To yourself, I hear you ask. She calls herself a writer but talks about standing up to rather than for yourself? You read right.
I’ll come back to this in a minute – rest assured it’s a deliberate statement – but first a bit of context.
At my son’s school they have something called Golden Time. It’s a period where the children can choose to undertake any activity they wish, a chance to feel free and to engage in what they enjoy. Needless to say, he loves it and really looks forward to it.
I don’t press him too much on what he actually does in this time. The parent in me prefers to think he’s finding new and innovative ways to solve maths problems using an interactive abacus. The reality is that he’s probably in the mud kitchen finding more treasures to stuff in his impossibly small yet strangely very accommodating coat pockets (how do kids do that?). Last week he brought back a bone. Like from an actual animal – I kid you not. We’re a vegetarian family; I know said animal had already been consumed by something but it was a new level of grossness in his treasure collection I wasn’t quite prepared for.
Anyway… so Golden Time means freedom, no regimented tasks; just time to indulge in what ignites the excitement within.
The reason I’m telling you this is because Fridays are my Golden Time.
I work four days a week doing a job I love and managing a super bunch of people. Everyday I’m making decisions that can be life changing and restores justice – it’s a pretty great feeling. But that fifth day of the week, that’s my day. My day to indulge, to enjoy, ergo to reflect and write.
It might be short story ideas or blog posts but if I’m sitting at my desk with a steaming cup of tea and my lime green Icelandic wool blanket (slightly itchy but lovely draped over my lap) under the warm glow of my Himalayan salt lamp, I’m in creative heaven.
So if my Fridays are interrupted or taken away from me by life events, it’s not just a mere botheration – it upsets me on a far deeper level and creates a lava-esque bubbling within. We all have something we do that we love and which recharges our emotional batteries and keeps us going? Well, for me it’s Writing Fridays.
And then last week something happened.
My father’s house was burgled and it took me straight back to the day when I was around 14 years old and had returned home with my favourite cousin and a takeaway. The evening had been planned; we’d be eating a delicious meal together and then have a girly night talking about film stars and trying out different make up. But when we reached the front door we could see burglars through my living room window – it sent a shock through me which is as live today as it was then. I felt a sense of violation of our space, fear of their return and outrage at their temerity to forcibly enter our family quarters and help themselves to what they wanted. Our arrival rattled them and they ran away. But I couldn’t eat that night nor sleep; I was so afraid and no-one around me could understand why. Plus being from a fairly typical Indian household where feelings aren’t generally discussed, it was never spoken of again.
So when this happened at my dad’s house and he was abroad, I went to help restore his house to order. The memories came flooding back like crashing waves on weathered rocks evoking in me that same feeling of vulnerability and invasion that I’d experienced so many years ago.
And then Monday came and I had to put on my manager hat and carry on as normal. I was battling against a wall of work which had mounted from my absence (I’d been off for two months following a knee operation, see Accepting Life’s Lemons) and to top it all off, on Wednesday my son was sent home from nursery with a raging temperature.
Friday came around eventually but my son was still ill and I knew the writing simply wasn’t happening. It was both an emotionally and physically exhausting week – exacerbated by the lava-esque frustration and wistfulness in my drooping shoulders that my Golden Time wasn’t going to be had today.
And then I remembered at 9pm that I’d seen an advert for a TV presenter role and the audition video was due that day. When it hit me, my heart sank. Ever since I was a teenager, I’d regularly ponder on a career in TV broadcasting and here was an opportunity quite literally under my nose where all I had to do was record a 60 second video about myself and deliver some scripted lines. I could think of every reason not to apply which included (this list isn’t exhaustive):
- I hadn’t brushed/washed/done anything to my hair
- I had no make-up on
- I hadn’t slept properly (courtesy of the visiting Temperature) resulting in bags under my eyes that could accommodate a weekly family shop
- My wrinkles seemed more pronounced than usual
- I wasn’t feeling my usual upbeat self so how could I possibly come across as being engaged and excited by this opportunity?
- What vaguely relatable experience of journalism did I have anyway?
And then I looked at the other side.
Here was an opportunity which had practically been gifted to me. It was a chance – and I could look away and use my near empty tank of energy as an excuse or I could face up to it, pull myself together and throw my hat into the ring.
Ultimately if I didn’t enter the arena how would I ever know if this was the beginning of something new and purposeful? I’d pledged that this year would be about writing, speaking and putting myself ‘out there’ – there was no way I could justify to myself passing up the very first opportunity that came my way to showcase a different facet of my personality. Ok, it might not lead anywhere – and I might not even like it – but equally what if it was the beginning of a new creative outlet for me?
So, armed with my dry shampoo, some flattering lighting and a (slightly forced) beaming smile, I recorded my piece and sent it in.
I was going to show up. I wanted to be in the arena.
Don’t look at the doughnut
The awe-inspiring Steven Pressfield, author of the War of Art personifies resistance and says “its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work”. What’s resistance? You know that voice, the one that tells you to eat a doughnut when you’re on a diet or not to share your innovative idea in a meeting in case it generates looks of derision from your colleagues. That voice that derails you when you’re about to try something new, different or exciting.
I could’ve rattled off a hundred reasons why I shouldn’t submit an audition video and reconciled myself with it – but I didn’t. I recognised that the more excuses I made, the more I actually wanted it. I wanted to have that experience. (In case you’re wondering, the TV company actually liked my video and invited me to a second audition – I’ll let you know how this part of the story ends in the fullness of time).
Someone once asked me if I was resisting taking actions to fulfil my dreams because I was more afraid of my own success or because of a fear of failure. What’s failure anyway other than an opportunity for us to learn more about ourselves and grow? No, it’s the success that’s more scary – what does that Reena look like?
I might have had a week that’d rather be forgotten. And I might have lost my Golden Time too. But despite all that, I didn’t lose to resistance. This experience reminded me that mindset really is everything. Even the complex yet delicate lotus flower has to push through murky waters for its beauty to be realised. It’s inherent in its nature – and in ours too.