A question to ask yourself right now

I have been a bit quieter online lately.

There are a few reasons this.

First, I am deep into a writing project that has taken me seven years – seven years – to get anywhere close to completion – or maybe it’s more like comprehension as it’s taken me this long to even understand what I am trying to do with it.

When we first started closing things down here two months ago, my mind was scattered. I was checking the news constantly. I was having trouble focusing.

But then, a few weeks in, something started to change. So often, my schedule feels like a big puzzle, with every plan and project and to-do needing to fit tightly into a timeline.

Without the added mental work of watching the clock or trying to work around plans or squeeze in last-minute errands, my mind started to relax.

Suddenly, I had the headspace I needed to get back into writing my book. And also to really look at whether I was just in the habit of rushing around, or if the things I was so busy with all the time actually mattered.

So you see, now this book project that has taken up significant real estate within me. It wasn’t able to fully move in before because I could only offer it something that might resemble a bachelor apartment in my mind. Today, it has a penthouse suite with rooftop access and it’s ready to live.

Big projects need big spaces to move around in.

Last week, I was on a bit of a roll with my writing and went a bit quiet online. Sometimes creativity requires that.

But can be a hard thing to allow for. I have a career as a writer, but it’s not what people think it is. It doesn’t make me a lot of money, and my work is not very commercial and it is not intended to be.

Still, it is hard to justify putting in the time to make art some days – or months, or years.

Because if it doesn’t lead to something, if nothing “happens” with it, if there is no money or security or promise of success or measure up to some kind of big expectation, then inevitably someone will ask:

“What’s the point?”

Sometimes, that someone is me.

The older I get, the harder this question gets. And when I feel inspired, I need to run with it because I know doubt is waiting around the corner, ready to pounce.

Sometimes, that means going quiet to tune in and capitalize on that inspiration before it vanishes again.

But also, I was a bit quiet because I was a bit sad. The sadness didn’t come from anything specific – it was just there when I woke up one morning.

So I asked it what it wanted, and the sadness told me it wanted to take its time. To not be rushed away or brushed off to the side, which is so easy to do with work or chores or other tasks.

I decided to listen. There have been many times in my life when I have not honoured my feelings, and those are hard lessons that I continue to work through. Some of those moments are wounds that are still healing.

They come in the form of tiredness and resentment and burnout that flare up when I have taken on too much or ignored myself too long.

When I was a kid, my mother was so afraid to call in sick to work that she never did. She was afraid of losing face, or being seen as unreliable or being judged as flakey. She came from a different generation where you sucked it up and went in no matter what.

And because she never took sick days, it meant I didn’t, either. She never called me in sick for school. I was sent in with tonsillitis, ear infections, fevers.

I held perfect attendance records every year but paid the price for it, not just to have to struggle through the day feverish and tired, but also, as I got older, to be completely lost as to how to tend to myself.

And how to not feel shame or guilt for needing a day off. I had to teach myself to care about my body and mind.

So last week, I took the time I needed. I went for some long walks. I listened to some of my favourite music. I made some plans to talk with some friends. I cried by myself a couple of times.

And you know what? In a few days, I felt better. The extra time was what I needed.

All week, I kept listening beyond the sadness.

A phrase kept running through my head:

“Is this mine, or yours?”

It’s a question I think we all need to sit through time and again. Especially in this world where we are always spilling out into each other’s lives through social media, seeing the most intimate parts of strangers’ lives and hearing every single opinion available.

Where it’s so easy to compare our status, success, happiness, bodies, and choices against so many others the moment we pick up our phones or login to our computers.

Where generational wounds span decades and we get confused into thinking that we need to live up to someone else’s dreams better than our own.

In this world where shame is so strong and punishment so ruthless, where judgment is a form of entertainment for some people… it’s easier to confuse external ideals for your own.

“Is this mine, or yours?”

The idea that my art has to amount to something is not mine to own, because it is not the reason I create. It may not be the reason you create, either.

The idea that I need to keep grinding through day after day is also not mine.

But I know that these are just two ways I’ve been shaped and conditioned to be a certain way. These examples could go on – they could fill pages and pages. They could keep us talking for days.

We all hold onto outside influences, for better or for worse. But we can each decide what gets to live on within us, and which patterns we are here on this earth to help break.

What’s underneath all the noise when you strip away what you’ve been told to believe and get into the core of what really matters to you? What would change if you take the time to find out?

“Is this mine, or yours?”

This week, I invite you to sit with this question and see what’s ready to be shaken loose.

Until next time,

Liz xo

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