When I’m asked about how easy or difficult it is to write a book, I think of a quote years ago from Pulitzer Prize winner Red Smith: “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit at the typewriter and open a vein.” Another successful author once quipped, “I love writing. I just don’t like the paperwork.” For me, writing is like the former–like being a Shakespearean actor, dripping blood–lots of drama, but you just can’t leave the stage. The show must be performed. The bottom line is I feel called, no, compelled to write, especially my last book. I put it off as long as I could, then the story came through because I needed to review and revisit the events of my life from a larger perspective, a longer lens, and tell a story that resonates with other women because of the wisdom-learning we are immersed in during this transition we call midlife.
I don’t want to discourage those who genuinely enjoy writing, because once I’m in the flow, all scheduled and “no-going-back,” I sometimes feel immense pleasure at completing one paragraph, or one pithy section, like the one in my book on hummingbird hearts. And this is where the resilience part comes in. I believe that resilience goes beyond just hanging-in, coping with the hard times. Real resilience is when you find the meaning within the crisis and you use that gold nugget love-note to strengthen your creative expression. That’s what happened when my heart threatened to malfunction and a hummingbird flew into my bedroom. I was inspired to happily research that little creature until I could write about it having the tiniest four-chambered heart on the planet. I got the message that I was to fly, not expire.
My resilience helped me slowly see a purpose in all the surprising course-changes and traumatic reversals in my life and to take them seriously enough to write about them. Resilience helped me begin to see the self-care strategies I’d have to adopt if I were to commit to a life of successful living and successful loving. Self-love was in short supply during those years. Resilience propelled me to pay attention to my own needs. We all know how to care for others. We’ve had years of training in every aspect of the care and feeding of children, multiple pets, husbands, friends, neighbors, co-workers, relatives, and sometimes strangers. A huge lesson for me post-trauma was to allow others to take care of me. I am, after all, an “expert” in helping others. Finding myself on the receiving end of, well, everything, felt humiliating. The need to be fed, helped to shower, driven to appointments and provided with repetitious messages and constant reassurance was never in my life plan. I felt like I’d failed Adult 101 and had been sent back to Toddler 102. And just like a toddler, asking for help was very hard.
So, from my view, self-care is the final frontier of personal development. Midlife crashes are the graduate courses for resilient living. The course work demands that you demonstrate resilience by journal writing daily, that you keep gratitude lists, that you create written structures and habits for body, mind and emotions. The most resilient human beings are positive and have faith in themselves and others. They have regular spiritual practices like meditation and prayer. They live their values and stay present in the moment, always ready with acts of kindness. Resilience requires being complete with the past, which typically also requires the capacity for forgiveness and compassion. And for some, resilience involves writing a book.