Jill and I know each other from the grocery store, but even more from Interplay – a personal growth methodology featuring improvisational movement, story-telling and song. The overall tone of Interplay is playful, but the work is also “sneaky deep”: the spontaneous quality of people’s participation allows you to know each other much more deeply and more quickly than would usually be the case. So, while in absolute terms Jill and I have not spent a lot of time 1-1, we still feel like we know each other pretty well – and i would say that we actually do.
And she reads this blog.
In the context of this relationship, the question “How are you?” opens up much more than it might usually – and we were quickly (hey, it’s gotta be quick, we’re talking about a five-minute interaction) really talking with each other. She said, “I really look forward to your blog posts.” “Yeah, when I send them” (which I mostly have not lately). Then she hit me right between the eyes: “You make a difference in my life.”
This took my breath away and immediately made it clear to me that I had to get back on my pony and write. And revealed to me why I have not been writing. More than half the time I have been depressed – and kind of brutally so, more than for a long time. But I have also mostly not been writing even when I’m up. I think that underneath the ups and downs I have had an underlying discouragement about making a difference to people – do I really have anything to say?
Over two years ago, I started writing online training for people with bipolar disorder – and came t0 believe that this would be my life’s work, and it may yet be. But it pretty quickly got stuck in the mud. Lately it has seemed to me that what keeps that work stuck is a kind of devastating self-criticism: “Who are you to try to tell anybody else how to deal with bipolar disorder when you are still so much the victim of it?”
I had another project at the same time, a blog specifically about bipolar disorder: bipolarintegrity.net. “For my cohort and those who try to help, love or live with us.” From my current, momentarily clear vantage point, there’s a lot of really great stuff on that blog – check it out! But two years ago, it also had ground to a halt.
So one day at work I had an aha: if these big, weighty projects are stuck, write about what’s right in front of your nose – what goes on in the grocery store. Lots of great stuff goes on here. You talk about it a lot, so why not write about it? Those other two projects may come off the shelf in time, but for now you will be writing. That may at some point generate the momentum that one or both of those projects need.
For the first 24 hours after this idea was hatched, I told myself that I would leave bipolar disorder out, “just to keep it simple”. Right…! By Day 2 it became obvious to me that trying to leave out everything that refers to my bipolar disorder would gut the integrity from the blog. It won’t be about bipolar disorder, but will provide a window into the life of someone who happens to have bipolar disorder. Similarly, I am a lot more than this cashier in the grocery store.
But lately I have mostly not been writing on the blog. When I am up, I write lots of little notes at my cash register and during my breaks – but in my mania I never get around to organizing them into a post. When I’m down, nothing happens. The net result is lots of discouragement. If this is my interim life purpose and it’s dormant, then what does that say about my life?
Jill today shined a light on all of this. My life purpose can be expressed in writing projects like online training for healing from bipolar disorder or this blog, but it can’t be held by them. My life purpose is to make a difference in people’s lives. If I focus on that at work (and elsewhere), the aliveness that comes out of this may spill over into writing – like now, tonight, after my encounter with Jill today.
That mid-day connection with Jill triggered more than this writing. For the second half of my shift, I was on fire for making a difference for people. I’ll describe some of those encounters in another post.