Nowhere To Go

Photo by Nick Abrams on Unsplash

I’ve got nowhere to go and all day to get there.

I’ve heard my dad say these words many times in the years since his retirement—usually when I’m worried about inconveniencing him or taking up more of his time than I intended to—but never before have I actually related to them.

Although time itself is the same today as it was six weeks ago, it feels different somehow. Slower. Pre-pandemic this was a concept I couldn’t even grasp. I may not have had somewhere to go every day, but I always had plenty on my to-do list, along with a perpetually deficient number of hours in which to get it done. I was goal oriented, achievement focused, and if I’m being honest, completely exhausted.

Looking back, I can’t seem to pinpoint the purpose of all the busyness. I rushed and planned and hustled and called it progress. But what was I progressing toward? Prosperity? Success? Proof of my own worthiness? It all feels trivial in light of current events. Events that are so uncertain and uncomfortable that talk of returning to normal fills many people with anticipation, and understandably so. But if ‘back to normal’ means a reversion to the hectic and hurried, I’m not exactly chomping at the bit to get there.

Sure, there’s a part of me that wants and needs some things to become ordinary once again—like seeing loved ones in person and attending church and frequenting other favorite places—but there’s another, possibly larger part that wants to keep one foot cemented in that slowed-down, nowhere to go pace.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe that perspective is one of the greatest benefits of this strange time. One that can endure and change us if we allow it to. One that reminds us that the freedom to do anything, go anywhere, have anything, doesn’t mean we necessarily should.

If the thought of getting back to normal fills you with a sense of urgency, along with a simultaneous feeling of hesitation, I encourage you to pause before jumping in with both feet. Realize that the nowhere to go and all day to get there mentality isn’t reserved only for retirement. And take some time to reflect on what really matters, what’s necessary, and how much of the past you want to haul into the future.

Today’s To-Do List: Give Gratitude

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I’m a fan of to-do lists, of the sense of order and accomplishment they create. How simply jotting something down frees up memory space, along with the concern of forgetting to do it. My current planner is arranged nicely for this purpose, each day complete with two separate action lists: one for professional stuff and one for personal.

Just three short weeks ago that work list was extensive. It included things like daily gratitude (a practice that was, at the time, in its infancy), Facebook and Twitter post planning, brainstorming blog ideas and talking points for the next Write Way Wednesday video, and working on Book #2. More than all of that though, that list was alive with the promise of progress.

In my system, I use black checkmarks for completions, green dots for things I worked on but didn’t quite finish, and red dashes for the items I didn’t get to, those needing to be carried over to the next day. Looking at that Monday back in March I noticed there were more checkmarks than dots or dashes.

That day marked the start of the second week that my husband was working from home. The second week that we were encouraged to stay in as much as possible. As an introverted writer who already spends a great majority of her time at home, I was not prepared for how much this change would affect me.

I did not anticipate the roller-coastering emotions that would leave me weepy and lethargic and unproductive. I did not foresee the dwindling to-do list checkmarks or that some days my expectations for myself would be as low as my energy and the list would diminish to almost nothing.

But even on the days when my motivation wanes and my productivity withers, one thing has remained at the top of that to-do list: gratitude. And now that I’m four weeks into what has become a habitual practice, I realize how important it has been. How much I have depended on that small, daily dose of thankfulness to give me perspective, to uplift my spirit, to fuel my hope.

So if your energy is lacking, your patience worn thin, and you feel as if you can give nothing else of yourself today, I encourage you to give thanks. Find just one thing for which you are grateful and write it down, hold it close to your heart, and embrace it.

This may seem an impossible task during these relentless days of sameness, but it is the slowed down nature of life right now that is affording us the opportunity to notice more, appreciate more, and be more present. Though there is so much unknown and so much that is out of our control, what we do hold is the power to open our eyes, lift up our hands, and offer to God our greatest prayers of thanksgiving.

What are you grateful for today?

Saying The Right Thing

Photo by Daniel Fazio on Unsplash

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and immediately afterward you wondered if you’d said the right thing?

The right thing.

I’ve been thinking about that phrase for a while now, pondering its meaning. There are opinions about it everywhere. How-to articles for saying the right thing even when you don’t know what to say. Blog posts enumerating the right things to say in the case of death or divorce or despair. Books offering instruction for saying the right thing not just sometimes, but every time.

Can you imagine? Getting blindsided with bad news, yet being promptly prepared with the right words of comfort. Or having some helpful wisdom snap to the forefront of your mind at the very moment a friend reaches out for advice.

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure that’s ever happened to me. I’m not sure I’ve ever come up with the exact right thing to say at the exact moment I needed to say it. I mean, I’m a writer. Sometimes it takes me three, four, even a dozen or more tries to get the dialogue right in a scene.

But this is real life and unfortunately we don’t get to go back to edit and re-edit what we say, nor do we often have a lot of time to come up with it. In most situations we only get one shot. And sometimes I wonder if the pressure of needing to say precisely the right thing (or else risk ridicule or criticism) may lead to a lot of not saying anything at all, or worse yet, not showing up at all.

Because on the flip side of the right thing is, of course, the wrong thing. But maybe that is an illusion as well. A conclusion based solely on our own expectations and perceptions. A ruling that does not take into account the other person’s intentions. Their attempt to understand our experience, to offer the best guidance they can.

And shouldn’t that be what matters most? Response over rightness. Effort over exactitude. Presence over perfection. Maybe that’s all it really takes to always say the right thing.

Write Way Wednesday April 1 Recap

For the past many months of Wednesdays, my face has popped via Facebook video to share a writing update, as well as offer a message of encouragement. It has been my intention to build a community of support by starting discussions pertaining to goals and growth. I hoped that by opening up about my novel-writing and personal development struggles and strides, I could prove to you (and myself) that progress is indeed possible on these sometimes difficult dream-chasing journeys.

Undoubtedly, my passion for creating these connections has not changed, although a great deal of other things have. And as our days continue on in this uncertain limbo, I, like many of you I’m sure, have been working to revamp my definition of normal. Right now, I’m not sure what that is. Much like our current global situation, there are a lot more questions than answers.

What I do know is that when I started planning this week’s blog and social media posts, rather than feeling energized and excited, I felt a bone-deep exhaustion. Normally, when that happens I push through it with an internal pep talk filled with key words like accountability and consistency and algorithms. I repeat the mantras that have kept me going in the past: Rise up. Show up. Don’t quit. But as we all know, things are not normal.

So this time, when I felt that need for a break, I simply said okay. Something I’ve realized in the midst of this pandemic, is that we have the opportunity to sharpen our listening skills. And that starts with listening to ourselves. That might mean taking a step back to reevaluate our time. It might mean pausing to reflect on our focus. It might mean asking: What’s possible today? What’s essential now? What old habits and routines do I want to carry forth into the other side of this?

I don’t yet have a complete picture of what this looks like for myself, but it will involve writing. I’ll still be seeking representation/publication for my first novel and working on the second. I’ll still be writing to my email friends with periodic updates and a quarterly newsletter. I’ll still be active on this blog and on Facebook, where I’ll continue to practice daily gratitude and encourage you to pursue your own dreams and goals. The difference is that my posts may become less structured, less involved, less wordy. But if there’s another thing I’ve learned of late, it’s that oftentimes less is more.

So, if today is a tough day for you too, dear friend, remember to give yourself grace. You don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to use up your last shred of energy. You don’t have to run on empty. Sometimes, all you can do is just what you can do. And that is okay.

(PS – If you’re reading this and you aren’t on my email list, get thee to the home page and sign up. This is the best way to stay informed as my e-friends are the first to receive writing news, plus encouragement and other fun stuff not found anywhere else. And be sure to invite your friends, because I truly believe that life is made more beautiful through community.)