Sitting in the Confusion

Photo: Lagos, Portugal

I feel confused a lot. So much so that a friend recently gave me the nickname “confused tree,” the tree part being a reference to my tallness. What am I confused about? That’s easy: pretty much everything.

I’m confused about what I really want in life, who I am, how I feel, and what I should be doing. I’m confused about the world around me and about what my place in it should be. I’m confused about why I’m even confused in the first place. There’s so much confusion that sometimes it can feel overwhelming.

Here’s a thought. Maybe the problem isn’t the confusion itself, but how I perceive it. I’ve always looked at confusion as a negative thing. I mean, nobody wants to be confused. It’s not a great feeling. And there are few things that feel better than having a clear sense of direction in life.

But what if the confusion is a good thing? What if it’s something to be embraced, celebrated even? I’m not really sure where I’m going with this thought, but it has occurred to me lately that there is a sense of joy that can come from just sitting in the confusion. When everything around us tells us to find answers, maybe there’s more pleasure to be found in the never-ending stream of questions.

My Mind

My mind likes to tell me…

  • Something is missing in this moment
  • There’s something wrong
  • It’s time to panic
  • I’ll never figure things out
  • I can’t be happy until x, y, and z
  • I’m not good enough
  • The future is something to fear
  • The past is something to hold on to
  • The present is something to avoid

My mind likes to tell me all those things and so much more.

I used to take it seriously. I used to let its words dictate my every emotion. But now I’m learning to listen to my mind and just…laugh. Because my mind is like a perpetually paranoid and overdramatic friend. It’s not trying to hurt me – it’s actually doing its best to protect me – but usually it has no idea what the hell it’s talking about. So I listen, breathe, and laugh….

 

Facing My Fear of Fiction

This may come as a shocker, but one of the main reasons I started this blog was because I love to write. However, when I was growing up my ambition was never to be a blogger. I wanted to be a novelist.

Blessed with a passion for reading, the first time ambitions of becoming a novelist crossed my mind was after finishing the third of fourth Harry Potter novel. I remember being absolutely entranced by the world J.K. Rowling created and amazed that I could be transported into it through the mere act of reading words.

It wasn’t just Harry Potter, though. While I admired Rowling’s ability to create a magical world that felt so real, I also became captivated by the way so many authors had perfected the craft of writing. The eloquent prose of Jane Austen. The terse but vivid descriptions given by Hemmingway. The work of authors who could, through the use of words, turn even the most ordinary scenario into something memorable. The more I read, the more I felt the desire to craft my own beautiful prose.

Despite my fascination with both the craft of writing and the stories that come from it, I never gave my dreams of becoming a novelist a real shot. Every now and then I would have a surge of inspiration and try to create a story outline or even write a few paragraphs, but those moments were always short-lived. I never felt like my ideas were good enough or that I had the ability to write a cohesive story. Even more than that, I was scared that my dreams of becoming a writer would stay just that: dreams. I looked at all the authors that had inspired me and felt like there was no way I could ever come close to them. I was scared that I would try to do it and fail miserably.

Following the Fear

In the book “The War of Art,” Steven Pressfield talks about how strong feelings of resistance (fear) are usually signals pointing us in the direction we need to go. As someone who is deathly scared of spiders, I have a hard time believing that I want more eight-legged monsters in my life, but I do think there’s some truth in that idea, especially when it comes to the fear of failure. And in the case of writing, it’s clear to me that my fear is secondary to my feeling of passion. Unfortunately, I’ve just let the fear stop me from really acting on that passion.

Now that I recognize this, I’m going to start exploring the world of writing fiction. I’ll start small, of course. Maybe a short story every week or something like that. The important thing for me is that I be willing to dive into the fear, to take a chance and see where this desire to write can take me.

My Anchor

We all have a routine in our lives that helps us find peace and clarity, especially when the pressures of life start to bear down on us. For some, it’s a long shower, a walk in the park, a yoga session, or a little meditation. For others, it could be something more social like going to church or a support group. I discovered my own sacred routine about four years ago.

I got my first journal when I was 13 – a gift from my mom – and it mostly collected dust for the next few years. I saw very little use in self-reflection as a teenager, even if I desperately needed it at the time. And while I always had a knack for writing, putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) was usually reserved for school essays and the occasional failed attempt at writing fiction.

It wasn’t until seven years later, after returning home from a semester abroad in Madrid, that I started to see the value in journaling. I was going through a lot of mental and emotional changes at the time, and I increasingly felt like I had no one to talk to about it all. The blank pages of a Moleskin notebook I had bought months earlier started to look like the only place I could express all of the noise going on inside my head. So I grabbed the notebook and my favorite pen, found myself a quiet place, and sat down to write.

It felt quite awkward at first. How was one supposed to start a journal entry? Were all my thoughts even worth putting down on paper? Who was I even supposed to write to? What if someone saw my writing and thought I was crazy? Eventually, I was able to push past all of those doubts and just start writing.

I don’t remember at what point journaling went from a desperate experiment to a consistent routine. All I know is that writing in that notebook quickly started to feel as natural as eating or drinking. It was the first time I could express all of the thoughts in my head without the fear of being judged. I could rave and rant and contradict myself, all with the knowledge that my words were for me and me alone.

My journaling sessions are usually accompanied by some kind of caffeinated beverage.

I soon found that journaling was more than just a way for me to get things off my chest in a judgment-free environment. It became a way for me to truly understand myself. For years I had felt like a victim of my constantly fluctuating thoughts and emotions, with no way of understanding what was going on in my head. Journaling allowed me to put all of the confusion on paper, and from there I could start to make sense out it.

Fast-forward almost four years and you would be hard-pressed to find me anywhere without my journal close by. Journaling is so many things to me. It’s one of my greatest sources of comfort in times of distress. It’s the janitor for my mind, helping me get rid of all the clutter and put things in their correct place. It’s the place I get to feel fancy by practicing my cursive. It’s a running record of all the changes I experience over time. Most of all, though, it’s the ritual that keeps me grounded on a daily basis, and I don’t know what I would do without it.