Dance guru Gabrielle Roth once pointed out that in tribal cultures if a person felt disheartened or depressed the tribe’s healer would ask these questions:
When did you stop dancing?
When did you stop singing?
When did you stop being enchanted by stories?
When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?
I’m not disheartened or depressed. But I am busy (hard to relate to, right?). After 25 years working as a writer I’m finally birthing my first solo book—the dream of a lifetime coming to fruition—and I’m too damn busy to enjoy the experience.
That is depressing, isn’t it?
Most of my friends are in the same pickle. They’ve spent years chasing their dreams, developing a business, inventing a product, creating a family, and when it all finally lands on their plate, life goes nuts.
Everything becomes about the baby, the book, the film, the promotion, the (fill in the blank). Suddenly the smile disappears, personal conversations get slotted to midnight, new brow lines appear, and housecleaning… well, at least the dust bunnies in my house are having fun doing-it in every available corner!
Maybe I should take the hint and have some fun too?
But then I realize I’m too busy to date. I’d have to clean the house before inviting someone over. Plus how can I have a good time if there’s this anxious subterranean thought-stream flowing beneath every conversation? I can just see it:
Mr. Right looks deeply into my eyes, reaching past the wineglasses to hold my hand across the (newly washed) tablecloth. “Have I told you how beautiful your eyes are in candlelight?” he breathes silkily.
Crap! I forgot to ask about the mailing list and I’ve got to finish that press release and order books and… My mind wanders back to Mr. Right. How did he get hold of my hand?
“Er, did you say something?” I ask.
Sheryl Sandberg of Lean In fame would be proud of me. If I “leaned in” any more my whole life would implode. Do you want to know the real joke? The book I’m sweating over is dedicated to remembering how, amongst other many other things, to let go and lean back.
What’s the old cliché? You teach best that which you need to learn the most?
No kidding! I need to stop taking my life and my endeavors so doggone seriously: to remember to turn off the computer, turn off Pandora, turn off the cellphone, turn off my anxiety, tone down the mental chatter and really reflect on what I’m doing and what really matters in life.
I need to learn to STOP!
Yeah, I know. Scary thought. I’ve been raised to believe if I stop that I’m being self-indulgent and – God forbid –unproductive. If I stop, Sheryl Sandberg won’t like me, the world will fall apart and I won’t SUCCEED.
How can I not believe this?
Humans are now called “resources.” Gross National Product is the measure of my nation’s health—never mind in America 26% of the population suffers from a diagnosable mental health disorder and 50% suffer from a chronic illness.
I’ve GOT to stop.
We’ve got to stop. It’s becoming a public health mandate. But aside from that, for God’s sake stopping is FUN, if we let it be.
Michael Grab, creator of the amazing picture at the head of this blog, leaned in and did what the world expected and graduated from college. But then he flipped the world the bird and started balancing rocks because it was fun. The practice brought what he calls “a zero point or silence within myself.” It brought him balance. Now his fun is his art-form and his life.
Writing has always been my fun. But I cannot let it own me, drive me, whip me. No no no, that would be a tragedy—my personal tragedy added to so many others in this world.
I need to lean back, to remember to dance and sing.
I need silence and the space to listen to other people’s stories.
Photo credit: Michael Grab,http://www.gravityglue.com