I left my writing notebook in another city over the weekend.* I know where I left it. I thought I wanted to write, because I had a lot of big thoughts in my head, but then I decided what I really wanted was sleep, so the notebook got tossed to the floor (not even lovingly. I should have treasured it in our last interaction, and I just casually tossed it to the ground). Then the next morning I didn’t see it, didn’t look for it, and left without it.
I called the Lost & Found office. Maybe they’ll find it, maybe they can mail it to me, or maybe one of the friends I have in the city would be willing to get it for me.
I am what seems to be overly upset about losing this notebook, but as usual, it’s not really about the notebook, except I had a lot of really great ideas in there that I didn’t do anything with and now I have writer’s block as I sit at my laptop.
Losing stuff is hard, especially stuff you liked. Sometimes the stuff you lose is stuff, and sometimes it’s people.
Sometimes mourning a notebook is a nice playground to explore all the emotions that are tied to losing things. People do this with food too.
Havi has been writing beautifully on this topic, so you should probably go and read her posts, because they’re awesome.
Releasing didn’t feel like freedom, or permission, or allowing something to emerge.
Releasing felt like death, like giving up on hope.
I wasn’t able to understand that surrender can be a sweet softening, that letting something go can be an exquisitely tender act of love, and there were all kinds of good reasons that I couldn’t feel into this distinction yet.
That’s okay. All timing is right timing.
So I bought a new notebook, and I stared at it for a while, wondering what to write.
Then I did what every good writer does when they can’t think of what to write: I procrastinated. I went to social media.
And social media is nonsense sometimes. They’re all, “I was having a bad day. But then I decided to have the Best Day Ever! Here are 10 Steps to Make Today the Best Day Ever!”
Usually I read stuff like that, say, “Fuck you,” aloud, and then unfollow that person.
I’ve already spent too long shoving my feelings aside (or trying to stuff them down with food). Now I need to sit with myself for a while and figure out how I feel, and specifically what I’m trying not to feel.
And Mr. Hemingway speaks to me in those moments, with two of my favorite pieces of advice:
Write hard and clear about what hurts.
All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.
The truest sentences I know are always about how I feel right now. It’s the best place I know to start.
And the nice thing about truth is that it’s rarely permanent; it’s simply present.
Writing my true thoughts is helpful because I have to own what I’m feeling, and because I know I don’t have to stay there.
These parameters also give what I’m writing some legitimacy, which I find helpful. Bitch Boss can’t come in and judge what I’m writing or feeling; I am under strict orders to write what’s true. I’m just the messenger. Can’t kill me.
All of this information is particularly valuable to me at the moment, because the more I investigate my stuff, the more I realize that everything is about relationships to me, and all those relationships are changing. It’s daunting, and I’m doing a lot of work to figure out some underlying stories and assumptions I have about everything.
So my best advice I have for you is to write. Or paint. Or dance. Express.
If you’re paralyzed by perfectionism, burn the pages, burn the art, dance with the lights off.
Let your expression be the experience.
* I wrote this post when I was in the throes of grieving for a notebook I thought I’d lost as well as a breakup. Fortunately, I found the notebook; it had just been misplaced. The breakup stayed broken up. Expression was still the right choice.