I’m sitting down to write with Taylor Swift in my ears, says every writer who is writing essays these days, no? I’m in my quarantine uniform. A pair of leggings, a black tank top with padded shoulders, a shacket that was on one of those Instagram boutique websites. I paid $31 for it, not because it was on the trending list of that website’s “hot” items, but also who knows if I would have bought it if it wasn’t. If I let it, I would find myself down the rabbit hole of wondering (like it matters) about what came first — the desire for a shacket or the knowledge that it made me a part of a club.
This is relevant not because it’s a great shacket (it is), but because it draws enough of an analogy that I can tell you about my mental health now. Vacillating between deep fear that I’m the only one who has ever felt so ostracized in society, in her body, in her mind and deep fear that I’m not. Before the comfort of not being alone can warm my body, there’s an icy fear that if there are so many others like me then maybe everyone else has it more figured out than I do? Like I’m somehow doing this all wrong because if there’s more than one way to do something then one of those ways has to be right way to do it?
My mind stacks questions, like:
How is Sally over there or Peter over here handling it? How do they find the time to not be motivated by a deep sense that there is so little time? How do they marry their creativity and their anxiety? How do they marry?
My mind also stacks answers. On a good day, they play to reality and sometimes to my favor. On a hard day, they’re as layered as the sense of self-loathing that can feel like an elephant on my chest if I don’t stop, drop, and roll from under its grasp. On an average day, like the one I’m writing this on, I see with clarity what I need and how hard it is for me to do the average thing.
When I’m smack dab in the middle of the tightrope that connects my mental health and creativity, that’s where it becomes apparent — to not fall I have to sit.
It’s easy to spot, but hard to do because I’m human, layered, nothing is average, our mental health is complicated, and creativity isn’t magic, it’s a skill. Yet, we’ve all voluntarily and collectively bought a one-way ticket to a never-ending road of for some reason feeling ashamed to admit that managing our creativity or our mental health takes action.
“What do you mean sit?” Asks my heart to my brain.
“Yes, like use your energy to put your butt on a surface and remain.”
“Remain – that’s deep, but also so fear-inducing when you’re afraid of what will survive or surface.”
“Exactly, fear-inducing, but not impossible.” says the brain.
Sitting sounds scary and pointless because you, like me, may have grown familiar with the false sense of comfort that’s born from any kind of movement. The idea of “forward movement” and “physical movement” become synonymous even though they’re not. You can try to outrun your feelings and end up in the same exact place, just more tired and with a false sense of delusion that they’ve been left behind or resolved. The circular act of making lists and checking the items off may lead to success, but eventually will also lead to the question “success by whose definition?”
I have an aversion to sitting still that I’m currently working on. Thinking it’s mindless, pointless, giving up, or not worth my time has been a defense mechanism and a momentary way out of having to see what would be born if I sat still long enough to listen to myself. My motivation to sit didn’t come from an epiphany, it came from exhaustion. I’m tired of creating from a place of anxiety as if it’s the only way I can be good at my craft. I have less external triggers to my anxiety and overall mental health when I sit still because it forces me to practice patience, active listening, and deep empathy towards myself — a novel, novel concept when you’re on the hamster wheel of service to others.
I drew the visual of sitting still in the middle of a tightrope because that’s sometimes what it feels like, but what it actually looks like is sitting on the couch, on a yoga mat, in the car. It’s a safe space carved out with intention for the sole purpose of hanging out with yourself.
To sit the fuck still remains the greatest, hardest ask my creativity and mental health pose to me. But I sat still long enough to realize that if they’re both asking of me the same thing, they may be on to the real path to peace and fulfillment.
I write about mental health, grief, and how to cope with life’s every day challenges on vivnunez.com.
Follow along on my instagram.com/vivnunez for mini-essays on the same topics.
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