As the holidays approach I’m reminded of a conversation I had several years ago with a lovely Swiss woman – our boys were in Kindergarten together and I remember feeling particularly annoyed with the overwhelming pressure to present my children with the best Christmas ever(!) on a limited budget. As I voiced my fear of holiday inadequacy to her, she confided in me that her family simply did not participate in the “American Christmas” – the one that’s filled with over-eating, over-spending, over-celebrating and over-extending oneself, followed by all the anxiety that comes with weight gain, debt, poor time management and exhaustion. Instead, she expressed to me in her charming French accent, they chose to celebrate Christmas with the old traditions from the mother land – a small family celebration, a few wooden toys for the kids and stockings filled with fruit and nuts (and I thought my family was the only one who received oranges and nuts in their shells from Santa). And that was that. No drama. No stress. No mess.
Note the word “chose,” past tense for choose, meaning “to select freely after consideration.”
This year I met and began to work with a luminous woman who is writing the story about how she chose to give up many things that weren’t working in her life – a failing marriage; a toxic career; meaningless “things” – in order to find what truly mattered. This is no Eat, Pray, Love story. Her message is one of total mindfulness, humility and appreciation of the beauty in our lives. Visiting her home it became absolutely clear to me, the woman practices what she preaches – she lives, eats and breathes her message. She chooses to live life simply, mindfully, beautifully. No drama. No stress. No mess. The lady knows how to deal, ya hear? And let me not fail to mention, she sticks to her writing schedule.
What do these two ladies have to do with writing? Nothing, really. I’m inspired by their ability to make decisions that have had a positive effect on their overall well-being. In my experience, if one approaches writing feeling like garbage, body, mind and soul, well guess what the prose is going to sound like.
Many a romantic artist will tell me writing is something that chose them. OK. So writing chose you. What are you going to do about it?
Writing is something most busy people come to at the end of their day, once their energy is spent on the non-negotiables (jobs, child care, pet care, people care, etc.) and the negotiables they think are non-negotiable (volunteer time, shopping, must see TV, etc.). Others rush through or skip their allotted writing time to handle more pressing matters. Then the writing gets put off because of lack of energy or concentration. It then becomes a time issue, as in, “I just didn’t have time to write,” or “I don’t have the energy to write.” Or maybe there’s something more going on – they’ve got some emotional stuff to cut through. Cue self-loathing and exit stage left. Oh, it’s a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad downward spiral.
If you are in this place, I want you to STOP where you are and snap out of it! Go ahead. You’ve gotta come to eventually, right? Now is just as good a time as any. You don’t need to create a new regime to start on Monday, next week, the New Year. CHOOSE now. I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I haven’t done myself.
The holidays will be in full swing soon. News stations are broadcasting major economic failure while endless commercials blather on about holiday sales and must-haves (turn it off!). The good news is, you can choose to celebrate simply, you can choose to say “no” to over-extending yourself. You can choose to walk away from toxic behavior. You can choose to live your life mindfully, selecting your daily activity with care and attention to detail. You can choose to take time for self-care so that when you come back to the page, you are ready to write.
This holiday season, I wish you peace of mind and heart, joy and simple pleasures – all of which are yours for the taking if you so choose.
* Please note, if you are experiencing serious depression the best choice you can make is to seek the best professional care that is available to you.