A skill that I should have developed long ago

Nothing about this year has gone to plan. For me, for many others, it has quite frankly: sucked. I believe many of us can agree and commiserate that the few years preceding, if not more, have felt similarly.

In my case, several things happened all at once. Job loss, finances, relationships—it’s all tanked. It’s not terribly surprising as for me that tends to be the year-round, incessant pattern. Three steps forward and two to seven steps back, without fail, every time.

For months now, I have tumbled headfirst into grief I have not experienced before. Not like this. I’ve been bereaved and traumatized many times in the past but something would stick out and allow me to hold on.

Not this time, it seemed. I withdrew and tucked inside myself. Ignored calls and could not muster meaningful conversation if I did manage to pick up. Well-meaning friends offered bad advice that I didn’t ask for. Every time my therapist and I made progress, it was followed by days of physical and mental recovery.

The only thing I had at my disposal were words and my mind. So I used them. I squeezed them dry, soaked them in my tears and frustration, then wrung them out again. And again. And again.

It took weeks for me to understand what was going on and to make sense of what poured out. I no longer clung to my old standby writing format and habits. Instead I wrote down every thought instead of discarding anything that didn’t feel right the first time. Where I could crank out a 1700-word essay in a matter of hours with nothing more than an idea, outline, and a cup of coffee, I found myself swirling miscellaneous thoughts together. I built new foundations, explored depths of my own thoughts and words and what art I could create.

As a writer I have always believed in trusting the reader. If a writer fails this, the prose suffers. It is where walls of text and overwrought exposition is born and storytelling goes to die. But if a writer can leave the dots and a few lines, a reader can connect them on their own.

What I did not do for myself as a writer, however, was trust. What I haven’t done for myself as an individual, was trust. So that is what I am doing now. Practicing radical, extreme, unconditional, no-holds-barred self-trust.

In the past I leaned on friends for the wrong things when life went south (and it always does). I wouldn’t let myself believe the most simple truths of situations. Because it meant I’d have to believe truths about myself I’ve never seen reflected in others. It became a crutch in the worst way and a weakness that would eventually fail me.

It’s not easy. Recovering emotionally from things I, as a writer, can scarcely explain is a challenge. It feels endless and impossible some days. I’m not used to floating for so long without direction but I am trying to make the best of it. I cling to the thoughts that rise, piece them together, and trust that they came to my mind for a reason. That in the end it will make sense.

It’s working, in some ways. I’m writing like I never have before. Some days the steps forward are for projects I have ongoing and other days they are for something else. I’m exploring depth I didn’t even know I had as a writer; at least, not things I thought I could touch for a long time. But they are surfacing.

So many words to say “I’ve been so deeply affected by things that keep happening to me, somehow worse every time, that it changed the way I create art,” but it is what it is and… I am going to trust it. It’s the only thing I really can, right now.

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