The Reinvention of Me: Reinventing the Pause

Every. Single. Time.

Every single time, I am utterly, jaw-droppingly shocked to find that I keep struggling with the same things. Every. Single. Time.

This is gonna be messy. Welcome to my brain.

I like to be right. (Are you shocked? You’re shocked, aren’t you?) This need to be right has thwarted my goals on multiple occasions. It’s not an I-don’t-care-what-anyone-else-thinks need; it’s an I-don’t-wish-to-say-anything-unless-I-can-prove-it-100% need. It’s eroded in social media because everything moves so quickly and I make mistakes. Still, I purposely threw math races in elementary school because I’d rather sit down and not risk being wrong. Going to court made me physically ill. Why? Because I never quite felt prepared. Had I considered everything? All the questions? All their answers?

Enter The Right to Be Forgotten, my little serialized novel in progress. This story began on my blog one day when I took a nebulous idea, a very deep breath, and a chance. I chanced that I would write and put that writing out into the world. Immediately. This notion directly counters my need to be right. I had no outline. I had no editing. I had no clue where the story would end up. I just had this little thought based on a news article I read. On the scale of brave things, this is, you know, way, way, WAY down on the list. But on the scale of brave things done by Amanda, it’s kinda high. (I am aware that’s just sad.)

I’ve been telling this story for over a year. Why? Fits and starts. Because sometimes I think, I don’t have enough information to write the next bit. Or I think, have I contradicted something I’ve already written? Or I wonder if I can write brand new legislation no one else has. Or I just plain forget that it’s written in first person present tense.

The end is now in sight. In my Scrivener file, I have the days for posting listed – each Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday through the end of October. I’ve written the posts through the end of August. I know where it’s going, where it will end.

A few weeks ago, I did this thing. I waited. That sounds benign, right? It’s not. Not always. For me, waiting can be a depression flag planted firmly, nearly immovably in my path. Which comes first? The depression or the waiting? Well, I think it depends on the circumstances. This time around, the waiting came first.

Part Sixty-Eight came due to be posted. I felt sick. I felt scared. Not terrified, just depression scared. Of things for which I had no words.

I wanted to get it right. I wanted to be sensitive to readers. I wanted to use the right words in the right order to express this idea I thought so compelling. I wanted to anticipate every argument and have a ready response. I fretted and wondered and worried. But I still had a few days before it would post.

In a conversation with my sister, I explained my conundrum and she lent me one of her friends. She does that. Just ask. If you have a problem, she knows someone with some wisdom to give you a new perspective, and she loves to share. Most things. Anyway, I reached out to her friend, who graciously agreed to read the upcoming part. So I sent it.

And I waited.

Throughout my writing life, I’ve struggled with the process at times. I absolutely have sent a query and then waited, accomplishing nothing. I have finished a story and sat on it, figuratively, waiting for the right moment to put it into the world. But I promised myself to do this no more.

This is not that whole practice-the-pause thing. You’ve seen that uncredited quote: “When in doubt, pause; when angry, pause; when tired, pause; when stressed, pause; and when you pause, PRAY.”

I mean, I’m not going to argue against prayer. The reason most quotes can’t be the sole basis for life is that they are self-limiting. Sometimes doubt needs to be answered with faith. Sometimes anger should catalyze a response. Sometimes weariness must be pushed through. Sometimes stress must be answered, resolved, converted into action. And you can pray while doing all those things.

You see, I have waited. In the months before I had my first baby in arms, I waited. I waited for things to be complete instead of being complete all along. Waiting can be soul-sucking. Waiting is what you do when the dementors come to kiss you. Waiting – not dying – is the antithesis of living. Waiting can steal your job, your confidence, your power, your faith, your life. Waiting is how you end up too late and never enough.

That’s what I did. Again. Even though I had promised myself I wouldn’t. I waited. And life being what it is, my sister’s friend had actual obligations and real life stuff that superseded an immediate sensitivity reading. I totally get that. But it took me almost two weeks to delete the pause, to stop waiting.

During the wait, I barely wrote a fraction of my word count daily. In that time, I stopped moving forward every story. I stopped moving forward my own real-live personal story. When the fog of waiting dissipated I understood what had happened, I just struggled to believe it had happened. Again.

I sent a (hopefully) friendly message to my sister’s friend and decided to post the installation one week ago yesterday. I retained the Author’s Note like a trigger warning for some unsuspecting reader. And I posted it. (And, for what it’s worth, I did pray that I had written something meaningful and not harmful.)

Hold the pause or delete it? The answer rests squarely within discernment. Because most quotes can’t fit every life all the time. There are times we shouldn’t rush to action, word, judgement. There are times we need to cool off, readjust, let things breathe.

But there are times to call out our own waiting as procrastination, a stunted action, an unhelpful withholding, or a depressive state.

And always – ALWAYS – there is something to do instead of wait.

The Reinvention of Me: Flexibility

Part of my reinvention theme this year has embraced: less planning, more doing. For an anxious, depressed procrastinator, that’s huge. I adore a good plan and I enjoy a bad plan over no plan at all. I’ve said before that the worst of the postpartum depression in 2008/2009 robbed me of spontaneity. It made me inflexible. I simply had no capacity to be whimsical.

My family learned that they had to suggest things early and often, otherwise I might have just shut down. My parents, both of whom I trust with all that I am, couldn’t come over and offer to take the boys off my hands. I’d freak out. Over time it became easier for them to call and ask to take the boys somewhere and for me to say, ‘let me think about that’. I’d need a few minutes or many minutes to acclimate to the idea.

I could not handle small changes in schedules, like Husband driving to Tulsa for a work commitment. I lived by a schedule. It was my lifeline.

When I returned my children to physical school in January, my mom came to sit with me. She helped me negotiate the big fears I had in their absence. I needed a schedule. I needed a piece of paper that told me what to do so that I wouldn’t waste away from waiting.

For those first months, the schedule was elegant with only a bare minimum of items: take boys to school, start the washer, set out something for dinner, eat lunch, finish laundry, pick up boys. Then I added volunteering at the school library. My mom and I settled into a pattern of working on Indelible Words.

Then the end of May arrived and my kids were with me again. The deep breath I’d been holding all rushed from me. Instead of setting up a minute-by-minute schedule, I set up a point system. It gave me time to work, them things to do and opportunities to work through boredom, and all of us a flexible plan.

I began posting in earnest. I wrote a crude schedule and focused on staying ahead (if only a little). It felt overwhelming sometimes as the tide rose and fell.

The last weekend in June, I created a brand new production schedule. I wanted to see my goals. It still isn’t a minute-by-minute guide but it helps me visualize my daily needs. How many words do I need to write per day? Per week? How do I want to proceed in finishing books I have underway? The production schedule answered that. It allowed me to keep a consistent word count while moving between and among projects.

I set it to begin July 1. Every day doesn’t look the same. I have to remind myself of the big goals and allow myself the flexibility for life to happen.