I can’t write this.
This is too hard.
Why can’t this idea just magically flow onto the page and all I have to do is edit a few spelling mistakes and grammar?
What was I thinking? Signing up for a writer’s retreat when I don’t know how to write anything! I should go pack my bags and catch the first plane out of here….
I looked up from my writing exercise and glanced toward the gate as if trying to conjure up a taxi to whisk me away from the retreat center. Instead, I only saw the red, earthen wall that separated the cobblestoned courtyard from the outside world. I felt like the wall was saying to me,
“I have you surrounded, you are not leaving!”
“You’re right,” I said in my imagined conversation with an inanimate wall, “I might as well keep trying.”
That retreat was a few years ago now and it was a beautiful and transformative time.
And it was hard.
The daily writing pushed me to focus on specific topics, the exercises forced me to look at my writing project from different perspectives, much of what I had written needed a major overhaul or to be tossed out entirely. I had to keep my butt in the chair and keep writing until it was time for lunch or yoga or sleep.
I know I sound whiny and I also know that most of you know what I am talking about. When a relationship or a job or an experience or a project is important to you and it’s not working out the way you want it to work it can be really hard. Staying with it through the hard times is even harder.
But as I stayed with the “hardness” of what I was trying to write, something interesting happened. I had been trying to write a story that was important to me to share but no matter how I approached it, the story just didn’t work. Instead of giving up, I stayed with it (it wasn’t time for lunch yet anyway) and something interesting happened.
I wrote a poem instead of a story.
I don’t write poems – I don’t know how to write poems, but I watched as my story began to take shape in the form of short stanzas and 3 pages later there it was – the story I wanted to tell in a form I’d never expected.
Staying is hard. It’s hard to stay still in meditation. It’s hard to breathe when you are uncomfortable. It’s hard to sit with your pain and your grief. It’s hard to admit you’re wrong and it’s hard to take responsibility for your mistakes. It’s hard to let in joy and receive love. Life can be hard.
Yet, if you stay present with what’s hard, something begins to soften (if you let it) and that softness can create something unexpected and beautiful. Maybe life is hard because we all need a little softening.
What do you think?