The Benefits of Giving Up

The Cumberbatch

Gratuitous Cumberbatch photo. Just because I felt like it!

Dear Reader,

I want to tell you about why its sometimes a really good idea to give up.

You weren’t expecting that, were you?

In my last post, I wrote about the folly of trying.  Of pushing ourselves beyond endurance, and as a result, being unable to achieve the things we want.

That post was an example of me writing my own permission slip.  That day, I took my own advice.  I gave up trying.  I spent a lot of time just lying around.  I felt terrible, so why do anything else? I simply surrendered to what my body was trying to tell me.  Which was, in essence, ‘STOP’.

So far, so good.

The next day, I woke up at 8.30am, earlier than I am normally able to do, and in addition, woke with a clear head.

I grabbed my laptop and opened it up.

And I wrote.

I wrote all day.

In between spells of writing, I stripped the bed, put clean sheets on, did three loads of washing, tidied the kitchen, ironed some fresh pillowcases, made some long overdue phonecalls, and cooked a lovely supper for Husband and myself. I got so much done!

By close of play, i.e.11pm, I had written (get this) 6470 words.  Thats 27 pages.

The most I have ever written in one day.

(Round of applause, please.)

And all because I had given myself some much-needed space.

This is why you must learn to stop.  Yes, it is important to write every day.  Little and often is imperative.  Regular practise for any art form is necessary.

And there will be days when you sit down at your desk or in your studio and think:  ‘I really don’t want to do this today.’  And when you start, the brush strokes will be ugly or the words will come out like lumps of lead.  And then you will get going and things will flow and it will be alright.  (In fact it will be better than alright.  Because all the pain and depression you may have been struggling with will fly away, and creating will heal you.)  That is the point of any practise.

I am not saying you should only write when you feel like it.

What I am saying is that you must recognise that there are some days when your body is leeched to a husk, when your brain is too full or too empty to do anything but be.  Those are the days when you need to be gentle with yourself.  To put away the expectations.  And you will know those days.  The days of crisis.  The days when Life just steps in and pulls the carpet from under you.

If, like me, you live with chronic illness, working out which those days are becomes a little harder.  After 17 years, I am getting better at it, but I’m still not great.

The important thing to remember is that when you release the pressure on yourself, the result is often magic.

Its very Zen to say: let go of perfectionism, let go of expectations, but its easier said than done.  We all carry expectations from society, our upbringing, our peers and ourselves.  Letting them go is a daily practise in itself.  I am reminded however of an old saying I once heard:

“Let go, and Let God.”

Once we stop trying, once we stop tensing up and forcing things, the creativity flows through us freely onto the page or the canvas or the keyboard.  When we are free to make crap art, we learn.  And invariably, in my experience at least, when we give ourselves permission to make crap, what comes out is pure gold.

So here I am, in the aftermath of this great day of writing, assessing what I have learnt, what I can take with me from this experience.  I don’t know if what I wrote yesterday was gold or dross.  Chances are it will be about 50/50.  I don’t really care.  To be frank, it was fun.  It was an enormous relief just to spread my wings and fly without judging myself at all.

And I’m looking forward to doing it again just as soon as I can.

Happy creating,

EF

 

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5 thoughts on “The Benefits of Giving Up

  1. Hali Platt

    Wow! This was perfect timing for me! I have a chronic illness as well and lately it has been hitting me harder than normal. I keep pushing myself, hoping that I will forget about me being sick. Surprise! It hasn’t worked out too well and I just find myself being more exhausted. Do you mind if I ask what your chronic illness is?

    Reply
    1. evenlode1967 Post author

      Dear Hali, I have had ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for the last 17 years, and its taken me the best part of that to come to terms with pacing myself and listening to my body. Its really hard to fight the SHOULDS we have piled up in our heads, so I really sympathise. How about you?

      Reply
      1. Hali Platt

        I have Wegener’s Disease, which is an autoimmune disease. Because of that, I also got a kidney transplant. I was diagnosed 5 years ago and got my transplant 4 years ago. Since reading this, I am trying to adopt the phrase “let go and let God”. There’s so much packed into that phrase. I definitely know that when we trust God and turn our problems to Him, He takes over and makes things at least a little bit easier.

      2. evenlode1967 Post author

        I think if anybody has the right to rest, its you! Look at all you have been through! What an amazing achievement, how wonderful that you are still here, bringing your light to the world. I think that if you can trust God, or whatever your conception of him is, then that can help. However, I believe my illness is with me for a reason, that it has a lesson that my soul needs to learn, (not a punishment, btw) and perhaps that lesson is about valuing myself as an individual soul, accepting my body, and seeking stillness in the midst of all the frenzy.

        Another one I have on my wall is: ‘Be Still and Know that I am’ – and yes, I know I have missed an important word out of that quote, but I think it has a different, equally important, meaning this way. It means the knowledge that no matter how much we stress, the world continues on, and we continue on, and what’s the worst that can happen?

        This very much helps me to stop and listen to my body. Does that make sense? Anyway, I don’t think its about relinquishing control or surrender, I think its about acceptance of what is. We are this way for a reason, and though that reason may not be apparent to us just now, it will be if we listen hard enough. And in the meantime, we need to accept where we are at, and make friends with it.

        I hope this helps, and I am sending love and hope to you, hope that you can give yourself the gift of time to rest and heal, because it sounds like you have struggled through such a lot, and that you really, *really* deserve it.

        With Best wishes, EF

  2. Hali Platt

    Thank you so much! I had a hiccup with my health last week and I’ve had to take it easy. Its SO hard. I’m a missionary for my church and I just want to get up and do as much as I can. But when my body won’t let me, I can’t do it. I’ve kept your two quotes in mind throughout the week and it has helped me a lot. All of this is really out of my control and there isn’t much that I can do about it besides try to be positive. I totally agree that our health challenges aren’t a punishment. Overall, I see this as a blessing that is definitely in disguise. There is something that we’re supposed to learn and we can help people because of our experiences. I’m not going to deny it, I really struggle with my health. But I have been able to use my experience to help other people come closer to God and realize that there is a reason for all of our hard times in life. It helps to think how short this is in the eternal view.

    Reply

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