Let’s talk about The Wall.
No, not that wall. The Wall. The one you eventually hit when you’re a creator. Or a parent. Or just adulting.
Sometimes you hit it in one part of your life and then it spreads to the others. Then it’s The WALL.
Maybe it’s the phase of the moon, or the season, or one of those seven-year cycles, but recently it feels like I know too many people up against The Wall. Family members who have lost jobs. Friends who have been betrayed by those they love. Creators who haven’t met with the success on which they pegged so many dreams. And at the start of the new school year, so many lovely people who are starting new phases of their lives and are just overwhelmed by the changes, even when many of those changes are good.
I’ll admit it: I’m one of those people.
Last week, I hit my writing Wall.[i] Rejection played a big part: I did okay with the first 20 rejections for my Middle Grade manuscript, but numbers 21 & 22 did me in. I stared at my query letter, unable to tell any longer if it needs more tweaking or just to be set aflame. I thought about whether I needed to rewrite the first chapter, or scrap it entirely. I considered whether I should turn my attention to something else for a while, and realized I didn’t even have the wherewithal to figure out a way forward on the half-dozen or so works-in-progress that linger as perpetually open tabs on my desktop and that physically clutter my office. I tried to go back to my writing goals for the year, to find a way to progress out of my funk only to realize with a distant horror I didn’t want to do any of the things necessary to move forward with any of my goals.
I felt totally, utterly defeated in a way I haven’t since I last took a microeconomics exam.
Anyone else been there? Lately? Then you know how easily it can become cyclical. You feel drained. You want to do nothing. So nothing is what you do. But, as it turns out, nothing doesn’t help.
I won’t lie. I indulged in a few mopey days. I tried hard to keep my fragile feelings to myself, to keep my unhappiness with my writing self from infecting the other parts of my world, but let’s be honest, as the old saying goes, “When Mama ain’t happy….”
So I started to apply the most effective medicine I know. I got outside for a walk every day, and focused my attention on the beauty in nature and in my community. I took myself to yoga for the first time in much too long. I reconnected with friends, and instead of chastising myself for not having my butt in my chair, not rewriting that query letter for the umpteenth time, I let coffee clatches stretch through lunches, wallowing in the gifts of their time and presence. I tackled some small chores around the house I’ve been meaning to do for weeks, just so that I could smile at the completion of a task.
I gave myself permission to be gentle with myself. For many of us, we try to whip ourselves through the day. We schedule ourselves to the minute for maximum efficiency. And sometimes that’s really fantastic. It allows us to get so much done! All the kids to all the things! Books written! Life conquered!
But when you’re up against The Wall, you’ve got to give yourself a little space. A little time. Permission to acknowledge the discomfort of The Wall chafing against your skin, pushing against your bones. If you are gentle with yourself in this process, eventually, you’ll be able to peel yourself away from The Wall, hopefully with just minor bruising.
Today, I’m still right up against it, but I’ve got a little more range of motion than I did immediately after impact. Some of the smaller cracks are already scabbing over, which means that I can begin to gently probe at some of the deeper ones. I’m not ready to dive back into the race I was running before I hit The Wall, but I’m at least willing to admit that I might be able to walk along the sidelines, and I can continue cheering for my friends who are still in the thick of it. I can maybe even lend a hand to others who are recovering from hitting their Walls. Like I said, it seems to be a season. And as awful as it is to hit The Wall, there is something to be said for knowing you’re not the only one.
So if you’ve hit The Wall, or The WALL, know you’re not alone. Treat yourself with the same kindness you would treat a loved one in your shoes. Then go do something that will make you smile, even if only for a moment or two. And leave us a comment. Let us know what you’re going through, where you’re at, and how you’re dealing. We’re all about community at The Space Between, and you’re a part of it, so let this community support you a little, if that’s what you need. You’ll be helping out someone else who needs to know there’s someone facing the same Wall, and who might benefit from lending a hand. Thanks!
[i]I recognize that compared to many of my loved ones, the wall I hit is comparatively minor – but it still hurt.