Or maybe just “growth through trauma.” But rather than document a “disorder,” I’m going to do something different. After my post yesterday, about existential dread that my creativity may never return, buried under anxiety and hyper-vigilance, which is just exhausting, I decided to . . . do nothing.
I started doing nothing a few days before the blog yesterday. I am being OK with not being OK. With being sad and anxious, uncertain and empty. I’m not trying to work my way out, write my way out, art my way out, or many of the other suggestions helpful advice-givers offered. I am going to stop. Sit. Stay.
And I’m going to do it right here on the blog. It was surprising to hear so many other creatives also feel empty, tapped out, and are stumbling around in the dark, dancing with their dread and loneliness to music that feels heavy and slow.
You know me. If there is a group, it starts to look like a class to me. Can’t help it, I’m a trainer and a coach. This time, gather ’round class, ’cause the teacher is trying out stuff. There will be demos. You can add your stuff, you can ask questions.
Here’s what I’ve done so far:
- Felt sorry for myself. This actually feels better than I thought, but for a shorter time than I thought it would feel good. Women in particular are made to feel guilty if they don’t smile and act happy and efficient all the time.
- Wrote a blog about it. Out loud and in public. Felt a little silly, but still . . .
- Was bowled over by how many others feel this way. Really surprising. Loneliness eats at the soul. Just seeing others say, “me, too,” made me feel less alone.
- Got all sorts of advice, some warm and kind which made me smile, some scolding (see the next paragraph.)
OK, three people said they were thinking of hiring me as their coach, but now that they know I have creative problems, are backing off. No, you aren’t. You are trolls who suck up the sadness of others and then paint your walls with it to feel better about yourself.
Coaches get stuck, police break the law, therapists commit suicide, because life is hard and no one has all the answers. In the corporate world, I didn’t trust leaders who never made mistakes (because I thought they weren’t trying hard enough) and I wouldn’t trust a coach who has never lived through a tragedy, problem, tough spot, existential spiral or other horrors.
What action am I taking? Just one. I am not struggling to get out of this funk. I am armpit-deep in my dis-ease. I’m feeling it, hating it, but I am just hanging out with it. It feels wonderful not to be responsible for feeling perfect right now. For not having to take an emotional hammer and nail and patch myself up.
I am also limiting feeling sorry for myself. After three whole days of doing little else, I’m actually kind of bored with it. So, one hour a day, right after lunch, I get to feel sorry for myself. In that time, I don’t rush, don’t read uplifting books, don’t see what other people are doing. Nope. No making lists of positive feelings, no gratitude list. One hour of feeling sorry for myself. I sit. I think. It may drift into meditation. It feels like it. If it isn’t, please don’t tell me.
Report on yesterday’s hour: one hour is a long time.
Want to see if growth happens? Stick around. Add your stuff. Ask questions. But be nice. Don’t poke the bear.
–Quinn McDonald is a trainer and creativity coach who is going public with her existential dread. Because once she takes it for a walk around the block in daylight, it’s not all that scary anymore.