Inside job

I’ve been avoiding writing for a good while. Partly because I lost the habit, but mostly because I have been unsure how to say the thing that needs saying. Maybe even a little bit sheepish, now and then, that it is the thing that needs saying.

When last I was writing, I was starting to think big ideas about change and moving forward and how everything was going to be different and better. I was going to start moving in new directions, doing new work, going to start becoming someone — a new me, different me, better me. I thought, for a while, that I had things figured out, how the next patch of my life needed to go. I was going to go to school, become a for-real writer, aim for a new career, all kinds of stuff.

And then I got stuck, and then I fell into a really terrible depressive patch, and then crawled out of it, and then walked on. All of my fervor for what I thought I was going to do, gone and done. Mainly forgotten, except as a stumbling block for my writing-self, because I felt like I needed to explain the dramatic-looking change of heart.

The thing is, I’m realizing that the brand-new-me that I was hoping for, was really me trying to run from the hard parts of the same-old-me, the hurtful bits of the situations I’m in now, and to a large extent that I create myself. If I went running now toward a brand-new-life, I’d just be carrying the same-old-baggage along. I was looking for change by situational means, when what I really need is internal change, fundamental change, if I want to have a brand-new-me. No way to get there fast or easily. And no time like the present to start.

I read an article recently that, among other things, said people often want to bail out of hard situations fast, whereas only by sticking with them can we draw out their lessons and grow. The impulse to run is understandable; of course no one wants to sit in the midst of pain and learn from it. But it’s also undeniable that the painful and hard parts of life are the ones that change us most, or carry the most potential for change. Comfort isn’t really a good teacher, much as we want to have it.

It’s not time for me to make big external changes. What I want to do most now, having spent a lot of hard time in thought and prayer, is to work on the inside things, my own damaged places, the parts of my own heart and spirit that hold me back from what I want in life and from the good that I may do for other people. Primarily, I want to learn a greater regard and kindness toward my own self, to be able to leave behind the crippling self-doubt and judgement that I have carried around for my entire life, as long as I can remember. I am so quick to look for ways to offer other people the benefit of the doubt, but so fast to judge myself harshly and condemn perceived faults, even the smallest ones. I’m tired of it; I’m tired of wasting so much energy on hating myself, rather than enjoying life and doing good for other people. I want to learn how to be kind to myself, dare I say even to love myself, and so to have more to offer the world, and to be able to offer it.

So the story I’ve got to tell over the next year is going to be a different one than I was expecting, and I don’t know what I’ll have to write about, or how much of it will be seen. But it’s what I want to do and what I need: a self-declared Year of Kindness, toward me and other people both, but especially toward me, as selfish as that looks to write. That’s the thing I want most to change by this time next year, no matter what the external circumstances look like.

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