Gentle and Kind

///Buckle up for a rambly journal-y post///

I know for a fact that creative people are more prone to struggle with mental health issues, and I certainly do. I recall the earliest days of my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder vividly: The blinking, the counting, the fear of contamination, injury, death. Since then, I’ve come to intimately know these companions: depression, anxiety, OCD, and C-PTSD. I take medication, and I’ve been through very intensive therapy. I believe I’ve arrived at a place of clarity, strength, and resilience that is much more than I could have ever dreamed. Still, some days, there is a low-level hum of melancholy or doubt or worry or dread.

When my son was born, I decided that I would not go back to work as a Licensed Professional Counselor. It was not a difficult decision. Not a decision that took deliberation or soul searching. It was simple. And to be honest, I’ve never wanted to go back. It’s not that I don’t love helping people to heal; I know that’s a big part of my purpose on this earth. It’s that my primary calling is to create, and I need so much time and freedom for that.

Since my son was born in 2014, some things have happened. Two people I loved dearly died. One of them was a thirteen year old girl who was very much like a niece or little sister or soulmate of some kind. I was so stunned by her death and the realization that all of her future potential was just erased from the earth that I made a promise to her that I would bring forth all of the gifts I have within, for her. In those first months, I created and published an adult coloring book. Although I got on the bandwagon far too late for it to have been successful in a monetary sense, it made me realize that all of us are capable of DOING THE THING. There’s no magic knowledge or point of readiness that appears. Today is the day. You have no idea what you’re doing, and yet, you do it anyway.

And then, I decided to write my book. And I sat at my computer and I can scarcely remember that day, that blank document staring back at me, those first tentative words, or how the hell I found the determination to keep going.

It’s been almost 4 years since I started, and I have 307 pages and 87, 865 words written down. Some days it has flowed out of me. Some days it has been like “squeezing blood out of a turnip.” Some days it’s pleasurable, and some days stirring up the past is so painful I lay in bed for hours, unable to move. But I have to do it, so I’ve taken my time. Sometimes I spend 10 hours a day writing for days at a time. Sometimes I write once in an entire month. I have learned to follow my instincts.

The other thing about writing is that you cannot just regurgitate thoughts, feelings, memories onto paper and call it a book. That’s not how it works. I’ve been listening to The Manuscript Academy Podcast for about a year or two, and I remember one particular interview with an agent (whose name escapes me) who said sometimes, when she receives a query, she wonders: How long did you spend writing this? The implication being, of course, that a lot of people poop out a slew of words and think that’s enough.

It’s not. And that’s why it’s taken me so long.

It’s a turd at first, and you have to polish it. It’s painstaking and nasty. I have to take what I know and make it interesting AND palatable AND succinct AND AND AND. And hey, I’ve never written a book before this, and I don’t have any information that you don’t have. I’m a true “pantser.” (That’s what they call someone who doesn’t plot their writing, but instead flies by the seat of their pants).

In the meantime, I have a son to raise.

I have too many animals.

A house to keep.

A husband to stay connected with.

And a greeting card business that is just starting to take flight.

So, sometimes it all feels too much. I have to ignore everything else to focus on one thing at a time, so sometimes that means I have a fresh-ass new chapter and a squalid house. Or my kid has eaten peanut butter and jelly for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Or sometimes I get so swept up in being my kid’s everything and all to the extent that my creative endeavors are like little cats out in the rain by the door, begging to come back in.

Of course, I would never wish for anything to be different. It’s all that I want, and I am fulfilled. But sometimes I feel like I’m doing several things poorly. Or sometimes one thing well, and everything else is in flames. And that’s when the ucky thoughts and feelings of sads and worries pop into my head and harass me.

Anyway, I woke up this morning feeling all of this, and I painted this card (pictured above) because I know it’s true that we’re all in the same boat, just doing our best. And someday, I’ll have a completed, published book.

And then I’ll be on to the next big project.

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