I set an intention to get back on track today, after taking two weeks for “vacation,” that were not really a vacation. I started my morning with a strong workout. Gratitude. Incantations. Following all the steps to set myself up for an amazing and productive week.
I went to Union Square, to sit at a table outside in the sunshine. I would make a plan. Write out my outcomes for this week. Get organized.
I opened a new Evernote Moleskine notebook. Not the typical black notebook, but the larger format soft-cover version. I wanted lots of room to make lists and plans and perhaps sketch and draw.
New notebooks seem fitting in September. To me, this time of year always feels more like a new beginning than January 1. The Jewish New Year is around the corner. The change of seasons is palpable. Kids are going back to school. I used to love the start of a new school year. New notebooks and pens.
I love what new notebooks represent.
The blank pages, awaiting knowledge, information and possibilities.
A clean slate for new dreams and goals.
The possibility of starting fresh, without the mistakes of the past easily accessible.
I took out some markers. I’m going to juice it up and make it pretty. After a few weeks of stagnation, this will help me find my flow. I’m going to bring color and artistry to this notebook. This notebook will be special. This will be for my goals and plans. I have other notebooks for daily notes and to-do lists.
I started writing my outcomes for the week. I framed it in the positive, as though it was already done.
“Here is what I did this week:”
I started writing. I have a lot of outcomes, but none seemed to have any “juice” to them. They weren’t compelling me to act. I was still feeling lost. So many things I want to accomplish. I simply don’t know where to start. And these are not even my “action items.” These are the outcomes I want in my life. This week.
I decided to chunk it down further. I made a new list, limiting myself to the top 3 objectives for the week. I ready them, and they didn’t feel right. I made a new list. That didn’t feel right either.
What do I really want?
I don’t know.
What if I just write what comes to me?
Suddenly, the words flowed. Not the words I wanted. Not the direction I was seeking for what to do first, or what was most important.
These words were negative words. A vitriol of self-hate. Awful things that should never be said by anyone to anyone else. Awful things that I should never be saying to myself.
Why can’t I get myself to do the things I know I need to do?
Why am I struggling to get clarity around my mission and purpose?
For how much longer will I continue to waste my life?
What’s wrong with me?
I don’t deserve to be here.
There was more. It didn’t stop. Until it did.
I looked down at the page. Those nasty words in my handwriting. Saying those terrible things to me. They made me so angry. So sad.
I looked up at the sky. The sunshine had been replaced by grey clouds. I felt the chill of the fall air through my body and the moisture of tears in my eyes.
Why do I do this to myself?
Suddenly, the pen was in my hand and it was scribbling on the page. Crossing out what I wrote. The pen moved so furiously and with such aggression that it pierced the page. It was just a small rip, but that was enough. The small opening released the floodgates to my tears, and they flowed down my cheeks. The pen gained momentum, its sharp point tearing through the page and stirring up scraps of paper.
Just as quickly as it started, it stopped. The pen was back in the notebook’s crease, between the torn-up pages and the blank slate that lies ahead.
I looked down at the notebook. Ten minutes earlier, it was welcoming my plans and goals. Now, it’s a mess. Torn up. It’s promise of clarity and power replaced by frustration and anger and hopelessness and despair. I looked closer at the blank pages to the right. The paper wasn’t torn, but it bore the scars from the pen’s frantic scribbles. A reminder of the failure that started this new chapter.
New notebook. New week. Unlimited possibility. Torn up.
I felt the sting of the chilly air on my wet cheeks as the tears continued to flow.
I succumbed to hopelessness and despair today. I went home, ate lunch, and then ate a bowl of ice cream. I started to read a book, and my brain shut down. I took a nap. I gave up. I didn’t even try.
The demons won today.
. . .
[A few hours later…]
I was tempted to let the story end there, but I had committed to a networking dinner. I did not want to go. But I committed. I pulled myself up. I freshened up my makeup. I changed my clothes. I forced myself to smile in the mirror.
I needed music. Something to break my pattern of despair. Suddenly, I head the words in my head and I knew I had the perfect song. Enter Queen. The Show Must Go On. Thank you, Freddie Mercury.
I walked 22 blocks, listening to that song on repeat.
At first, I heard only the message of covering up my pain:
Inside my heart is breaking
My make-up may be flaking
But my smile still stays on
After a few listens, I started to hear the other parts of the message, about persistence:
I’ll face it with a grin
I’m never giving in
On – with the show –
I’ll top the bill, I’ll overkill
I have to find the will to carry on
By the time I reached the restaurant, I realized that in getting out of my apartment and getting to this dinner, I had defeated my demons.
Even just the act of putting a smile on my face is a victory today.
That, and waking up tomorrow to try again.