just. keep. writing.

Writer’s block is an enigmatic phenomenon. I could be out for a walk, on the bus to work, heck even at work doing my job, and in under a minute I’ll mentally write an entire blog post. The words and ideas stream in so fast I can’t possibly record them, but I promise myself I will later. I’ll remember this, I think. But when I sit down to write – nothing.

Earlier this week, my colleague – an amazing poet and teacher – spoke to a group of high school students visiting our university to learn more about our creative writing program. (A post on ‘worlds colliding’ should follow this one, as the students’ teacher is coincidentally my best friend, who now lives south of the border.)

I attended the session, but didn’t expect to be so personally impacted. When I was in high school, ‘creative writing’ wasn’t a thing. I remember English classes and learning about form, structure, and grammar…and we did do some writing…but for the most part, creative expression wasn’t truly nurtured or celebrated.

Juliet’s balcony in Verona, Italy.

I can’t help but wonder how different my younger years would’ve looked, had I been encouraged to experiment with all forms and genres in writing. If studying the craft had been presented as a valuable, worthy calling.

Of course, there’s no real point in going there. It’s easy to get carried away with the ‘what if’s, thinking we were somehow shortchanged in our past. But we can’t really know how things might’ve otherwise turned out. Maybe in the end it wouldn’t have made much difference.

My poet friend was so inspiring in encouraging the students to express themselves, and I ponder why writing – a process that can literally be a life-saver for some – often remains so elusive for those who love it most.

Is it vulnerability? Putting ourselves ‘out there’ in any capacity can be intimidating…but with writing, it feels heightened. It’s our heart and soul we’re baring, opening ourselves to others’ perceptions and projections. We tell ourselves not to get caught up in likes, follows (or unfollows), and comments…but how can we not be impacted by those things?

Is it perfectionism? We might think we don’t have time, or that we’re too stressed, to write. But maybe it’s fear: fear that our written word will never look as great as we hope and envision. Fear that someone will make a negative comment, or we’ll sound pretentious or get it wrong. Or, maybe worst of all – that we’ll be exposed as an imposter.

Blogging breaks are sometimes necessary…but I am feeling the creative muse’s call – no, order – to keep writing. It doesn’t have to be blog posts; it doesn’t have to ‘be’ or look like anything. It can just be for me.

When it comes to nurturing our passions, there is always time. But it is on us to carve it out. Fortunately we now have the world of WordPress, where everyone can express themselves to their heart’s content! It’s not too late.

For all those sensitive people so attuned to the reactions of others, I say… I get it. Express yourself anyway. It doesn’t matter if you’re not experienced or published or getting paid for it. If you’ve found something that gives you even the smallest hint of joy, DO IT. Don’t even question why.

It is meaningful, it does matter, and it is making a difference. Just keep writing.

coffee detox blues

Dear Coffee,

I miss you.  It’s been five days since we’ve been apart, and my desire for you is stronger than ever. I thought things would be easier by now.  I miss the way you would greet me every morning, without fail.  I miss the way you smell.  You always smelled so good.  Intoxicating, really.  I miss admiring your beautiful hue…so divine.  And your taste.  Always delectable.  You never let me down.

emptiness

emptiness

Coffee, life without you sucks.  I know we had that month-long break last summer, and that was hell too.  I remember those first 72 hours: the screaming headaches, the sore body, the irritability, the almost-nausea.  It’s been the same this time.  But I had forgotten about the constant gnawing in my stomach…the physical, visceral longing for you.  My mind may think you’re no good for me, but try telling that to my body!

I’ve been in a bad mood for five days now. I mean, I don’t want to punch anyone in the face anymore, but I could do without the disgruntlement and bitterness.  It doesn’t help that I’m reminded of you at every turn.  Everywhere I go, I see you…people holding you, caressing you, smiles on their faces.  You make everyone happy, Coffee!  They don’t deserve the poisonous looks I dart them.  It’s not their fault. This was my decision.

Life is so boring without you.  You’re my ever-faithful companion…every morning and sometimes at work too, or on my walks.  How could I forget what fun we have together?  You’ve injected such joy and vitality into my life.   In this mad world, isn’t that really all that matters?  Shouldn’t we hold on like crazy, whenever we find it?

You make my heart beat fast.  And I thought that was a negative thing…but maybe it’s not.  Don’t we all want something that makes our heart go boom-boom?  And maybe my dependence on you simply means that I have to cultivate other connections in my life, so that the onus isn’t always on you.  Maybe I need to better acquaint myself with fruits and veggies and vitamins and yoga and meditation and smoothies.  Maybe all I need is a little balance.  I don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Why did I decide we needed a break?  Well, I had my reasons. And I still think it’s for the best, at least for a few more days.  (And I know you will forgive me and understand, because you’re just like that.)  But this won’t be a permanent arrangement.  I’ve seen what else is out there, and tried a few different things in your place, but they don’t hold a candle to you.  (Nettle tea?!  Who was I kidding?)

You know that saying, ‘Don’t know what you got till it’s gone’? Well, I get it now.  Nothing fills the void like you do. Nothing lights my fire so brilliantly.  There’s no way I can fight you every day.  You’re far too enticing, and I’m not even going to waste my energy trying.

When our lips meet again, it will be magic.  Come to my place, next Tuesday morning at 6am.  I’ll have the cream and honey ready. You just bring you.

I’ll be counting the minutes.

with or without you…coffee

Maybe it’s all the talk of spring cleaning and new beginnings, but I am feeling the need of a serious physical overhaul.  Or it could be that the many years of sitting at an office desk are finally catching up with me.   In any case, I’ve become so accustomed to living in a state of general fatigue and lack of energy that it hasn’t even felt that unhealthy, till now.

Sadly, I don’t think I have ever felt a prolonged state of vitality, juiciness, and high energy.  And I’m starting to see that if I want my life to be freer, more spontaneous, more joyful, and more loving, then the physical vessel which houses these feelings and experiences must be tended to in a totally new and more conscious manner.

It’s painful to admit, but I think coffee is one substance contributing to my lacklustre energy levels.  Let me first say that I am seriously, seriously addicted to coffee.  I love getting up in the morning and making a cup (or two) in my french press, enjoying the quiet around me as I sip slowly…it’s heaven.  It’s the one constant in a day full of unpredictabilities.  And it smells so freaking good.

lovingmorningcoffee

Having one or two cups a day is not a big deal.  For most people.  Unfortunately, I am torn between my love for coffee, and the total havoc I suspect it wreaks on my body.  My nervous system is so sensitively wired that even one cup throws me out of whack.  But I am addicted, and here’s how I know why.

Last summer I had to give up coffee for two weeks for a detox of sorts; I couldn’t have any stimulants in my body.  I was prepared for a difficult process, but I had no idea how mind-blowingly, body-pummellingly, head-poundingly hard it would be.  For three days I was in a constant state of feeling hungover.  I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open.  I would crash by 7pm.  My muscles were sore and my body felt like it was moving underwater.  I have never been so irritable in all my life.  And the headaches.  Oh, the headaches.

Scary.  Before this, I’d had the vague recognition that my body was addicted, but to physically experience such an intense withdrawal was startling.  It dawned on me that for over 15 years, I’d had coffee every single day.  (And probably some other form of caffeine even longer than that!)

Having somehow made it through the difficult (to say the least) withdrawal period, I remember feeling quite good in the weeks following.  I didn’t have boundless energy, but my reserves were definitely more even and sustained.  I generally felt calmer and less anxious.  And my sleeps were much deeper.  In retrospect, if I’d had a meditation practice during that time, I’m sure that would’ve been a whole lot easier too.

In those early weeks of caffeine-freedom, whenever I remembered a reason coffee was bad for me, I would write it down, to aid me during moments of vulnerability and temptation.  I still have the list:

  • Coffee hurts your body
  • It costs money
  • It interferes with sleep
  • Drains vitamins and minerals
  • Inhibits deep breathing and makes you shaky and anxious
  • Convinces you that none of the above are so bad, or true
  • For most people it’s ok but not you.  Trust your body.  It’s harmful to you.
  • It makes your head sick.
  • It makes your heart beat fast
  • It drains your heart force/energy

Wow.

But alas, as you might have guessed, despite all my hard work (and that formidable list) my coffee-free life did not last long.  I don’t know where and when the thread unravelled…but we live in a coffee culture and my city is particularly coffee-centred.  It’s everywhere, and it’s social, and it’s celebrated, and it’s comforting, and…it tastes so damn good!  (Oh, that first sip after my caffeine hiatus…I’ll never forget it.)   The java beast turned out to be too big too fight, and tea drinking never did hold the same allure.

***

All this is on my mind because I’m doing another coffee detox in a few days.  Given my previous experience, I am little nervous, and a lot dreading…but also teeny bit excited for the challenge, and to reap the positives.  (Ask me again in a week.)  I’ve planned it out as best I can: the first 2-3 days will be during a long weekend, so I’ll have minimal contact with anyone that could potentially irritate me; I’ve armed myself with some great quality chicory root; and I will stock up on some Teeccino tomorrow morning.  (Teeccino is what saved me last time because it actually does taste a bit like coffee.  And I can make it in my french press, so I still get the essential morning coffee ritual.)

Quitting coffee is just one step, but it’s enormous for me.  And now I know the challenge is not just in those excruciating first 72 hours, but in the weeks and months that follow.  But I’m not going to think too much about the long-term right now.  All I know is that for the next few days, I’m going to savour each sip more than I ever have before.  If that’s even possible.

an accidental smile

lately i have found myself accidentally smiling at people.  i’ll be walking down the street, lost in my own reverie, and when i look up my automatic reaction is to smile at the person walking past.  on these occasions my response surprises even me, as the smile seems to bypass any mental thought process…and anything that bypasses my hyperactive mind is quite the feat indeed.

however, even more pleasantly surprising is the reaction i get.  most of the time…people actually smile back!

whenever this seemingly small exchange occurs, my heart smiles too.  it never fails to amaze me how such a fleeting interaction between two complete strangers can  so genuinely and swiftly energize my spirit.

so i ask myself: why don’t i do it more often?

some people have a naturally sunny disposition and walking around with a smile is usual for them.  i, however, lean toward the more pensive, and having a big grin plastered across my face seems not only unnatural but kind of silly.  also, i live in a city where people are generally regarded as reserved and (especially this time of year) tend to huddle to themselves.  this does make the whole smiling-at-people thing a little more challenging.

but these are cop-outs and i know it and there’s more to it than that.

i sometimes go about my day in an almost-defensive mode, seizing up those around me, on the lookout for any perceived danger.  most of the time this is unconscious, and a means of protecting my heart.  but protecting it from what, exactly?  what am i afraid will happen if i let the armour down?

am i scared that if i smile at someone, they won’t smile back?   is the possibly of rejection so painful that i (we) shut myself off from anything that could trigger it?  i won’t go into old rejection wounds here; i’m kinda done with that.  suffice it to say that this MO is really just my lizard brain on autopilot, and it’s time for me to consciously take the wheel (or whatever it is that pilots use to fly).  it’s time to actively create the society i want to live in. even if others don’t seem to be on the same page.

dramatic as it sounds…a smile from a stranger, if only for a second, gives me hope in my fellow neighbor, and thus in humanity.  and seconds add up.

i accidentally smiled at someone today.  and i made it an experiment to smile at whoever passed me by after that.  guess what?  it was amazing.  pretty much everyone smiled back! i even got a couple of hello’s!

just thinking about it puts a silly grin on my face.

year of the jellyfish

 

jellyfish

a few years ago a relative told me i reminded her of a jellyfish.  i was confused and she explained: she saw me as translucent, a pearly bubble ready to burst with all the colour and potential and goodness inside me.  she said i couldn’t see it, but she could.  it was a sweet conversation and one i remember once in a while.

maybe it’s all the end-of-2012 talk, but lately i’m beginning to feel those colours emerging.

something has shifted. like i’m breathing a sigh of relief. like i made it to the other side of something. i don’t feel quite so intensely compressed, like i’m a tube of toothpaste and someone is trying squeeze every last bit out.   although everything looks the same, something unseen and profound feels to have taken place.

i can’t hold onto anything anymore. i can’t blame anyone anymore. i can’t make excuses.  i can’t tell the same old stories.

but instead of feeling ungrounded or anxious, i feel peace.

i know that:

-i’m not powerless.

-i don’t have ‘bad karma’.

-i’m not being punished.

-there’s nothing to feel guilty about.

-i’m not unworthy.

-it’s not about the money.

(to name a few.)

whatever i used to say to myself that stopped me from doing what i really love to do, does not work anymore.

and saying that ‘i still don’t know what i really love to do’ (my usual fallback) is also an excuse, of sorts.  maybe i don’t consciously know, but it’s there nonetheless, and moving within me.  something inside has cracked and there’s an opening…to something that’s been closed a very long time.  the hope that maybe i can create whatever i want.  maybe, just maybe, everything i’ve believed for 30+ years no longer has power over me.  it’s subtle yet undeniable.

just the act of putting pen to paper (or fingertip to key) shows that something has shifted.  why today?  why after years and years, did some part of me decide that yes, today is the day to write?

my story that’s not a story. 🙂