The wooden plats creak as they slowly rotate over head; the old ceiling fan ignorant to the dust it’s breath stirs about the largely unfurnished room.
It’s 2 P.M. on a Tuesday and I’m laying in bed…. or more accurately, a freshly unboxed mattress on the hard oak floors of a thin-walled, mid-century apartment.
I curse under my breath as I slip out from beneath the single luxury item I’d allowed myself- Egyptian cotton sheets — and think, “how did I get here?”
My eyes glance over at the pile of management and leadership books in piled high in the corner of my room — Jim Collins, Malcom Gladwell, John Maxwell… paper men on paper pages sitting silently.
My phone- with its hundreds of unread text messages, thousands of emails, dozens of voicemails & too many apps vibrates loudly against the scratched wood floors.
Staring up, I wonder when the verbs in my life decided to switch tenses… at what point did:
“I love” become “I loved” or
“I believe” became “I believed” or, finally -
when did “I have a dream” become “I had a dream” ?
I didn’t understand, I’d tried everything. I’d read dozens of books and even more articles. I had subscriptions to “Time”, “Entrepreneur”, “Inc”, and “The Atlantic” — I’ve downloaded hundreds of iPhone applications and podcasts, joined yoga, Crossfit & pilates, tried (legally prescribed) prescription drugs and various coffee blends — GNC supplements and kitschy Pinterest quotes.
I lay still, racking my brain in a futile attempt to think of anything else I could have tried.
I’d done everything I could to turn life into a system in which I controlled every aspect and outcome. I took creativity and turned it into a game to be won and in the process, started to believe human emotion is a linear journey… instead of a complexity of undefinable nature.
Instead of being present — showing up each day in the moment and understanding I am enough — I insisted upon filling life with productivity tools and enough lists to fill a hundred legal pads.
What I failed to understand in those moments, is while I surrender myself to myriad productivity tools and templates… I never surrender to time. We may cognitively understand we can’t manipulate everything, but we certainly don’t live that way. Time is the one thing to which we always forget to surrender.
I’ve heard it said, “things are dark until they’re not” and I believe that sentiment is true. We put our ideas into actions when the timing is right.
Even though I wish Anthony Hopkins could narrate my life, I don’t exist in “Westworld” — I’m no strangely attractive robot. As frustrating as it may be, I can’t summon motivation, inspiration or creativity when they’re simply not there. Sometimes, I’m going through something, life happens, grief happens and sometimes… I have to take the long way. I don’t get to manipulate and control every aspect of my human experience.
I can wake up at 6 A.M. every morning until I’m broken and numb, but if the ideas, inspiration, or creativity don’t want to come to fruition, then they won’t.
It’s true, self-responsibility is indubitably empowering; a concept I won’t dispute. There is absolutely a degree to which we can position ourselves into postures of growth and cultivate healthy habits. However, the broader concept of self-responsibility can lead us to a resentment, bitterness and apathy nobody deserves to hold inside.
Personally, I’ve always dreamed of writing a novel… but maybe it’s not written because I haven’t met my leading man.
Perhaps I’m not falling in love because whatever I need to uncover about myself can only be unearthed in solitude and silence.
Maybe the reason darkness has encircled so much of my story is because one day, my painful experiences will become the opus upon which I build my life and enkindle the hearts of others.
All of that to say; I found myself under the sheets on a sunny summer afternoon not because I needed more inspiration, but because I needed less shame around the idea I wasn’t doing my best. After all, most of our self-loathing and self-hatred is rooted in the idea that we get to control the human experience; that we should be able to change our circumstances. Simply put, we’re depressed because we believe we aren’t doing enough.
Instead of listening to people with completely different life circumstances tell you you’re not doing enough, surround yourself with people willing to meet you where you’re at… people who see whom you’re becoming. In lieu of seeing closed doors and brick walls, start seeing lessons. Begin to understand what you’re experiencing right now will become inspiration later.
Your “hidden season” isn’t unimportant… it’s just unseen. And, I think, it’s the dark places and empty spaces that ultimately shape us. What we do here matters. These winter seasons and lonely nights should be celebrated, not wasted.
So give yourself a break. Stop beating yourself into oblivion long enough to understand there’s a cosmos beyond us at work in ways we cannot begin to fathom. And it’s something you can’t game or control.
Begin to walk in the freedom to feel what you feel and to be where you are and to know, deep down, that it’s enough.