To be Gentle with Myself

ShadowsI am struggling to uncover words to write these days.

One would think that coming back from a writing conference – even one I spoke at – would result in an overflow of words from the cauldron of my mind. Instead, I have been wrestling with given writing prompts, topics, and hearing the story I need to write. No amount of coffee, head clearing walks, or pushes from friends has been able to start the letters flowing and the sentences moving.

I am stuck.

I hate being stuck. It is the worst feeling for me. It’s as if there is a heavy freeze and my words are trapped under a layer of ice. I can see their shapes, feel their movement, but I can’t get to them, can’t immerse myself in them or fish them out. That damn ice on my heart keeps me segregated from the creative life that I crave, from the words I need to write.

Yet here I am, in this freeze that I hate. Stuck, frozen.

It would be easy to berate myself, to try and flog myself into writing something. This is an old method of mine, and it never really works. It’s my way of squeezing rocks for water to turn into wine.

The Path Less Taken

I’m tired of doing the same things over and over, of being stuck in the cycle of losing my mojo and then fighting myself to force it back to the page. Isn’t that a definition insanity, doing the same thing again and again but expecting a different result? I’m tired of living insanity.

What would happen if I was gentle with myself? What if I showed myself the grace that I give to other people, that God gives to others?

In my life, this is the road less traveled. To put it plainly, I don’t know how to be gentle with myself very well. I know how to demand more from myself, how to burly my heart under a pile of “you should” and “why can’t you”.

Even as I write these words, I am trying to convince myself that they can be better, that they should be better, that there should be something of more substance, or more greatness under pinning this post. I am convinced that I am not worth grace and gentleness. I am demanding that I do better, do faster, do stronger. There is nothing but demand from myself.

This isn’t what I ask of others though. I understand that life happens, that the muse is fickle at times, that the constant demand to do better will only hurt in the end. If my friend was in my position, if they had just finished up an intensive psychiatric outpatient program, just spoken at a conference, and just gone back to work (not to mention personal life issues), I would tell them that it’s ok to take a break for a bit. I would tell them to stop demanding greatness with every writing, as if one could force a viral post by sheer will. I would tell them to go read a book with a cup of tea, to go for a walk, to disengage from the computer for a day or so and get their bearings again.

Why won’t I tell myself these kind words?

With Open Arms

Writing is in my historyI am determined to show myself love, to be gentle with myself more often than not.

This isn’t some excuse to let me off the hook, some way of hiding from deadlines, demands, and decisions. It’s just a way to embrace myself, to accept the me that I am as if I was my own friend. Sometimes I will have a hard time writing, some days it will be like pulling teeth. That is to be expected, and it does not make me a failure at these words. I am allowed the same grace that I give those I love, the same encouragement I give those I believe in.

I am more and more convinced that if I am to live fearless, brave, and full of wonder, I have to embrace myself with gentle arms. I have to be tender with myself, not simply pushing and demanding more as if I was my own drill sergeant. I am allowed to be my own friend.

To be brave and bold, it takes honesty and acceptance, and the honest truth is that I am fragile right now. If I am going to write honestly, to be bold with these words, I have to embrace my honest place in life and the tenderness that I need right now. How can I expect anyone else to be gentle with me if I refuse gentleness to myself?

These are all lessons I am learning these days. I am not perfect at it. Some days I’m not even good at it. Still, the embrace of myself is something primal that I need in my own self. I refuse to marginalize myself any more, to be a friend to everyone save myself. I refuse to keep treating myself as less than everyone else in my life.

This started with writing, with being gentle with myself when the words won’t come. Yet it is larger than that, bigger than my words. It is a posture of me with myself. This is grace.

And grace extends to even me.

  • That’s the hardest thing, I think. In a world that validates achievement and success, how do we validate our softer selves? And live in the rest/dream space which is the fount of creativity? This is something I’m working on for Lent. Actually, something I’m working on in my life.

  • Cheryl L. White

    This is the first I have really read of your blog. I love it. Needed it. I will pass this advice on to myself and others.

  • harrisco

    I find it difficult at times to offer myself grace. It is hard to step back, realize that compassion is what is most needed, and then really give it. We do not have good models for doing this. The messages of our irony- and violence-heavy media lead us in quite a different direction. Compassion, especially by men, especially toward self or other men, is countercultural. It is also vital. Thanks for stating a need many share but will not admit as honestly or eloquently as you do.

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