It is a tortured life, the life of a writer. Or so the cliches will have us believe. Ernest Hemmingway said ‘Writing is easy. You just sit down at a typewriter and bleed’. I have identified with this a little; it’s a perfect alibi for procrastination and avoiding the hard stuff. There are many untruths around doing something you are passionate about. From my experience it doesn’t involve pain. It’s more about truly living. Living with your whole being.
Unfortunately, there are too many stories where people wake up and realise that time is running out. We all consciously know that our time on earth is limited and we only get one go at this, but do we really understand the essence of this?
We humans often default to a semi-comatose malaise which sees us just going through the motions of life. Finish school, go to uni or get a job, meet someone, settle down, have children (or not)… and so it goes…ho hum. Only to wake up one morning, either really grumpy or really scared, from the realisation that actually…THIS. IS. IT.
At 42, I’d say realistically that I am more than half way through my life. (Gulp). Well, that went fast. Why didn’t someone tell me? You know why no one told me? Because most people haven’t realised. But when you do finally have your moment of clarity, there will be an urgency that will never leave you.
Often this bolt out of the blue, isn’t actually a bolt out of the blue. It’s often triggered by an event where you look mortality in the face. Yours or someone else’s. For me, it was the death of my Mum. Her second death anniversary falls this week. So two years on from this life-changing loss, I’m revisiting how her departure has changed my life in so many ways. Ultimately, my life is poorer for not having her in it.
There is no getting away from this, nor is there any consolation.
However, in her absence, she teaches me valuable life lessons which have altered the texture of my life. So, while I continue to long for her presence, I will continue to learn from her. Possibly my biggest antidote to this longing is to take what is left of my time and do my very best with it.
The single most useful thing to make this happen is to put myself way outside my comfort zone. I have learned so much about myself from this simple shift in outlook. When my initial response is to shy away or say no – out of fear. I listen to this fear, rather than run from it. And on all occasions since, this fear has carried a message for me.
I’ve written about fear before and how it can affect your life, you can read about it here.
Listening to your fear and acting on it in a positive way will absolutely make your life richer. There is something incredibly liberating about putting yourself out there, taking a risk. I found myself in this situation recently and my instinct was to walk away but I pushed through this fear.
The experience was not all smooth sailing and there were times when I said to myself ‘you should have listened to your instinct’ but then I reasoned, if I had have walked away I will have missed an experience that perhaps wasn’t always positive, but it was definitely enriching. In the end, I told myself ‘If things don’t work out, at least I’ve tried, and I am all the better for trying.’ In the end, it was a great and positive experience and now I know myself a little better for taking on a little discomfort, and best of all, I’m ready for the next thing.But more than ready, looking forward to the next things, looking out for the next tough gig.
Life gets busy, routines create ruts and when you’re running a household and you have small people who rely on you to stay alive, it is sometimes hard to muster the enthusiasm for new challenges or even just a slightly different approach to something that happens every day. But everyone wins from this approach. Especially those small people who keep you busy. You will be energised by small changes. This energy is contagious, you know?
Don’t tell anyone, just sit around the borders of your comfort zone and see how it feels. You have nothing to lose…but your fear. So if Hemmingway is to be believed, I’m haemorrhaging right now on to this here page, but the thing is…I’m not. I’m just loving the process of getting some words on the page. I’m energised and happy. And I think that if my Mum could see the way I was living my life since she died, she would be happy that some of what she tried to teach me while she was living, has finally sunk in.
I’ve made my own day today.
I urge you to try it – just something small. Make a phone call about an art class, a writing class, to join a gym. Go for a walk, or a run. Rejig your CV. Small steps, add up to big things in the end.
Don’t leave it to someone else to make your day.