There are “Sliding Doors” days, and I know – every atom of my body knows – that there will be “Sliding Doors” days forevermore. They affect everyone – and everyone else around me – to greater and lesser degrees.
My “Sliding Doors” days involve a myriad of thoughts, mostly “what ifs” regarding things I may, or may not, be able to control. It is the sudden imbalance of everything that niggles. The seasick feeling of tottering – between what I am doing, and what I am not doing.
Fear. Fear that what I am doing is wrong, that what I will do forevermore will be wrong. Fear of everything suddenly ceasing to be before I have even made a commitment.
This is all natural. For me, it is even more natural. My thyroid began to fail maybe a decade or more ago with the stealth of a silent assassin, or a thief in the night. Adages, proverbs, metaphors – my magpie mind doesn’t always know which to pick from the treasury now, or even how to remember in the correct order.
A damaged thyroid and autoimmune system can send your body to places you never dreamt you would go. I am trying to pick up a fallen deck of cards, whilst attempting to play a hand of poker on a different table to the other players in the casino…and win. I have never played poker. But that doesn’t stop one from trying.
My body began to fail me when it looked relatively normal. I have looked better and worse, and better. I have lost some functions and regained others, and may lose those once more. Regardless of anything on the surface, I’m now left with complex issues that mean I have to choose what I invest my time and energy in.
How do you carry on? I can only tell you how I have adapted, and I have to be brutally honest.
The trick is to stop wasting time on the moments you can never regain, the actions you haven’t taken, the person you may not become. The “what ifs” are not the “right nows”. They are the indulgences that lurk when you are struggling. But the hard fact is this: you may not even know you are struggling, and you may put these “what ifs” down in your mental bank as dreams. They are not. The dreams we hold are actually ambition cloaked in “what ifs”. Sometimes those ambitions are overly large for our circumstances, sometimes they are expertly tailored. It isn’t that you should not have aims and ambitions, but you need to adapt them to your means and abilities. It is impossible to climb a mountain in one attempt, especially if you are not equipped for the ascent. There are no prizes for reaching the apex and dying on it.
If today is a day when you cannot move your body much, it might have to be a desk day. If your mind becomes fogged up by extreme distraction or pain, then – face it – it isn’t a desk day either. Maybe on some days we have to take away the “sliding doors” and put up some walls. It doesn’t have to be permanent. But it could be one of the best decisions you have made in your life. The decision NOT to do, the decision to linger a while and recharge.
The imbalance. The tottering. The seasickness. The reaction to sudden events or ideas. Yes, the suddenness. These feelings are occurring because you are in denial.
If you are dithering between one project and another, have the courage to invest in the one idea you can back with your whole heart and soul – even on the days when everything else is impossible. Properly invest and you will reap the dividends.
There is no universal “right time”. Even in disaster films, there is no right time to save the world…
Things happen. And **** all happens. But you don’t want **** all to happen. That would be a waste of the grand plan. And by The Grand Plan, I mean Your Grand Plan. Because that plan has now been explained to me – and it’s pretty much this: it’s the fact that we are alive that’s the miracle, not necessarily the grand gestures or epic feats. Living, and being alive, is pretty damn miraculous. And complex. It should never be taken for granted.
My theory is that it is better to spend a little of your time out of other people’s race and try to locate your own rhythm, your own space. But don’t turn it into your own race. That would be counterproductive. As soon as you impose ridiculous restrictions on your creative work and beyond, you will find yourself disappointed at not achieving those milestones. You will eventually find yourself crushed by the prospect of your lack of ability. Which is in itself ridiculous.
Not only do we all have our own individual rhythm, we all owe it to ourselves to really locate that rhythm and work with it, in line with it, not against it.
My body began to fail because it chose to. Very little to do with lifestyle or other factors, albeit possibly some genetic factors. However, I failed my body when I stopped listening to it. I thought I was getting old in my early thirties! I thought, I thought… I should have listened.
As creative practitioners, the very least we can do for our work – from idea to page and beyond – is to zone out from the this and the that, and focus within. Find your own time. Don’t say it, do it. In this instance, words mean very little. The action is what is required. Tailored action by you for you, not the bestselling author so-and-so, not your best friend, not the man behind the deli counter. You. If you can’t face you, the chances are you don’t much like the prospect of looking at the words you’ve written on the page.
Understanding you, your body, your mind, your time, your space – this is the voyage of discovery. But the basics are sometimes the hardest to learn. No rushing. Go at your own pace. Imagine the slide of a metronome. You can speed up or slow down – it is all down to you. Your preference. Your natural rhythm. Take back control of what you can control. It will bring you endless moments of calm authority – perhaps spreading out onto the page before you.
And when you want to emerge from behind your walls, who said you cannot go through the skylight rather than the sliding doors? Find your own approach to your new situation. Because, trust me, it will all be new. All of it.
This has been written by someone, who is not by any means a success and has only just succeeded at staying alive during the course of the last couple of years. The words come from behind the walls and – on some fantastic days – from outside a skylight. All metaphorical, because, the truth is, I don’t have an actual skylight.