Photo by Katja Schulz: Water Strider on Lily Lake, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Photo by Katja Schulz: Water Strider on Lily Lake, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

What did I come here to learn and what did I come here to teach?

They are the same thing. I always learn and teach at the same time.

Today I’m teaching and learning how to use writing to get myself unstuck and back on track.

Or is that too many things? One thing first, then another thing.

First of all, to get unstuck from writing, write. It sounds simple, perhaps cruelly so, but the truth is there are so many ways to write that getting stuck suggests being mired in a nonexistent substance. What is so gooey?

For me, there are a lot of things, and none of them “exist” in the physical world.

One of these is envy. Envy is what causes my heart to sink as soon as I look at someone else’s achievement and believe they are doing something better than me that I should also be doing, and doing better than I do.

To be specific, when I look at someone else who creates online products that others can download, I assume that since I don’t have such a thing out there, I must be doing the “creating online products that others can download” thing wrong.

Yet when was that my goal? Every time I consider it as a goal, I skitter away like a waterstrider, riding only on the surface, never dipping in, never getting wet.

The truth is I like to get wet. Yes, to call out the sex joke, I do like getting turned on. I also like swimming and walking in the rain. The analogy between my life and the waterstrider’s that I’m drawing, though, is the difference between a creature whose prime ability is to navigate the surface and one who prefers to dive deep. I don’t do well on the surface, with small talk and appearances and pretending to be happier than I am.

That is, when I pretend to be happier than I am, that’s when I fail. I succeed as a waterstrider and fail at being me.

That leads me to my personal guiding question, not precisely a mantra but a question I use to return to myself and stop thinking I can and want to create enough surface tension that I never get wet.

The question is: What would Pearl do if she were present?

She is, and I am. I am present in this moment, the only moment of reality I can hold on to, and now the moment is replaced by the current reality, and I’m swimming into the current. Or I’m charged up by the current. In either case, I’ve snapped back into place. I am Pearl, no waterstrider-wannabe, and I’m unhappy because I’m not getting to the right depths.

I’m pretending to be happy because I’m currently entertaining the odd notion (“Welcome, Odd Notion, come in and take a seat!”) that I can’t let anyone know just how bad things are. I can’t even figure out how to measure the howness of the badness.

Lately, whenever I think I need to complain in public / on Facebook / in the lobby between acts, I decide to re-examine what is going well. Here are some things that are going well and that reveal what is stirring in the depths:

  • I work for myself. I am my own boss and my sole employee. That means that the business runs precisely in tune with my mood and state of being. If I’m in a slow state of being in which I spend time pondering, my business is ponderous, and my cash flow is like very slow lava. (There’s a name for that substance, but if I stop writing ad look it up, I know that the current moment will change distractingly.)
  • I am free to do emotional eating, and there are some very tasty treats in my literal larder: homemade cornbread (of which I am the sole author and primary consumer), fresh oranges and grapefruits, strawberry ice cream, Trader Joe’s sundried tomato & cheese sourdough toasts, sliced cheese or salami. In other words, I may be carrying a few extra pounds but I don’t have to go hungry.
  • I can choose at almost any moment what to do with that moment or the next. (I pay a lot of money to finance my kids’ education in precisely that way at The Clearwater School.) Some of my choices are directly harmful to myself (e.g., playing my favorite computer games until my arm hurts, knitting until my arm hurts, writing online until my eyes hurt, sitting still until my feet and butt hurt… see the pattern?)
  • I live in Seattle. Though its fortunes fluctuate and it is far from perfect, it is my home and I feel comfortable everywhere I go. The air smells right. The trees are always green. You can see mountains and lakes while driving down the freeway. It suits me.
  • My family loves me and I love them. Most of them are still alive, and the ones who are gone left lots of memories behind are part of my identity.

As I write this I find myself gradually returning to myself. The lubrication of writing these thoughts down gets me unstuck. I am reminded of what I am good at — writing — and doing that thing I’ve always wanted to spend my time doing — writing.

I am reminded that as familiar as the inside of my head is to me, like the taste of my own mouth or the view of my hands, there are many things I don’t pay attention to.

Attention is important, I know that much, in terms of getting unstuck.

And getting unstuck is the first step to getting back on track.

And now that I have something written down that I can read without throwing up (which applies to almost everything I write down), I can see that I’ve gotten myself back on track. I’ve written something publishable, readable, not too scary, and written in order to refresh my self-kindness.

Today, writing this was what it took.

I’m putting together an online event with my faraway friend Jo Gillibrand on writing and self-kindness, currently called Composing Yourself. To get on the mailing list so you can hear about event developments as they unfold, go here.

And if you have your own strategy for getting yourself unstuck or back on track or both, I’d love to have you share it in the comments.