As is life for so many of us, the forces that be have piled a myriad of unforeseen circumstances on my already full plate.
Much of my current existence rests in limbo. Considering hitting “refresh” on my dryer has hit a record-high number; writing has fallen to the wayside. It doesn’t help that I am a messy human by nature. As much as I’d love to drop this adjective from my list of character traits, it fits. Like many of us, there are times I struggle with which life force to feed.
After a solid month (okay fine, two months) of not writing, a message popped through from one of my favorite people at Elephant Journal, letting me know I’d been nominated and accepted to become a Featured Author on the site.
Humbled, honored, and terrified, I said yes as the constricting self-judgment flooded in. Yes, I wanted this more than anything. I also wanted to cocoon myself back into the pre-Elephant times when my skeletons were not plastered across a website with millions of readers.
Because when life gets heavy, we crave solitude and anonymity.
Elephant embodies the mindful life, and I’ve recently been living in a space where my creativity and lightness are elusive. My messy side, on the other hand, has been insatiable. I haven’t been able to write. I’ve felt eating disorder thoughts creep into my head and my motivation to transcend life’s hardships replaced with a “f*ck it” mentality.
This scares me.
I know how much darkness and self-sabotage my little 5’3” frame can take on. I also know how powerful I can be—but like many of us right-brained creatives, I’m skilled in the arena of avoiding my passion and gifts in favor of leading a predominantly unexamined life.
As Elizabeth Gilbert so perfectly states, “When I am not actively creating something, chances are I am actively destroying something.”
For me, this “something” swings violently between my own self-worth and the external world around me. Not surprisingly, they run parallel to each another.
We’ve all been in the space where it feels pointless to soften and share ourselves in a vulnerable way, when life doesn’t seem to be softening with us. We’ve all known the feeling of wanting to shut down, versus showing up.
We’ve all felt the external world closing in around us, muzzling our voice, and combating the belief we can face adversity head-on.
I found myself questioning if my personal life, stories, and writing were in alignment with Elephant’s mission—and if I have the grit and skills to be a Featured Author on such a respected, highly-visible platform. All my articles to date have been uncomfortably honest and cloaked in vulnerability. Regardless of how mindfully they’re written, they expose every inch of my self-diagnosed messiness.
This is when I realized the mindful life is synonymous with an honest life. It’s one where we sit in discomfort, trust the process, and stay present. Authenticity is mindful. Transparency is mindful. Mindfulness is feeling unsettled within our own skin, but choosing to flow with what feeds us. And it’s easy to forget not everyone embodies these traits.
The key is to feel the desire to shrink, but demand the opposite of ourselves. This is when it’s imperative to go against our nature and show up, regardless of how ill-fitting it feels.
For me, this is when I need to write—often, honestly, and even forcefully. Like today.
When the vast pendulum of our life force can be as dark as it can light, we know our creative ventures fuel our well-being. Vulnerability is the path to hushing self-sabotage. It’s where we understand our capacity for redemption, yet many of us choose to evade the very thing that can set us free in the midst of chaos.
We’re funny creatures this way. We neglect to act on the experiences that fuel us—even when we know it’s our sustainable ticket through the labyrinth of self-doubt. Because the truth is that it’s easier to be vulnerable when we’ve sifted through our wreckage and life feels somewhat predictable. It’s more challenging to do so when we’re knee-deep in the muck and feel like we have nothing concrete to offer the world.
And that is where I’m at—immersed in what feels like quicksand and feeling unworthy of sharing any beneficial insight. Heck, I can’t even seem to get the laundry folded.
As writers, we’re often told to write about what we know, but when our external lives are overflowing with unpredictability, many of us forget that our wisdom can be found once our fingers hit the keyboard. Slipping happens slowly, and when we feel ourselves begin to lose our footing, this is when it’s important to douse ourselves in healthy outlets that ground us.
A close friend reminded me we can only do our work on this earth to the extent that we know what that work is. And sometimes, showing up for our lives in the midst of chaos is that work.
It’s being seen in our darkness: messy, afraid, and willing to acknowledge our blind spots. When we do this, the other work—be it setting boundaries, using our voice, or opening our hearts—presents itself with an unbarred invitation for us to heal.
Although today I feel like I know little about this life, I am here, showing up—less put together than I’d like to be, but doing the work to the extent that I know what that work is.
For the moment, here is what I know: being messy and mindful can co-exist within the same breath.
And maybe they’re meant to.
Maybe that’s the work.
Author: Rachel Dehler
Image: Flickr/PIX Fav
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy editor: Molly Murphy