Rediscovery

On New Year’s Day, 2014, I re-discovered my five-year-old blog, “The Write Path.” I had a lot going on when I started this blog 2009, and after two brief posts, the project got buried under other priorities.

Today, those long-forgotten posts, preserved in their cyberspace time capsule, provided a much-needed mule-kick to my higher self. Reading them made me cry. How could I have written these heartfelt missives so long ago and then failed to take my own advice?

Wait. Let me re-frame that question: Maybe I didn’t actually fail to take my own advice, maybe I just got distracted. If that’s case, then it appears that I have managed to take a 5-year detour from the creative goals I wrote so passionately about in 2009. The point is: Today, I’m not actively writing or finding daily joy. Why not?

At the time of my blog’s initial launch, I was pursuing a radical career change. Between 2009 and 2013, I earned a Master’s degree in nursing, met state licensing and national board-certification requirements as a nurse practitioner, and amassed a wealth of practical knowledge about holistic health and healing.  I am now seeking work in health care that resonates with my ideals of holistic wellness—which, as it turns out, is not an easy task. Be that as it may, my pursuits over the last 5 years took so much of my time and personal energy, that there was no time left over for writing anything but the requisite reports and papers for graduation. At least, that’s the story I told myself. The problem is, I’m still telling it. Thanks in part to everything I’ve learned about holistic wellness, I realize that continuing to live that story now could cost me my health.

I laughed through my tears today upon re-reading my blog post from May, 2009, “The Three P’s of Pursuit.” Indeed, it took persistence for me to get through nursing school, and of course, from the proper perspective, I could argue that the last 5 years of my life have not been wasted. The tears came from being reminded in my own words that I need to give myself permission to experience joy.

So far, it has been difficult for me to find joy in the health care industry. I want to actually help people, and in order to do that, I feel like I need to spend more time with my patients than the standard 15-minute (or less) appointment. Forcing myself to work within the time crunch is like wearing shoes that don’t fit. So, why would I do it?

Of course, that brings up the question: If I’m making a conscious choice to buck the system, will I ever find work (joyful or otherwise) in health care? It occurs to me that reconnecting with my creativity and true essence is a key part of finding joy in any arena. So, since I clearly find joy in writing, so I definitely need to be writing more. Who knows? Maybe one way of finding joy in health care is by writing about it.

Meanwhile, if I’m successful in reconnecting with my own true essence and creativity, one of two things will happen: Either 1) I will find a way to BE the change I want to see in health care; or 2) I will discover some other way to help people. Right now, the outcome doesn’t matter.  My next step toward re-connection is developing a plan for a personal renaissance.

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How My Writing Life Was Saved

This summer, I didn’t just get writer’s block, I simply stopped writing. No more journal entries. No more submissions on speculation. No more queries. No more revisions. No more blogs. No more words for words’ sake.

It was the first time in more than three decades I’ve strayed so far from “the write path.” In my mind, I told myself, “I’m a student now, and homework is my priority.” It was as if I had fallen off a horse and had no desire to get back on.

But how can a true, lifelong word-o-phile like me, simply step away from the pen? Writing has always been a source of comfort for me, a way to process any difficulty, a familiar landscape where I always feel safe and secure.

So, at a time in my life when everything was changing (I had just decided to go back to school to study nursing), why did I stop writing?

It wasn’t just that I had too much homework, although I did find that returning to school at age 40 carried some unanticipated stresses (the subject of another blog). No. I stopped writing because I felt betrayed by my love of the craft. Just like the unrequited love I’ve experienced in romantic relationships, I felt like my love of writing had let me down.

In 2003, I went out on my own as a freelance writer. I did fairly well, but not nearly well enough to make ends meet. The hot niches, the lucrative markets, the breakthrough contacts, the key clients, the ongoing accounts, the secrets to true success—these fundamentals always eluded me. But I was persistent. Maybe persistent to a fault. And through it all, I wrote anyway. Just for me. Just because. What can I say? I love words so much I just can’t keep my hands off ‘em! The rejections didn’t matter because I knew deep down in my writer’s heart and soul that it was just a matter of time before I’d make the right contact. The right person would read my submission. I’d win a contest. I’d land a lucrative, ongoing account. I’d…, I’d…, I’d….

And then, the economy tanked. I lost my house, my relationship, and my savings. Every job possibility that seemed realistic or remotely interesting slipped through my fingers. Week after week, my numerous resumes and applications went into the void, never to be acknowledged. On top of all that, my writing submissions and queries were consistently being rejected, unused or unacknowledged. My bids for new freelance work were being turned down with hollow echoes of, “Oh, we love you, we think you’re great. But we don’t have any work for you right now.”

Still undaunted, I applied to and was accepted at a prestigious writers conference—where, I just knew I’d make the right contact to jumpstart my career. But after I was accepted (!), I couldn’t pay for it. So I didn’t get to go. This disappointment was more than I could handle, emotionally and spiritually. I shut out the hurt by quitting writing. Cold turkey.

And then, last night, I ran into an old friend. A friend with whom I’d connected years ago over our mutual love of writing. The first thing she asked me was, “What have you been writing lately?” I was embarrassed by my answer, “Nothing. Nothing at all.”

My friend gushed enthusiastically about how she had finally finished her children’s book manuscript. Then she asked me for advice about where and with whom she should submit it. As if I knew. I wanted to shout at her, with both fists clenched: “But don’t you see, my writing career is over!” While she talked, I screamed and cried inside. I concocted an elaborate, yet unspoken, excuse to share with her about how I haven’t been published in more than a year because I’m a deep thinker and the whole communications landscape has devolved into a mind-numbingly shallow quagmire of soundbites, blip-verts and Tweets, and how all of this pains me so…

And then my friend asked me something that lifted me out of my reverie. “These really are the ones, aren’t they?” She pointed down at my feet. “Can I take a picture of your cowboy boots?”

I just happened to be wearing my blue stingray boots—the boots that were the subject of a personal essay I had shared with my friend for critique years ago. The essay was about how my beloved boots empowered me to be my authentic myself—how they helped me get in touch with my inner strength and step into my personal power. The essay has yet to be published, but I still love to wear my blue stingray boots.

And then, as I looked down at those beautiful dark blue boots, sparkling like diamonds in the dimly lit room, I suddenly remembered why I love to write. It’s how I share. I love to communicate; explore ideas, express opinions. Writing is how I connect… with concepts, the world around me, my friends, my family, my fellow humans.

The love of words and writing is a central part of me. I smiled then, and breathed a whole lot easier. I don’t think my friend understood how profoundly she affected me during our random encounter, but, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she saved my writing life.

Meanwhile, I’m so happy to be back on “The Write Path.” Whatever happens in my life, from here on out, my writing will see me through.

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The Three P’s of Pursuit

Going after your goals can sometimes feel like a thankless chore, a fool’s errand, the endless pursuit of an elusive dream. If you find yourself constantly asking the question, “When will I ever be ______ [fill in the blank]?” then you can use the three P’s of pursuit–persistence, perspective, and permission—to bring balance and harmony to your quest.

 Persistence – Three of the most powerful words in the English language are “never give up.” To me, those words mean believing– with every fiber of my being– that when one door closes, another opens up. Of course (especially these days), when a door closes, I keep an eye out for open windows, too, because I just never know what shape or form the new opening is going to take.

 Perspective – Always remember that your own baby steps might look like giant leaps to someone else. It all depends on your perspective. I like to take a systems approach to evaluating my own progress—looking at all the inputs and outputs with a sense of the big picture. Then I give myself credit for what I’ve achieved so far and celebrate my accomplishments, no matter how big or small. Then I can address the next steps I’d like to take.

 Permission – One of the most valuable gifts I’ve ever given myself is permission— permission to have fun and experience joy in every moment. Fulfilling our dreams and goals will certainly bring joy, but we can also have joy on the way there! It really is true that happiness is the journey, not the destination.  Every day, in every present moment, we have the opportunity to laugh, have fun, and otherwise experience joy.  The trick is to learn to banish any feelings of guilt for doing so. Amazingly enough, I’ve found that experiencing joy in the present moment keeps my perspective fresh and my persistence action-based.

 Now that I practice the three P’s, I no longer have to ask, “When will I ever be… ?” because I am taking joy in who I am and what I have in each and every present moment. This doesn’t mean I’ve given up on my dreams and goals for the future…far from it. It simply means I’m looking forward fulfilling my goals with joy in my heart every step of the way.

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