Two things happened recently. One of my articles was mentioned in a Post round-up of most read parenting pieces in 2017, which was great.
And, I was turned down by a publication that is smaller than the Post, but equally discriminating, which was not great.
I've written before about taking control of happiness, choosing our point of view, learning to hear and listen to our inner critic so that we can report it to our inner therapist who will remind us that our inner critic is full of shit.
I write about these things because for a long time, my inner critic ran the show and it just became my default state to feel awkward or out of place, and see myself through the eyes of others. It changed when I began to journal. On the page, I laid out my truest feelings like dainty, knotted necklaces in need of detangling.
I learned a few things after several years of this.
That negative self-talk is easier to believe than the self-talk we use to challenge it.
That fear feels like information in our minds, but looks like a nervous child on the page.
That figuring it out is not only a valid strategy, but sometimes the best one because it draws on intuition more than practical skills.
That intuition is information.
That truth is often discovered when you're doing nothing to find it.
We are never doing nothing.
It doesn't surprise me that what captured my attention last week was the rejection. Because feedback like "well done, but not ground breaking," makes me feel like I must be playing it safe, or don't care enough to develop new ideas.
If that's what's going on, I thought, I have a new necklace to free of knots.
That is what's going on.
I've been sleepwalking, and today I woke up with a "what now?" stretch on my hands.
As I write this, I'm thinking about an article that I haven't drafted yet, the three or four short stories that are in progress but have no target, the novel that I like but don't love yet.
It feels like I'm not serious, but I'm never not serious.
It feels like I lack the energy to be better, but it's passion I need.
I would have panicked in earlier years to think of what all this meant:
Oh, my God. Maybe I'm in the wrong job/relationship/city/major etc. Oh, my God.
But I have learned that as much as I dread them, a what-now stretch heralds a new turn, a change in direction, a shake up, a thing that is coming and is supposed to happen.
While I was doing nothing about this, a surge of honest conscience emerged about really, how hard I've been working at my writing. My inner critic offered that it could be harder and, for once, my inner therapist agreed. And that is a good thing, because knowing I could be working harder, but am not, is a perfect opening to the question of:
If not this, then what?
It's a complex question that only presents yes answers after the no's – not this, not that – have been exhausted.
I am taking my own advice today.
I will stop focusing on what I should be doing better and consider what I should possibly be doing instead.
I will accept that only some ideas can enter a habit-oriented mind, but that others, if I rest and open my mind will present themselves.
I will think about the difference between undisciplined and uninspired.
I will try to remember that ideas are supposed to come and go as often as they come and stay.
I will aim to love the work in process as much as the idea of finishing it.
I will consider that effort not fueled by the heart and mind can be injurious to the spirit.
But mostly, I will, I already do,see this stretch as a test, a break, a time to realize that if I'm not doing enough, or doing the right thing, the something behind it all will present itself.
It will be one of those times when I'm not doing nothing.