No need to hurry, no need to sparkle, no need to be anybody but oneself.
These words once writ by Virginia Woolf have become words to live by for me. When you have bipolar disorder, it comes with its challenges. The depression that occasionally rears its ugly head can be a cumbersome beast indeed. And there are day to day tasks that for some are as easy as wink. Effortless. But when you are in the throes of a depression, they can seem endlessly overwhelming. Washing dishes. Cleaning the bathroom. Doing the laundry. Some days I manage these without a second’s thought. Other days, it takes me all I can muster within myself to tackle them and I feel positively exhausted afterwards.
Beyond this, it seems these days on social media that it’s all about the sparkle. Peeps living their best lives and posting about it. And you wonder, when you’re feeling low, why you have no sparkle left. When once you sparkled so gloriously. And so it is that I find comfort in Virginia Woolf’s insistence that on any given day all I need to be is myself, in whatever shape or form that may take.
And so it is with my work too, as a novice writer. Sometimes the ideas flow and I feel positively elated with the ease with which I write and the pages simply flow forth from me like a natural spring well. Other times, I wonder what the hell I’m doing, each word like pulling teeth as I write. But I am patient with myself. I tell myself I may not like my work today, but I can look upon it with fresh eyes the next morning and I might feel differently. And most times, I do. Most times, I reflect on my work afresh and find the beauty in it. Or at least, some merit, perhaps to be reworked or polished up a little.
But writing is a tricky thing. Slippery like an eel. On the one hand, there is nothing I would rather do with my life. I have lived many lives already, as a lecturer, a teacher, a commercial writer, an assistant in a bookshop… But none have satisfied my soul as much as flexing my creative muscles and writing a novel, or whittling away at my collection of short stories still in progress. But it comes with days of aching self doubt too. When I recently published my first novel, Zimmer, on Amazon, at first I was thrilled. There she was. My book baby. For the world to see. But then the self doubt crept in and I became wracked with anxiety. Would anyone like it? For all the hours I’d poured into it, was it even a good story? Was I worth my salt as a self-professed writer? Would I be able to do what I love more than anything in this world for the rest of my life? Or was it a silly pipe dream? Would I have to throw in the towel and get a Real Job, my dream deferred forever?
But I know well enough to wait patiently. For my sparkle to return. For return it does, when I least expect it. But I do not hurry it along. When it feels like the words have become nothing more than a slow drip from a leaky faucet, I know that the day will come when they will flow again. And so it is. Ebb and flow. As in nature.
In winter, trees lose their leaves and creatures hibernate, reserving their energy in the colder months. But with spring, all things seem to come alive again. Even though they were always there, lying hidden in waiting. The notion that we should constantly sparkle, that we should fill our hours as busily as physically and mentally possible… Well, in fact, it is against the very nature of things. And so I remind myself that I too am a part of nature. I too may grant myself the time when it feels like I’ve lost all my leaves, like I am no longer blossoming. There will come a time when I am in full bloom. If I learn to trust and be still within myself. Reserve my spent energy and what little I have left for warmer days to come. And I learn not to compare myself to others. I am me. I battle my own demons. And I suffer my own low blows. And to each their own. Their truths, their inner realities, that most of us will never know. Not really.
And I write. Even when I feel it is hopeless. Even when I feel I am talentless. Even when I have no faith in myself. I write. I eke it out of me, one word at a time. Yes, there are days where I can write pages and pages like it is nothing. But on these other, harder days, I write still and tell myself it is good enough. Even if I’ve barely managed a couple of pages. I wrote, in spite of it all. I am victorious. Because a writer is who I am to my very core. And I cannot be myself unless I am writing. It’s taken me a very long time to finally arrive at who I most want to be. And really I have only circled back on the dreams I once held as a child. But it took a couple of decades to return to the dreamer I once was. And even though I sometimes withdraw completely into myself, I cling to my dream, and it sustains me at my darkest.
So cling, cling desperately to whatever sustains you. Where your soul lies in need of nourishment. And trust that the sparkle will return. There is no need to sparkle always. To rush and hurry always. Simply manage what you can, and try your best, as only you can know. And that, that is enough. Be gentle. Be kind. Speak soothing words to apply like a balm to your inner self. And just be yourself. The willow does not wish to be an acorn tree. The tiger does not wish to be a proud lion. The humble dandelion does not wish to be a sweetly scented rose, for the merry bees do not discriminate between the two. All things serve their place in the grander story of this world. So you just be you. Always.