Sunday, June 16, 2019

Moving Beyond Black and White

Hello, Invisible Audience,

At the end of last week, I got home from a 10-day vacation in Northern California. It was a much-needed rest after a year of building my Spanish teaching business in Leavenworth. I have to admit, I’ve been absolutely fried. I spent a lot of time reading books, cooking for pleasure, wandering along rivers and near waterfalls and eating in new places where no one knew me. It was blissful.

In case you don’t know, Invisible Audience, emotional growth is not for the weak. I have found it difficult to both try to grow a business and also give myself the space I need to deal with the ever-peeling layers of the onion of – what would you call it? I used to think it was something like, “healing,” but I actually think it’s something more like “living.” Certainly there are people out there who are don’t feel constantly bombarded by the need to look at what’s not working in their lives and try to dig up the courage to face it and perhaps change it, but I am not one of those people. For better or for worse, I am incapable of sitting in discomfort for long – something that has led me in the past to leave jobs, people and situations the way some people change their wardrobes for the season. 

I’ve lived in Leavenworth for four years now, Invisible Audience. This is a personal record. I’ve lived in the same house for two years in August, something I have not done since I went to college when I was 18. That in itself is a major feat for me: to keep myself stationary while my mind, my heart and my ideas grow and stretch and change and sometimes howl at me in discomfort. Before, this discomfort would prompt me to seek a new landscape to drown in: new people to meet; new restaurants; adventures; and tiny fun little roadblocks that would keep me occupied and challenged so I wouldn’t have to address the pain I was feeling.

Of course, that’s not a completely true statement. My travel was not all escapism – I have a genuine need to see new things to be reminded that there are other options than living the so-called elusive American Dream. And just as the world is not black and white in terms of my desire to travel, neither is my life black and white. The difference now is that I am seeking ways to lean into the gray area instead of trying to hold everything to the simpler black and white picture I had subscribed to for so long.

Maybe I’m new to a concept that others have had forever, I don’t know. I certainly feel like the world has been trying to make itself more decidedly divisive in recent years. But despite the pull I feel, I am actually becoming much more of a centrist than previously. I have stopped looking for friends that can play all roles and enjoy more friends who only play one role that they play well. I have started to see how sometimes disagreeable situations can teach me something helpful, even if I never want to have that situation occur again. I have gained wisdom from those whose teachings I don’t agree with, and leaned into discomfort instead of shying away from it.

I think there’s a specific reason this is working, Invisible Audience: it’s because I get to pick.It’s because I’m starting to trust myself that Iam the one who knows best when to lean in and when to back away; whose disagreeableness I am willing to put up with and listen past and whose I prefer to let go of. I can sit with some discomfort if Iam in charge of what that means and how deep it goes. 

The day after I got back from my trip, I sat down to write for 30 minutes. This is different from other writing I already do on a regular basis. This was the kind of writing that was both honest and vulnerable but also has an intention of perhaps being publishable one day. The feeling about it is different. 

Each time I’ve done it now, I have finished the half hour I set for myself freezing cold – so cold I’ve had to immediately get into a hot shower. There’s something that feels so dangerous about it that it’s literally pulling the blood from my extremities and into my core to keep me alive. 

It doesn’t feel good, Invisible Audience, but it feels necessary. I can’t say I’m going to be able to keep it up forever, but I no longer think in those kinds of black and white terms: that either I’m writing every day or not writing at all. Instead, I think in terms of one day at a time. I wake up and say, “Today, I will write.” And that’s what I do. The goal now is to continue to say that every day; to do it as many days as I can; to continue to do it even after a missing a day, or two, or a week, or a month, or years.

I am lucky that I have writing. I have always known that I am here on earth to write; it has never been a question. What they don’t tell you in the American dream narrative or in most other narratives I’ve heard is that it does not matter how much you love a thing. It does not matter how many days you have committed to love a thing. To do it again today, you must commit to it again today. 

I have written and published several books. I have written in a journal daily for probably 7 years now. I write food blogs and articles and for websites and for many other things. I make money off my writing. But the writing that counts, the writing that I love, that shows me, that completes me and heals me, that scares me: that I have picked up and dropped, run away from and yearned for, over and over and over again. If I were looking at this in the same black and white landscape I used to operate in, I would see this as a failure, but it’s not true, Invisible Audience. I have not failed myself or my writing just because I have not been able to commit every day to it. Life is much more nuanced than that. And always there will be something new that I could not have written previously because I didn’t know then what I know now. So the goal is not to beat myself up for all the time I have lost, but to be grateful for all the lessons I have gained while my pen was idle. 

Love and gray kisses

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