Yesterday, I had A Bad Day. It was the day all of our worldly possessions (apart from a small car-load which we will take with us on our journey next week) were loaded on a van to be taken to Slovenia in advance of our move.
Suddenly, I found myself beset by doubts: What if this is the wrong decision? What if I don’t find the right school for my son, or he doesn’t settle in well? What if my husband’s new job doesn’t work out? What if Europe breaks apart, World War 3 breaks out, and Slovenia is swallowed up by a power-hungry neighbouring nation?
Suffice to say, my thoughts had taken a decidedly negative turn.
My own worst enemy
At times when I get overtaken by negativity, anxiety and depression, I don’t always help myself. I don’t do enough yoga and meditation; I don’t update my gratitude list and I don’t take time to find peace with the moment. I panic. But I’m learning, gradually, how to help myself. Part of this learning experience is to avoid beat myself up when I backslide into my old, self-defeating habits. I am learning to treat a bad day for what it is: one day. Not the sign of a bad life, or a bad situation. Some days simply have to be written off, and moved on from. Furthermore, there is much that we can learn from our bad days.
Yesterday I was listening to that awful, destructive voice in my head: The Doubter. The Doubter was telling me I can’t handle another re-location; that I’ll go to pieces; that I’m a bad mother; that I shouldn’t waste my time writing. Take my first novel as a case in point. It took me around 6 months to write the first draft. That was finished in February 2019, and I’ve been re-writing it ever since. Friends and family keep joking with me, asking if it’s ever going to be finished. The Doubter then pipes up ‘You see, you’re just a fraud, pretending to be a writer!’
Sometimes encouragement can come from an unexpected source, when you most need it. I’m re-reading Last Night in Twisted River at the moment, which is one of my favourite novels by John Irving. Irving’s main characters are often writers, and he writes a lot about the writing process. In the chapter I was reading yesterday, the main character (who is a writer) describes one of his unsuccessful writing students:
Roland Drake wrote first-draft gibberish…John Irving, Last Night in Twisted River (Black Swan Edition: London, 2010)
‘I’m into writing, not rewriting,’ Drake had told Danny. ‘I only like the creative part.’
‘But rewriting is writing.’ Danny said to the young man. ‘Sometimes, rewriting is the most creative part.’
Well, I can safely say that my first draft was indeed ‘gibberish,’ but with each re-write, slowly, incrementally, it’s getting better. I have to accept that it’s going to take time to get it exactly how I want it. I have many other demands on my time. But I can’t be discouraged. I have to keep going, chipping away at that block of marble every day until it becomes a beautiful sculpture.
Flow with the River
To return to the theme of my anxieties around moving; I also worry that it will disrupt my writing, because I’ll be too busy trying to put my life in order to write anything. But my novel followed me from Catalunya to Andalucía, and I think it got better because of this. Many of the scenes in the novel are inspired by the Slovenia, so living there can only help improve it further.
As to events beyond my control (such as the future of Europe) I have to accept them for what they are: events beyond my control. I was watching ‘The Story of God with Morgan Freeman’ (Episode 6) on Netflix the other day, and one woman described how in the Taoist philosophy ‘birds do not fly: they are flown; fish do not swim: they are swam.’ The sky flies the birds and the river swims the fish. I love this: Trying to fight against the tide of our lives brings only pain, anxiety and mental torment.
The sky flies the birds; the river swims the fish; go with the flow.
Wishing you all a wonderful and peaceful Friday.