The Brazilizan poet and writer, Paulo Coelho once wrote, "Only once we actually commit to taking an action does the universe give us the energy to do it.”
In 2010, I was diagnosed with severe PTSD. This crippling and misunderstood illness affects everyone differently. In my case, the ability to write coherently was greatly diminished. Without warning, words became jumbled as my mind blanked out staring at a computer screen. Mustering all my energy to construct words on the page-brought incoherent sentences devoid of grammar. My interior voice had relocated to some sunny destination while my body scrambled in chaos trying to prepare for the next storm.
Writing is an extremely uncomfortable act for me, except when I am angry. Anger prompts me, beyond anything else, to overcome fear. This is not a healthy way to live. I have lived in fear most of my life, so that when injustice happens on any level- it burns a fire inside to act. This creates a sense of urgency that moves me beyond paralyzing fear to action very quickly. Unfortunately this causes exhaustion because my body is crashing and burning with intense bursts of energy and requires extended amounts of rest to recover. This was how I lived until PTSD.
For years, I have been trying to build a habitual practice of writing everyday. I will spend hours syncing my calendars both digitally and in hard copy to remind myself to do an hour of writing. Then when the alarms go off to remind me-I have already forgotten. I have chosen to do something else. I have great admiration for my artist friends that are extremely disciplined in their daily practice. I make art in between the lulls of my chaotic existence as a single-mother living under the poverty line.
In order to heal from PTSD, I have had to sit uncomfortably in fear of relationships, living, and myself. I can no longer afford to crash and burn-my body doesn’t have the strength to endure the consequences. I am forced to move through the discomfort of fear and anxiety to become responsible for my own safety, becoming friends with my fear. I have had to retrain my body memory to form a habitual practice of writing everyday instead of under intense pressure.
I have tried in the past to cultivate daily rituals, but they never stick. Living below the poverty line creates an insecurity of living moment to moment. It’s nearly impossible to prepare, plan, or even dream of a future. I have learned to put my head down and focus on the most immediate fire to put out for the day. Living in poverty is like being on a sinking ship-as soon as one hole is patched another one appears.
In rare moments of reprieve, my body wants to sleep. It wants to stop my mind from its incessant chatter. The constant nagging voice that tells me that I’m not doing enough, being enough, and I have completely failed as a human being. This shame that I have internalized from being poor keeps me locked in this paralyzing position.
Over the years, my writing has improved considerably through practice. I have also elicited some help from family and friends who are writers. Having a second pair of eyes to proofread and give me feedback has helped me practice consistency and critically review my narrative.
Writing feels very differently to me than making art, it takes a different type of energy to write than to make art. And sometimes it’s hard for me to switch from my art making brain to my writing brain. My interior being feels a lot like Michigan weather, sunny one day, dark and cold the next. The thought of writing gives me crippling anxiety.
So, writing everyday is more than creating a habitual ritual-it’s an act of restorative justice. Allowing myself the agency to be proactive rather than reactive. If I look at writing as a practice, the fear seems to subside.
In practice, it means that I don’t have be perfect, because I am learning. Learning doesn’t require a grade or a test-it requires attention, presence, and a willingness to be curious. Learning is like eating a delicious meal-taking information, observing its ingredients, digesting the information, and nourishing ourselves through knowledge.
Today I commit to learning a new practice of writing. In this commitment, I seek to pull a thread of fear and weave it into regenerative action.