Episode 35: The well is dry

In which our protagonist sheepishly admits that yes, she did miss an episode

So the eagle-eyed among you, dear readers, may have noticed this missive was missing from your inbox last week. Truth be told, I’m tired, heading back towards the danger zone, and that means I’ve been getting a bit less attentive to these episodes. Publish dates have been slipping. It’s taken me a lot longer than necessary to write them. I’ve struggled to think of things to tell you, putting way too much pressure on myself to have pearls of wisdom when actually my body and brain have been screaming for rest.

What’s the best thing to do when that happens? Why, yes, you’re right: the best thing to do is to sign up for a tight-deadline writing marathon. 

In the weeks after I stepped down from another volunteer position because it (and my exhaustion) was running out of control, I thought the right thing for me to do would be to spend 72 hours writing a novel(la) for a Canadian-based competition. Dear reader, it floored me - but it also showed me the value of community, of celebrating our achievements, of banding together to push through the mess. I wrote in a 24 hour Zoom room with people from all over the world, and they are all glorious humans.

That was an important lesson for me: whereas in previous years I’ve dismissed the experience as “I just did some writing”, this year I have been pushed to recognise the enormity of what I did. I wrote a frickin’ novella in three days, from scratch, with no planning. And I might even go back to it and polish it for submission somewhere. So thank you, dear London Writers Salon 3DN-ers, for the comradeship.

Yes, I didn’t write and send a self(ish) missive last week because I wrote a 20,000-word horror novella inspired by sleep paralysis in three days instead. It wasn’t a conscious choice, an either/or scenario, but at the end of it I was crazy exhausted. My burnout was burned out. And while I had every intention of writing the missive on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday when I ended up spending Tuesday in bed, by the time it reached Thursday I just plain forgot to do it.

The need is real

Forgetting stuff is a big signal for me. It’s a neon sign that says, ok, you ignored the exhaustion, you ignored the feelings of futility, you ignored the grumpiness, so now I’m going to make you forget important things and then you’ll feel really, really bad. Forgetting stuff says oi, the next step is collapsing in a public place, so get on with the recovery.

No, I’m not going to apologise for missing a missive; in fact, I’m going to do the opposite. I’m going to lean into the missing missive, and add a few more. Maybe.

Dear reader, I have an actual holiday coming up. Later this week, in fact. I last left the country in June 2019; it was the beginning of February 2020 when I last slept in a bed other than my own bed under my own roof. These are all pre-plague - do you remember that time? The Before Times? The sad truth is both the other half and I were so desperately in need of a holiday that we booked a week in Tenerife in March last year, just to bum around a hotel complex, swim, and drink cocktails (very unlike us). We were due to fly out the day after Spain closed its territorial borders, so that clearly didn’t happen. A week later, we were in lockdown ourselves. We started this strange and “unprecedented” time already ready to give up and give in - you can imagine what we’re like now. And I am clearly putting way too much pressure on this break to cure all ills and I’ve ruined it already, haven’t I?

Honestly, I cannot wait to be not-here. I really am under no delusions that this break will clear my head, put pep in my step and make me all better. But I do know it will help me to start refilling the well - a concept I am stealing wholeheartedly from Julia Cameron. Ms Artists Way talks about the artist’s need to be self-nourishing, to be “alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them”. The same goes for our mental wellbeing in more general terms. I’ve spent years and years and years ignoring the well, just letting a bit of rainwater trickle into it every now and then. This year of being self(ish) is my attempt at trying to re-dig the reservoir, give it a new lease of life. Yet, it’s very difficult to do that - nigh on impossible, actually - when you barely leave your f***ing house for 18 months. 

This week, I will try to change that. Bring on clear air, still waters and an environment that is not south London.

Dear reader, my wish this week is that you also spend some time filling your well. I may or may not write next week; I will see what the water levels are like.

Until then, look after yourself, ok? You deserve better.

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The week ahead 🗓

The plan is: no plans. Rest only. Oh, and driving to Scotland for my cousin’s wedding, and meeting up with some lovely people along the way.  

On the stereo 🎧

The Vaccines, Back in Love City

No jokes about the band name - these guys are seriously one of my all-time faves. And there’s a new album! As the years progress, The Vaccines get less fuzzy/spiky - this one has synths, surf guitar and, of course, anthemic choruses. A great summer record coming out just as summer ends.

Off the shelf 📚

Burnout, by Emily and Amelia Nagoski

This has been recommended to me so many times that I couldn’t ignore it anymore. It also turned out it was already sitting on my shelf - somewhat hidden behind the Casio keyboard I bought as a lockdown project that has never been touched - waiting for me to read it, but we won’t talk about that bit. I’m only a couple of chapters in, but the ding-ding-ding of recognition has been so loud I’m sure the neighbours could hear it. Just the concept that we feel “stuck” because we don’t “complete the stress cycle” in the modern world is mind-blowing. More on this in a future missive. 

“Emotions, at their most basic level, involve the release of neurochemicals in the brain, in response to some stimulus….Left to their own devices, emotions - these instantaneous, whole-body reactions to some stimulus - will end on their own... In short, emotions are tunnels. If you go all the way through them, you get to the light at the end. Exhaustion happens when we get stuck in an emotion.”

Visual confirmation 📷

Friday 10 September marked the 21st anniversary of my father’s passing. So many years pass, and it becomes almost another day - but this one, this one was different. From here on in, for every day I live beyond this point, I’ve lived more days without him in my life than I did with him. He passed less than a month after my 21st birthday; I’m now 42, and he’s been gone 21 years. This was a tough one. Miss you, dad. Lots.

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