Some of you may have noticed the blog has been a little… quiet… over the last month or so. I have about 10 posts started and abandoned in my Evernote app because I haven’t been able to focus on writing recently.
A peek into my "process."
Mostly it’s the speed of life - in the last 16 weeks I’ve taken 2 vacations, been on 7 business trips requiring air travel, driven miles and miles and miles in rented cars.
This is my "what year is it?" face.
Oh, and I moved to Brooklyn.
Brooklyn life is pretty great.
And I have been beating the shit out of myself for everything I haven’t done over the last 6 weeks in particular: mediating, morning pages, working out, WRITING THIS BLOG.
I really wish beating the shit out of myself was more productive. I’m so good at it! It’s like one of my top 5 core capabilities- up there with public speaking and an iron stomach.
Alas. It’s wholly unproductive. So, here I am on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. Three days stretched out ahead of me like open road. The beach is calling, but so is this blog.
So, I’m (again) revisiting something I started writing 5 years ago. It starts as a reflection on WHY I CAN’T WRITE and devolves into navel gazing on the nature of vulnerability and control. And, yikes. it’s so familiar that I could have easily written it this morning. If writing was easy.
So, here it is, in its 2014 glory, with some editorial updates from 2019.
Title: Vulnerability (Or "Why Can't I Just Write This Thing Already?”)
[2019 note: I’m really into titles. I often hear a phrase and think: "That’s the title of my 3rd novel.” It’s worth noting that I’ve never actually considered writing one novel, let alone 3. But, if I do, I’ve got the titles down! Also, I have no recollection of what the “this thing” I was trying to write was other than for sure it wasn’t a novel.]
In the summer of 2014, I went on a fantastic vacation to Costa Rica*. It was a "wellness retreat” which is really fancy way of saying no booze or coffee. I thought it would be the perfect time to reconnect with myself, turn off, tune out, relax, and get some writing done.
Costa Rica is a place where things just seem possible. Or maybe the possible and impossible coexist peacefully.
We met people who had escaped their past lives as financiers and bus boys to become yogis and surf instructors. There was the American woman who met her husband while on vacation. She went zip lining and he was the guy who catches you as you come hurtling through the canopy and in your heightened state of elation and pure terror have forgotten how to brake. She literally fell into his arms and the rest was history.
Monkeys howled and slept in the trees directly above our outdoor yoga studio, drenching rains poured down for long moments then gave way to brilliant sunshine. Ancient sea turtles made the trek to the black sands of the Ostional to lay eggs during the arribada (nesting time), even decades after they'd lost the biological ability to do so.
But I couldn't write.
I could rationalize it and say that there was too much else to do (there was!) surfing, zip lining, SUP, aerial yoga, regular daily yoga, wellness talks, beach combing, monkey watching, pool lounging, juice bar visits, group meals - I could go on and on.
Video and giggling credit: Joanna Lott
And in the quiet moments I just got sleepy.
[2019 note: Jesus Christ. That’s A LOT of activity for a vacation. No wonder I kept falling asleep on top of my journal.]
Towards the end of the trip, we went on a Stand Up Paddle board (SUP) river tour. It was my first time on a SUP and I was really looking forward to it.
I've done lots of yoga, I've taken "surf style" fitness classes where you balance on a surf board attached to bosu balls, and I had just taken a surfing lesson a few days earlier. In the days before this I'd also gone zip lining incredibly high up over the rainforest (I did NOT meet my future husband) and took a yoga class where I was hoisted upside down in a silk hammock.
Obviously, SUP would be a breeze.
Our guide gave us some basic instruction while we were still on land. The plan was that we’d get on the boards kneeling, get our bearings in the relatively calm and shallow waters by the river bank, before standing and navigating out into the main part of the river. My group mates excitedly moved toward their boards. One by one they took off like swans.
I approached my board confidently, maneuvering myself into the kneeling position. The second I pushed off from the riverbank, my board started to wobble back and forth wildly, almost comically. I could barely hold on.
Not me. I didn't even do this well!
My whole body tensed up, and I could feel myself starting to panic. Within moments, I was alone in the water- all my mates had already reached the river. The guide was giving me the thumbs up sign and I could see his mouth moving - “Stand! Stand!” but the only thing I could hear was the sound of my own shallow terrified breathing. As if my ears were plugged.
Whatever this feeling was, it was compounded by another worry - of being left alone on the riverbank while the others set out on the adventure. Not quite FOMO (fear of missing out). More like FOBFO (fear of being found out). Found out for the coward I am.
So, I stood, slowly, agonizingly. And managed to keep myself on the board through the tour. But I couldn't relax, I was consumed with anxiety.
The others had all settled in. They found it physically challenging, but they were all calm - chatting and laughing. Frequently someone would point out some interesting bird, lizard, flower or something.
I didn't give a shit about the birds.
I was too busy silently repeating mantras to keep myself from crumbling:
Today is a gift.
My body is strong.
I'm balanced perfectly.
I believed none of it.
[2019 note: Oh, girl. It was all true.]
We stopped at the beach for a rest and a swim which helped. I needed the break but dreaded getting back on the board. It was the only way back though, so I got on and paddled like hell for the rest of the trip.
Later, I tried to work it out in my journal. Why was I so terrified? The water was calm, not very deep, and, to my knowledge, wasn't full of anything that might kill me. If I fell, I wasn't likely to get injured or drown.
I was disappointed in myself for not being able to get a handle on it. After all, hadn't I just done all these other insane and difficult and brave things??? This was something that I was supposed to be able to control and couldn't.
Paradoxically, the only way to achieve control on a SUP is to relax and let go.
I couldn’t do that. And I couldn’t let the others see how I was struggling. I couldn’t ask for help. I was afraid they’d think I was weak and couldn’t keep up with them.
Does it all come down to this? Being worried about what other people think? Worried about looking like I don’t have my shit together? Like I have to actually put effort behind something to get good at it? Like I’m not perfectly perfect at a thing right out of the gate?
Jesus, no wonder I can’t get out of my own way.
[2019 note: that’s how it ends. Beating the crap out of myself for beating the crap out of myself. So meta.]
Do you beat the crap out of yourself for beating the crap out of yourself? Love SUP? Drop me a comment below or on FB/IG!
*Note: this is not the same Costa Rica trip that I talk about here and here.