Thursday, February 1, 2018
Writing is and has never been far from my soul, but given that various personal factors were consuming my mind and heart, nothing was making sense. Nothing worked. Words jumbled. Emotions blurred. Fingers froze. I wanted to write. I needed to write. I knew that if I simply wrote something, ANYTHING, that that would be the answer. Sure occasionally I had a few moments of clarity and inspiration, and a first chapter would be written, a few plots fleshed out, and a few ideas entertained and written down.
But I never got further than those false starts, idea jotting, plot scheming. But, I kept telling myself, at least I still have the desire, the passion, and the want.
It just wasn’t the right time for me.
But still guilt consumed my soul; self-doubt made me nauseous. Was I now a has-been? Was I washed up? Was the writer I was before a total sham? Was I a fraud? Was that life I had over?
Yet, the desire, passion and want – never mind all the plot scheming, idea generating, and false starts – never left me. All that guilt, self-doubt and nausea was a mere second to the passion, desire and want that I knew was still there. I just needed to NOT write for a while. I had to give myself permission to NOT write. I had to allow myself to let go of the guilt, ignore the self-doubt, and simply take a Gravol for the nausea.
Because deep down I knew I was a writer and always would be a writer. Maybe I was in a writer’s mid-life crisis, I don’t know. And I know even as I write this, I’m still not there, and I have to keep pushing away the guilt-laden mantra ‘you’re only a ‘writer’ if you’re writing.’
Well – screw the mantra.
I would write when the time was right, and when I was ready. When I had sorted through my SELF and when I knew it would feel right. I kept pushing myself – flogging a dead horse, as it were – and trying for something that wasn’t meant to be AT THAT TIME. And the more I pushed for something that wasn’t there – that wasn’t meant to be – the worse it got.
I didn’t need anyone else’s idea of what a writer is ‘supposed to be’ to define who I know I am.
So back to the archery.
With all that was going on in my life, I had a focus – something bigger than me, something different than me, and something beyond me – and that was archery. It could have been pickle ball, curling, bowling, or cricket – I don’t think it would have mattered. But archery has become something bigger than I had ever imagined for myself. It has been something that has kept me active and moving. Something that has kept me moving forward and not back. You HAVE to erase all that is bugging you at the time in the moment of each shot. The sport has had me toughening up mentally – it truly IS a game of mental strength – and has had me learning how to deal with highs, lows, competition and intimidation. But most of all, I have had to learn to get out of my own head - get out of my own way. Because recently I learned I was my own worst enemy. No snotty competitor, no ‘big shot’ who would try to cut me down because I’m a girl (happens everywhere), and no injury could truly bring me down. Only allowing any of those to get into my head would bring me down, and that would be my fault if I let them in, not theirs. I had to learn that I was responsible for letting people or situations get in my own way. I had to get stronger and tougher. I had to remember that during times of weakness that I was so much more than the guy or girl who could try to knock me down - and most of the time that girl was me.
And that doesn’t just apply to archery.
I realized recently that I was responsible for letting things get to me. People or situations, stress or sadness, could not rule me. I had accomplished so much – in life, in my writing, in my little archery ‘career’ that was only in its infancy – so why would I let little things get into my head?
As I write this – see? I AM writing – my archery club has started a 13-week tournament were registrants from across Canada sign up and each week your score is submitted and tallied against others in your respective category. At the end of the 13 weeks, your top 6 scores get averaged, and a winner in each category is announced.
I won gold last year.
I won gold despite during the whole 13 weeks I was a stressed out wreck. Truly. But I get like that. I overthink, I over-do, I over-worry. It’s supposed to be fun! It’s supposed to be engaging! Why was I acting and feeling like a freak?
But of course, I got in my own way.
Back-track for a moment to the Spring where I went to a national championship in Maple Ridge. It was my goal to go – just to know, for ME, that I had done that. I had no hopes of winning anything – I was up against big shots – but I wanted to know for MYSELF that I had done that. And despite sitting in the parking lot of the range crying after practice the first day there – I was overwhelmed, felt like a fool and felt like I was way beyond in-over-my-head – I forged on in 32degree temperatures with non-existent mascara that had melted away in the heat and came in fourth.
And I sang the whole way home in the car knowing I had done that. I. HAD. DONE. THAT.
Little old me.
So fast forward to the beginning of January and that 13-week tournament. I’m not cocky, nor over-confident, but I was secure in the knowledge that I could do this – look at all I had accomplished! – and I had the experience both technically and mentally to do things like this.
The first day I was calm. No problem. I can do this. I was prepared for a few false starts, which is natural, and the slate was clean – last year’s gold meant nothing now. I had to just do what I could do NOW.
And of course, I lost it. I stressed, shook, sweated and near-barfed. I got myself so psyched out for no reason. I let other competitors get into my head. My equipment went wonky. I had cramps. Outside life stresses weighed me down.
And my first scores were horrid.
And my second scores were horrid.
I lost sleep.
My heart raced.
I couldn’t shake it off the panicking, all-consuming feelings that made my heart race and my spit dry up.
I had to get my mental game on and I couldn’t.
I fell back on what I knew how to do, and what WOULD help.
I didn’t write about this immediate tournament, I wrote about that national championship that I had done.
Chicken Soup for the Soul recently had a call for submissions for an upcoming book ‘The Empowered Woman.’ True, I hadn’t been ‘writing’ lately, but as I said above writing was never far from my mind. I knew I wanted to do a story for this book, but was hesitant – how could I empower others if I, frankly, wasn’t exactly feeling very empowered? What kind of a sham would I be even entertaining writing a story for them on this topic give my constant state of self-doubt?
But I knew – or at least hoped – that maybe my perseverance and accomplishment of my goal of competing in that national championship MIGHT hopefully inspire someone. I hoped that my own sense of empowerment, independence and confidence gained from competing in that tournament might help someone to do something beyond their insecurities.
I knew the deadline was sometime in January, so I had to be quick. I knew I had write about what I had done during that national competition to not only help someone else (if they published it), but mostly I had to write about it to for myself. I had to remember what I CAN do, would I COULD do, and what I HAD achieved. If I was going to get through these 13 weeks, I had to get out of my way and remember a mantra I had come up with after that national tournament – ‘If I can do THAT, I can do anything!’
So I wrote about the experience – and finished it in a day. I wrote SOMETHING and FINISHED it! Writing gave me perspective. It was cathartic.
It was empowering.
It was timely.
And it was only after I finished and patted myself on the back did I think ‘gee, I better go check on the deadline for that.’
I wrote it on January 9.
The deadline was January 10th.
Well if that wasn’t meant to be, I don’t know what was....
The act of writing my accomplishment – which was both self-serving and hopefully an inspiration to someone else – along with other mental strengthening tactics I acquired, I settled myself down and have, as of today, competed twice more in the 13-week tournament CALMLY and without self-doubt. Without negative thought. I refuse to feel that stress again – this is supposed to be fun! – and I refuse to let anyone get into my head – especially if that someone is me. My last two scores were better than I had ever imagined – but it wasn’t about the scores. It was about me getting out of my own way – out of my own head.
All I had to do was write.