My favorite author is Mark Danielzowski. In college, I started reading his book House of Leaves, and it became my existence for the next few months while I worked my way through it. The book is about a family moving into a house and one day noticing a small space that wasn't there before, and then they notice it's a hallway that wasn't there before, then a room, then a maze of never-ending staircases and dark corners.
This is not a book you simply sit down to read in your free time. For three months, this book was my companion. In any and all free moments I found, I would grab the book and delve in. The story pulls you into the characters' experiences by throwing the reader into a maze of having to read pages upside-down, using a mirror to read words written backwards, and collecting clues to piece together sentences. All of this in the name of the narrative.
Life is like that. Sometimes life might feel like an easy-read; it might feel like a short novella you read through the pages without a second thought. Most of the time, life is more challenging, and sometimes, life is confusing and overwhelming and entangling like House of Leaves . Life is experiential, and if you're passing through your days as if you're half-reading through the pages, then you might just be missing out on your own life story.
Have you noticed this? Have you noticed that as you're reading a book, you've passed five pages and have no idea what you just read? Have you noticed that you have trouble recalling what you did last week? Yesterday? This morning? The pages in our lives keep flipping, whether we're paying attention or not. So what do we do?
First, slowwwwww down. That seems like a simple request, but in a world of deadlines and productivity and personal struggles with perfectionism (*raising my own hand!), this is definitely one of those easier said than done requests. Try it. Practice it. Recognize when you're locked in autopilot and grab hold of that pen and get back in there. Try not rush your story, but take a moment to feel that pen in your hand. You are in control of this moment. Sometimes, the most productive and meaningful thing you can do is take a breath and a break. For many of us, productivity and busy work cushion us from that fear of not doing enough. You are doing enough - if you're unsure, remember that we're living in a pandemic. You are doing the best you can, and that is more than enough.
Second, be realistic. I'm not speaking about being realistic in terms of your typical threshold of managing things. Be realistic for this moment in your life, because each day can come with a new set of worries, of pressures, of different energy levels for you. And (I'm going to say it again) we're living in a pandemic. Be kind to yourself like you would to a friend. Life is not linear and has many ups and downs. It's so important to recognize that your best during an up is not the same as your best during a down. Maybe when everything is fitting into place, you're in a great routine, and life is staying in sync with your goals, maybe then you're a hardcore go-getter and an expert at juggling work, family, and whatever may be on your plate. When things are out of routine, when pressures outside of your control throw hurdles in your path, it's ok - no it's necessary - to slow down and walk over them rather than hurry through. Honestly, it's ok to see those hurdles and lie down beside them and take a nap. Pacing yourself is protecting yourself. And it's also proof that you can adapt. So set realistic goals for yourself, and use a pencil so you can make changes along the way.
Third, fill in the blank . Decide what you need at this time in your life and do not accept any guilt for doing what is best for you.
And if you need a book suggestion, you have one.
"Have no fear, you will find your way. It's in your bones. It's in your soul."
-Mark Z. Danielewski