the hard part

This week, fall arrived, with a hint of winter in the wind. Leaves and some flowers were open, now they’re closed.

I wrote about being closed a few days ago – about how we curl in to protect ourselves. We have inner seasons too. Sometimes our season is summer, we are energized, moving forward, growing, and vibrant. Then we realize we’re headed into fall, and it’s time to let our seeds drop, curl our leaves, pare down to the essentials.

I’ve been posting One Thing a Day (usually writing, sometimes images) here or on facebook for 11 days. Less publicly, I’ve approached multiple other areas of my life in this one-thing-a-day way as well. One housekeeping task. One walk. One hour of reading. One necessary phone call. One errand. One box or pile of papers sorted.

This helps me gradually build up things I want to do in a way that feels manageable. But I almost always hit a wall. At some point, everything gets harder, at least for a while.

I write every day for a week, and then one day I feel like I’m done; I can’t find any more words. My daily walk is no longer in the sun, but in frigid air under a gray sky, and it’s no longer as fun to step out the door. The one phone call I need to make is with a person or office I’ve been avoiding, and now I have to add shame from my own avoidance to the weight of dealing with whatever it is I don’t want to deal with.

We need to keep going through the hard part.

I think about my students, or actors in shows I’m directing, and how when they run out of ideas I tell them to keep going. Almost always, they come up with their best ideas after they think they’re done with ideas, when they think they’ve completely run out. They look at me incredulously if I push them past that point, insinuating that there is no more, they’re done, they’re drained.

But if they do keep going after that point, some of the most imaginative, engaging, surprising, and genuine ideas emerge.

I know that if I can take a first step on anything I’m resisting, that’s all I need to do. I step outside to take a 2-minute walk, and find myself returning after 20. I assign myself just the task of putting my insurance statements in chronological order, and suddenly I’ve also added up all the numbers and reconciled them with my medical bills. I tell myself I’ll write a simple haiku today, and it turns into a three page essay with footnotes.

The trick is to know that I really can stop after the one thing, the one small step. And sometimes I do.

I wrote about being closed; when do we open? We open when we are ready, when we are safe. We open in joy – but joy can’t be forced. We open in spring or summer, when it’s time. And sometimes we walk in the gray day and let it be gray.

Go through the hard part. It won’t be hard forever.

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