Rising from the Ashes

Dad told me I should write more. At the very least some updates on my blog. His dream of having an award-winning novelist of a daughter seems to be dying by the day. And, yet, from the glowing embers of this dream a phoenix (of sorts) is rising. It’s small and scraggy now, stumbling on Bambi-esque legs amongst the ashes, coughing and shielding its eyes from the light. But it exists, this spectre of old, only now coming into being after years of steady manifestation.

By ‘It’ I am referring to my venture back into the world of psychology, and, simultaneously, my journey into the unknown-and-terrifying-yet-also-exciting world of coaching – in the form of a combined Master’s degree.

It’s not exactly how I’d planned it. We thought we’d be in New York City by spring. I’d envisaged endless cups of coffee, walks in Central Park with a new puppy; days stretching out with nothing but study and writing and play. But life doesn’t always work out how you planned. Which means that sometimes you just have to play the hand you’ve been dealt.

We’re not going to New York anymore. Already it feels like a pipe dream blowing in the wind. At first I shed a lot of tears, and then berated myself for mourning a life that never was. The tears dried up. Reality bit. I’d signed up for this Master’s safe in the knowledge I’d have ample time to devote to it. At most I’d have been working on a part time basis. Now, things have changed. We’re still in Brussels, and will be for the foreseeable future. I still have a full time job (really a full-and-then-some time job). Suddenly the very thought of finding more than twelve hours a week to do my course work has me coming out in hives. Right now I’m barely managing six.

I am exhausted. There have been more tears, for this and other – more personal – reasons that I won’t go into here. I am struggling to find my equilibrium. I tell myself that I should meditate and then remember that ‘should’ is a performance inhibiting thought; a thinking error. I’m learning all kinds of new things like this, even though I make such errors daily, sometimes hourly. I tell myself I’m not good enough on a constant repetition loop in my head. Compare myself to others. Panic. I do a LOT of panicking.

And then I switch on my computer, turn on Skype and I become a coach. I listen attentively and empathetically. I silence my inner chatter and focus on another person for a whole hour. And I take them through a process, and share with them what little I know of concepts like self-limiting beliefs. And, like magic, almost always there’s a moment when their faces light up and they get it, really get it. And in that moment I’m suffused with so much joy and energy. Which is how I know that even though it’s hard, and will likely get harder, and even though I don’t know where I’m going to end up, I’m on the right path.

phoenix

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The Magic

I’ve just awoken from a lucid dream about one of the characters in the novel I’m planning to write for next month’s NaNoWriMo. The details I’ve been struggling to come up with when fully conscious presented themselves, as if by magic, when I was semi-conscious. Not only that, when I fully woke up and jumped out of bed to write those details down, the ‘twist’ in the plot I’ve been scratching around for over the past few days popped into my head, just like that. All of a sudden I am no longer ill at ease with my plot, but positively in love with it. There may still be (many) details to work out before I’m ready to start writing it in thirteen days, but instead of dreading it I now can’t wait to get cracking.

THIS feeling is what the writing process is all about, and it’s a feeling I haven’t had for a long time. Sometimes it’s such a battle just coming up with a plot, let alone developing the characters to bring that plot alive. And my inner critic doesn’t help, making constant digs about not being good enough. That’s why I love NaNoWriMo; because for one month every year I can commit to a writing programme so intense there is no time for introspection and self-criticism. It’s pedal to the metal all the way to the finish line, and whilst it’s not easy it is exhilarating. And that’s what makes it worth every minute.

nanowrimo