hold’ her in a different way.

Being held in mind is a vital psychological component to all attachment relationships.


Genuinely holding someone in your mind spins delicate, transparent threads of intimacy across even the widest gaps, deepening confidence and trust.

Psychotherapists and others working in the healing professions have learnt to understand the potency of holding clients in mind between sessions. During the days that bridge our meetings, I make a point of remembering words written by my group, creating a special ‘holding’ space for them in my thoughts.

Energetically, we feel the difference. When I was a lovesick teenager waiting a whole summer for the boy I was besotted by to send a letter across an ocean, the disappointment ran achingly deep. Not only because I felt rejected, but more accurately because I felt completely forgotten. I knew he was not cradling me anywhere in his heart. It was as if I had evaporated.

Maintaining relationships can at times feel overwhelming… despite technology providing so many more opportunities to do so.  Ironically, finding ways to feel truly ‘connected’ to others can remain elusive.

Begin by hosting a quiet gathering in your mind. Be choiceful about who you invite in. Offer them something sweet (the best part is you can do all of this lying down on the sofa with your feet up and your eyes closed!) Put the Beach Boys on your i-pod dock, look around the room, make eye contact with all your guests and open your arms for hugs. Once you begin to send out the Good Vibrations, I believe you are more susceptible to accepting them back in return.

This exercise might lead to a phone call. A spontaneous text. An overdue email. Even a quick ‘like’ on Facebook of a post you appreciated but passed by. Who knows, it might even lead to writing a real letter with a real pen and real paper. But ultimately, what it will achieve is not so precise, not so easily pinned down.  It is an unspoken gesture. A feathery kiss blown to an unaware recipient. A silent murmur of friendship and love.

A powerful affirmation of emotional bonds.

Write for Ten Minutes using the title of this post as a prompt – Hold Me Now. Don’t edit, just let the words and feelings rise to the surface.
I am always here… holding this space… waiting to listen… willing to hear whatever you need to write.
Share in the comments…

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Mingle in the Mud

Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

I am relatively new to the world of blogging.  One of the reasons I circumvented it for so long and wrote only for myself to see (and my dog to listen to) was because I wasn’t especially enamoured with the word ‘blog’.

It’s not a pretty word. Remove the ‘L’ and you are wading in a swampy marsh, waste up in mud and slime.

Despite my dislike, I squelched ahead.  I pulled on the wellie boots I haven’t worn since leaving England, and I entered the mire. Surprise, surprise. Suddenly writing didn’t feel so lonely.  I was surrounded by ‘Bloggers’!  All of us making our own journeys through sludge in the hopes of delivering something special.  Something sparkly.  A shiny gem that can be rubbed so clean that it will become lucid in the hands of the reader.

There are a lot of us – millions in fact.  Some days I am so overwhelmed by how very overcrowded this bog of blogs is that I contemplate giving up in order to step back on the sidelines and watch instead. I haven’t been at it for long. Surely no one would notice me slink away? Life would feel safer – less chance of getting roughly elbowed in the ribs by an overenthusiastic daily poster with a rugged thirst for adjectives.

But I am choosing to mingle in the mud.

There are times for spectating and times for doing and this is my time for doing.  So instead of being intimidated by my fellow explorers, instead of feeling threatened by their band of followers, I feel encouraged by their tenacity instead.  I feel enlivened by the connection and the surprising sense of community I have never before associated with the quiet hum of my computer screen. And I feel deeply moved by the courageous recollections of my readers, learning how to Risk It, offering up their stories filled with spectrums of colour, inspiring me by example.  And I am reminded why I began this in the first place. Write To Be You.

Not even the most experienced writers nor the most seasoned bloggers will produce gems week after week. If it weren’t for the muddy, knobbly rocks, we would never a truly appreciate the crystals when they appear. Glinting in our palms. Urging us to get our hands mucky and keep sifting for more.

Your turn now! Think of a time when you opted out because you felt crowded out? Have you ever stopped yourself before starting, for fear of being inadequate or not being able to compare? Perhaps you set a goal after reading Round and Round We Go but you’ve yet to mobilise?

OR do you recall something you began but gave up too soon? Do you want to return to it?  Take a moment to suspend judgment and simply reflect on why you gave up.

Find your notebook.  Choose your pen and start writing.  Write for ten minutes. I invite you to share. Anything. The earthy pebbles and the shiny shells – both valuable in their own ways.  I’m here, mingling in the mud, waiting patiently to collect them all…
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Round and Round We Go

When I began studying to be a psychotherapist, I was overwhelmed with new theory and information constantly. I was often confused. Bewildered. I doubted my intelligence on a weekly basis.

I made a friend. A lovely friend. And every week I told my friend:

“I’m not going to continue.  It’s too hard to juggle studying and the kids.  I’ll never truly understand.  I fall asleep while I’m reading. I won’t see this through. I don’t want to be a psychotherapist anyway.  Do I?  Do I?”

My friend didn’t answer my question.  She was a good listener. A great listener in fact. She listened to me threatening to quit almost every single week.  And there were many weeks. And she listened as I stood up in front of a couple of hundred people at our graduation and thanked her for listening.

One of the many things I learned that threw my brain into the tumble dryer was the Gestalt Cycle of Experience. It’s complicated. Until you simplify it. I drew a silly picture to simplify it (that works for me).

Each of us everyday are subjected to gestalts – patterns of repeat behaviour that follow a circular path. We begin by having a sensation; we become aware of the sensation; we decide to do something about it and mobilise; we move actively towards what we want; we make contact; we are satisfied (hopefully); we withdraw and move into the fertile void where we wait for the next sensation to make an appearance.  Even simpler?  I’m sitting at my computer; my tummy growls; I decide to go to the kitchen; I go to the kitchen; I determine the whereabouts of a Trader Joes salted caramel butter cookie; I eat it; I’m content (if I stop at one); I walk away.

The law of the cycle is that it repeats constantly in small ways (my cookie craving) and in much larger ways:

What do I want to do with my life?
Can I set a goal and reach it?
Will I write today?
Can I improve my relationships?
Will I start?
Can I finish?

Human beings are brilliantly skilled at finding ways to interrupt the cycle and stop the flow.

Think of The Fertile Void as the chill out lounge for the senses – lava lamps, bean bags, sweet burning incense. You get the picture. It’s the space where you remain receptive and open to inspiration. But some of us chill out for far too long and end up becoming dazed and spacey or so numb that the sensations are difficult to locate.

Then there are those who find it impossible to get past awareness, always aching with want but never mobilising into action.

Others are buzzing around with a manic energy, unable to make the contact they need.

Still others establish the contact, but then rush on frantically to the next moment, avoiding the opportunity to feel satisfied.

There are so many ways to stop the flow.

Where does your cycle get interrupted?  Think about the mini gestalts as well as the broader ones.  Play with the concept.  Draw your own diagram.  Now think of something you would like to achieve.

Write it down. Naming it here will be further proof that you are dedicated to reaching it.

It might be something that you can achieve in an hour, a day, a week, or a year. Whatever it is, as time ticks on, notice where and how you get blocked. What keeps you from moving fluidly through? Are you contributing to the interruption? Can you get back on track?

Writing about it will help you to pin it down and keep things rolling.

Round and round we go.

To all the readers and writers who contributed to ‘That Song’ thank you for being open to sharing your moments and memories.  We have created our own soundtrack of details!  Keep them coming and please keep contributing…

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