December 30, 2020
It’s the second-to-last day of the year with two more sleeps until 2021 breezes in. As we all know, 2020 was one heck of a year, for a variety of reasons. While the world battled together against a pesky virus, we each, individually, faced our own personal challenges, both big and small. I was not exempt from this turmoil. In fact, much came to light while talking to myself in the shower this morning (for more on the talking-to-myself topic, see previous blog!). I discovered I was right smack dab back in the depths of an emotional trench.
Let’s time-travel back to the beginning of 2017, when I first plummeted into these dark and formidable depths. Just so you know, it’s not as scary as it sounds. I knew at some point was going to happen. I knew that someday I’d have to reckon with all the locked down emotions relating to me and my former marriage. The time had simply arrived for me to break down my defensive walls and crack everything wide open. Not exactly looking forward to it, I was, nonetheless, totally aware of its necessity.
What cracked me open was writing. I was ready to begin the first draft of my memoir, and I had to start with the darker side of my once-incredible marriage. Deal with the hard stuff first and then the good stuff, was what I was thinking. Writing about the more challenging aspects of my marriage tipped me over the edge. Being the first time to truly examine and analyze what went on, and how I felt about what went on, opened me up to a cataclysmic variety of emotions, both new and locked down. Into the emotional trench I fell head first. That was February, 2017.
One month later, I started crawling back out, bit by small bit. By May, I felt slightly more myself. Coming along with me were hard-earned new perspectives and totally different views on the more recent years of my life. Let’s just say the rose-tinted glasses came off. What kept me moving, one foot in front of the other, was writing. With each new chapter, and each new topic, a new layer of insight came forth. By the end of August, when the draft was complete, I felt on top of the world with what I thought was a complete understanding of everything. Phew. Well done. Congratulations to me!
And then I packed it all away again, nice and neatly with a ribbon on top. I carried on walking forward into my new life, hand-in-hand with all those new perspectives and clear-eyed assessments. Unsurprisingly, motivation to write after that kind of plummeted. I was on top of my own world, emotionally, and the idea of going back into the dark times, and even the good times, exhausted me.
Writing became sporadic, and was anything but a daily regime. I could not face even 10 minutes per day. Some chapters did get written, but diligent writing it was not. I lost steam. Every couple of months I would proclaim some great inspiration and try to get myself back on track. Most of the time nothing was accomplished. It was all talk and no (or at least, very little) writing.
Jump back with me into present day, December 30, 2020, and my shower revelation this morning. Writing got me out of the emotional trenches three years ago. I realized today that I am back in that very same emotional trench not because of writing, but because of my lack of writing. I have been positively fearful to step back up to the keyboard and start tapping out words, sentences and paragraphs. I have been afraid to open myself back up, all over again. The first time was hard. Really hard. Why would I want to put myself through that … again? I mistakenly thought that subsequent revisions would be easier because so much was figured out with the first draft. What else did I possibly have to learn?
Oh sure, I convinced myself that I wasn’t ready to write about stuff again, that I should wait until a natural flow appeared and inspiration sprouted anew. Pushing myself to write when I didn’t feel inclined to write would lead to a forced story. In some ways this is very true, but I have taken it to the extreme. I have not been writing because I was uninspired or needed to figure out unresolved matters (although, some matters did resolve themselves in the meantime). The truth of the matter was that I wholeheartedly avoided writing so to not have to deal with my own emotions.
I left my marriage with the intent to be open, honest and forthcoming with my thoughts and emotions; to not lock down anything, at any time. Yet here I am today, months later, doing the exact opposite. For at least the past 12 months (realistically the past 24 months), I have deliberately not written so to avoid facing my own emotions and my own emotional scars. I’m such a hypocrite!
Part of the message of my memoir, I hope, is to have the reader acknowledge that in order to move ahead one must properly tend to emotions. Locking them away only makes it worse. Inevitably those emotions want to be dealt with and delaying the inevitable is useless. After all, emotions are just that … emotions. My emotions can’t hurt me, nor can the memories that will be brought to the surface with them. What hurt me back then cannot hurt me now. There is no reason to fear drudging up the past; it can only help in the end.
Besides not adding much content to my Google Drive folders, other symptoms of emotional avoidance are on clear display. Over the past couple of years I have spent way, way, way too much time in front of screens. Laptop, desktop, ipad, cell phone. I would hate to find out how many hours of my life I’ve wasted in front of those illuminated glass sheets. I’ve also clearly gained weight. Avoiding reality increased my blubber content as it was easier to sit on the couch and binge eat than face my demons. My fitness level has plummeted given that walking out my front door can just seem too much most days. Add in the fact that I have a walking boot on my left foot to help fix a stress fracture and the result is a recipe for physical and emotional dispair.
Oh, woe is me.
With a new year dawning just around the corner, I plan to pull up my socks and do something about all this. It’s time to step back into my life ‘cuz, let’s be honest, I kinda checked out for a while. Instead of being hard on myself, I plan to remind myself of just how wonderful my life, and the world around me, is. Besides a messed up toe (that can heal) and too much blubber (which diet and exercise can fix), I really don’t have any reason to feel down on myself. I have my children, my family, oodles of girlfriends, am lucky enough to go back and forth between two fantastic regions for work (Sea To Sky Country and the Rockies), love hiking, mountains, forests, birds and flowers and taking photographs of such beauties. And, I’m attempting to write a book. Life is pretty damn fine, after all.
Out of the trench I crawl, and back into the open vista that is my life.
Please don’t let your emotional trenches get in your way. Sometimes there is no way to avoid them, but do everything you can to get yourself back out and on the other side.
Life is waiting for you, and it is grand.
Happy New Year!