So. Well….This is awkward…
It has clearly been a long, long while since I have published anything on my site. To be exact, I haven’t written a piece since 2021 rolled over. I have an unfinished draft of a piece I was writing on depression that also spoke to how I was feeling during the late winter months of the pandemic. I have an unfinished piece on grief and many bullet point ideas that haven’t been touched. I have had invitations to be a guest on podcasts, and also to develop content on other sites and programs. Everything has been left in stasis gathering that dust.
This piece right here is for all of my fellow writers, creatives, and people who start up projects, promptly neglect and abandon them, and then revive those said projects (hopefully), or just feel guilty about having half-baked creative efforts. What the fuck is up with that?
I am sure many of you reading this identify with this avoidance dynamic. It shows up even with things that we value and things that we hold as important (especially true for those of you with ADHD—you are not lazy or procrastinators, but I digress into another hopeful blog post). I had a good feeling about keeping up with this writing practice this time around because I viewed it as a part of my job too. I have always been a diligent worker so of course I wouldn’t let this website go right? Well, it turns out when you have a good group therapy practice that you work with at Virginia Family Therapy, you don’t actually need your own site for marketing. This site has actually been a project for myself, and also a part of my own legacy work, which is something I constantly think about being a grief focused therapist. More on legacy and grief later.
When we start up projects and practices of any sort that we value and label as important in our lives, and then inevitably abandon those projects for long periods of time, what does that mean? I think it can often feel like an abandoning of a tending to ourselves. What an awful thought. The longer and longer we notice we are not engaging in that important value, the more and more avoidance can mount. Its avoidance of shame with not working on ourselves. Before we know it, that project that is so important to us has been offered solitary confinement in the recesses of our mind because, hey, the rest of life is chalk full of shit to keep up with.
So, if this dilemma isn’t avoidance of work, isnt avoidance of self care, and sure as shit isnt laziness (that doesn’t exist, and I will die on that hill), what the fuck is going on?
Here is a helpful way to think about it. We don’t always avoid activities or people, but we do often avoid our own emotional reactions to these things. We avoid our internal experiences that come up as a result of not doing something, or doing something that is inconsistent with who we want to be. For me, I haven’t been avoiding my writing, per se, but I have absolutely been avoiding letting myself down, feeling like a failure, and feeling like I am not enough. The irony? I often provide therapy around how this avoidance impacts our daily lives, our identities, and our relationships. My forehead is still red from the facepalms.
*A quick caveat on internal experiential avoidance…Not all avoidance of internal experiences are unhelpful. Sometimes avoidance is protective, insignificant in the larger scheme of our life, or allows us to triage what we attend to. So how do we know when avoidance is unhelpful and leading to a painful pattern like the one I have captured? What do we do about it?
Notice—- What is your mind telling you about the project or experience that you want to engage in? Here is just a snippet of what my mind tells me about my blogging project:
“I can’t keep up with writing (something that I love to do), even though I stepped outside of a 9-5 job to be able to make more time to do this. I will never be able to keep up with everything I need to do. People probably don’t even care about what I put out on the internet, so what’s the point? Look at everyone else keeping up with writing, podcasting, while they are working and supporting a family. How come I can’t get my shit together?” The mind train takes off fast. It takes off so fast and has so many of these heavy cars to it, why the hell would I want to try and face that? It would be like stepping in front of that entire train.
Distill—- If that thought stream was heard as advice from a loving friend or family member for how to overcome your concern, would it be felt as supportive, helpful, or wise? If not, we can identify that these thoughts and feelings are only contributing to a narrative of our deficits, which is a toxic narrative to work from when trying to exercise our creativity.
Allow for flexibility and gaps in attention —- Cultivating curiosity around your own creative pacing can be crucial to allowing yourself space to complete tasks and projects that are important to you. Remind yourself of what you value. This can cue you into taking actions in ways that are consistent to who you want to be, but, again, that doesn’t mean that the pacing, or speed of production with how you interact with this part of you is set in stone.
Working from a grief counseling lens, I would view these hiatuses as parts of struggling with grief. Creating and creativity are inherently legacy building parts of ourselves, which we can act on. When these feel stunted, jeopardized, or unreachable, we feel the profound loss of ourselves, of what we could be accessing, of who we could be reaching, of how we could be connecting. Oofph.
So what do we do about this grief? Don’t shy away from it. Allowing yourself to open up to disappointment, shame, sadness, anger, frustration, or whatever comes up for you, is necessary in acknowledging the loss you are feeling. When we can more fully acknowledge and open up to that sense of loss, we are able to free ourselves up to take action, rather than simply judge ourselves.
Remember, grief complicates in isolation, and even more so when bathed in shame. Reach out. Connect with those who know you and inspire you.
So here I am, acknowledging the profound loss that I have experienced over these past 6+ months, and what I have been avoiding. I have connected with others and myself in ways that have allowed me to come back to the well and continue my legacy work. One more drop in the legacy pool.