How writing helps me keep my balance

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Lately I’ve been doing a lot of writing: daily Morning Pages, writing here twice a week and weekly exercises for my creative writing course. All this writing takes time and effort, whether I am scribbling away in my journal on tram 24 on the way to work (often finishing my third page on a bench in the one heated corridor of Amsterdam Central station) or whether I am typing away and editing on my computer sitting on the sofa (or squatting Paolo’s desk, my favorite spot in the early afternoon with the sun warming my back).

Next to that I’ve realised recently that I’m finally starting to feel less anxiety, after many rough months. There are several reasons for that: less work pressure, results of getting to know myself and my boundaries better through therapy, better self-care… but I am convinced that writing is one of the key factors leading to this improvement.

When I write I am most often in flow, that magic state where I don’t feel time passing, ideas are coming naturally and I’m problem-solving in a concentrated state. Especially with creative writing, I seem to lighten up and find myself having a little fun with the process, not so worried about the results.

It’s up to me to choose what I focus on, and these days I prefer not to spend my energy worrying about whether what I said in that meeting might be misinterpreted or other petty concerns, when instead I can enjoy the challenge of coming up with a two-page text based on nothing less than Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, using a similar omniscient god-like storyteller narrator…  Life is a question of priorities;)

Experiments in single-tasking

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Rationally I know that multitasking is bad, but I feel this constant drive to get more done and on the surface it seems that by doing several things at once I can reach that goal.  Also combining something boring (like cleaning) with something more fun (like listening to a podcast) makes it seem possible to squeeze some enjoyment into any task however tedious.

Lately however, I realised that I was having major concentration problems and often I actually didn’t fully enjoy the fun thing because I wasn’t really focussed on it.  More frightening was that I could tell I was numbing, multitasking is a way to automatically fill the void, where otherwise my thoughts would rush around my brain like it was a pinball machine, triggering fears, desires and anxiety all over the place.

This voice inside me kept pulling at my sleeve and pointing out that I was craving quiet, long stretches of uninterruped silence, away from the busy-ness so I could have space to make some sense of my thoughts.  So I have decided to test whether making a conscious effort to mindfully do one thing at a time will allow my thoughts have more space to roam free and be heard.

These are the daily activities I want to focus on by single-tasking:

  • drinking my coffee (without journalling at the same time)
  • talking with Paolo (without my phone or computer nearby, ready to switch focus)
  • working on one thing at a time until it is finished (without stopping as soon as it gets hard to pick up a shiny new task)
  • cleaning (without listening to a podcast)
  • doing the dishes (without talking on the phone)
  • writing a blog post (without interrupting the flow to consult other internet pages)
  • cooking (without a TED video on in the background)
  • going for a walk (without taking pictures… well I might still multitask sometimes on this one, as I still want a few nice photos to illustrate these posts 😉

I’ll write about whether I notice any effects in a follow-up post after experimenting for some time.

Tell me, what activities do you make a conscious effort to single-task on?

Showing up, quirks and all

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #84

I’ve been enjoying the longest days of the year to go on after-dinner walks and the neighbourhood is more and more beautiful with a multitude of different flowers blossoming all over the place.

I am grateful to the imperfect flowers who show up in all their splendour despite the fact that their petals are slightly wonky and uneven. These are the flowers I like best, they seem like a kind reminder to forget wondering ‘what will people think’ and just show yourself as the unique beauty you are.

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*****

More imperfect beauty from a mindful stroll and a winter walk.

Mindful walk

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #62

I have lots of good intentions about going for a walk first thing in the morning when I’m not rushing to work, but for some reason I resist them fiercely.  Though I know it would be good for me to begin the day by moving my body, getting some fresh air and being in touch with the elements, somehow I usually come up with all sorts of things that need doing before I head out.

However today the sun was beckoning after yesterday’s windy storm, so before starting anything else I just put on my shoes and left the house.

I had a beautiful walk. It felt so great to be outside and take my time, with no specific destination in mind, my only goal being to try and walk on the sunny side of the street as much as possible. The cold woke me up and I enjoyed looking at the sun playing hide and seek in passing clouds. To be present and not get too lost in my thoughts, I focussed on small things that caught my eye, like the unusual beauty in a colourful lichen or branches of a willow tree gently knotted together…

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Beautiful imperfections

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When was the last time you really looked closely at what is around you? Most of the time I am completely on auto-pilot, rushing to and from work, completely stuck in my head thinking about all the things I need to do or annoyed at the rain pouring down…

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On Saturday morning, I took the opportunity of a ray of sunshine to go for a walk in the neighbourhood and consciously really looked at buildings, bikes, dogs, plants as I passed them. I started to notice tiny details. As autumn comes to an end, some plants are valiantly holding on to their last threads of life.

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I was so happy to observe the plants on my way and focus on the beauty in their imperfections: slightly bruised and fading petals, leaves drying into brilliant reds, gorgeous lace-like patterns…  It is the perfect trick for getting out of my whirling thoughts and truly being in the moment:)

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