I hope you all had a lovely Christmas!
Ours was great – happy, joyful and relatively relaxed. My sister Holly is here visiting from the states and we spent the holidays eating delicious meals with lovely friends.
I couldn’t help thinking the whole time how lucky I am to have such a wonderful community of people here in Playa del Carmen to celebrate my first Mexican Christmas with.
Christmas is always a time of reflection for me, a chance to look back and see what the year was actually about. It has certainly been an introspective one. Living in one place and developing a routine has allowed me the luxury of focusing inward, and I have done some very important belly button gazing for which I will be forever grateful for.
It’s also been a slightly frustrating one.
When we decided to live in Playa del Carmen for a whole year, I envisaged myself being highly productive and creative. I had a dream of writing a book, a memoir, and thought a year would give me a chance to make a good dent in it.
As it turned out, I made a tiny ding before coming up against about a million self-imposed road blocks.
The book is about my journey, both around the world and within myself, so it was an extremely emotional process to delve into memories which are usually far from thought in my daily life.
I began writing about my parallel journey of recovery from addiction for the first time and found it very difficult. Something didn’t feel right and I felt like I was side-stepping and sugar-coating the truth out of shame and fear (even though no-one was reading it).
I wasn’t ready.
So, I let it go.
It felt forced, was making me frustrated, depressed and overly ‘emo’. I didn’t want to spend my year in that state, so I put the project to the side and focused on other things.
I went to the beach, to yoga, developed my blog, volunteered, did some freelance writing for local companies, travelled, jumped out of a plane, hung out with friends, focused on my recovery and watched a lot of reality TV.
In fact, I ‘handed over’ my dream of writing a book to my higher power (who I sometimes call God and sometimes call The Universe and sometimes I call Creative Spirit and sometimes anything-that-isn’t-me, depending on what mood I’m in), by throwing my hands up and saying,
“You can have this! I don’t know what I’m doing or if this is right for me and I honestly have no idea if this story needs to be told or if I am completely insane for wanting to write a book about myself, so, please take it and show me the way forward from here.”
And I let it go.
Maybe I wasn’t meant to write a book.
After a few months, however, thoughts of writing it returned. Ideas took root within me and the story began to take on more shape in my mind.
I call it ‘marinating’, because that is what it has felt like. The story has developed in potency and flavour throughout the year and at certain times, usually very inconveniently just before going to sleep at night, something will pop into my mind and I’ll begrudgingly scribble it in my notebook or make a note on my phone so I can let it go and get some sleep.
This blog has been a very important part of the process, helping to shift a lot of fear I had about sharing intimate details of my life (thanks to all of you who have been so encouraging and supportive). When I started it in late 2011, I had no intention of writing about my recovery from alcoholism, but this year I felt compelled to.
Even then, I wasn’t sure it was the right thing to do. I ran it past people, prayed about it and then when I still felt drawn to write about it, I trusted my motives were aligned with helping others and went ahead.
Afterwards, I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders and an enormous sense of relief.
I felt like I was no longer pretending and that my writing was more in line with the truth of who I am.
Soon after, I admitted to myself that I wanted to write this book. I had asked whatever creative spirit exists within me (and without me) for guidance with complete trust in the path it would lay out for me, and since my desire to write the book grew and grew, I was then left with a responsibility to get the hell out of the way and just do it.
I opened the dreaded folder titled ‘My Book,’ and I began where I left off. I allowed crappy sentences and poor story telling and tenses that were all over the place.
Today as I continue, I am allowing gaps and inconsistencies and cringe-worthy scenes to fill the page. If I expect perfection, I will become paralyzed, stuck and frustrated again. So I embrace mess and amateurism as the tap, tap of my busy keys drowns out the voice of judgement in my head.
I’m slowly getting out of my own way, not just with writing, but other things too. The other day, I thought, I’m looking forward to going to Guatemala for some extra space and quiet time so I can start meditating again.
I caught myself right away, realising that I don’t need quiet time and a ‘special space’ to meditate, I need to meditate to create quiet time and a special space, and I can have it, wherever I am.
I dragged the Indian footstool which has served as a magazine/newspaper/book/dirty clothes dumping ground for the last year into the bathroom (quiet, dark), lit some incense (because I love the smell and it relaxes me) and a candle, and sat down next to the stack of toilet paper to be still for five minutes.
Because that was all I needed to do.
Despite hearing this message over and over, I am learning that I must act myself into the life I want, rather than just dream and think about it.
The ‘marinating’ and stewing process is necessary and vital, but eventually, when the thing is cooked, it’s up to me to set the table and serve up the dish before it goes bad.
Meditating involves sitting still and writing a book involves putting words on a page.
It’s too ridiculously simple for my neurotic mind to grasp, which is the beauty of the whole damn thing.
The time has come to do the work; to humble myself and embrace imperfection in order to do the things I want to do.
I’m slowly getting out of my own way.
And it feels good.
Wishing you all the very best for the new year! Thank you all so much for your support in 2013, it truly means the world to me.