The Stress Doc starts taking some of his advice about setting limits and "letting go." Not just mind-body exhaustion, but self-perception and creative expression are at stake.
Learning to "Let Go" Not Knowing Where You're Going...Yet Trusting You Will Get There
"Letting go." One of those pithy phrases that has multiple semantic shadings: a) letting it all hang out, b) letting it rip, going for it, come what may, or conversely, c) giving up the dream or illusion or, even, cherished belief, d) accepting the loss, especially the ability to control another, and e) no longer fighting or denying reality; going with the flow.
Letting go is on my mind these days. Two developments have insured this state of mental affairs: 1) the beginning battle and ongoing skirmishes with my book editor for the structure, style and soul of Practice Safe Stress with the Stress Doc (see today's "Main Article") and 2) the recent increase in conflict mediation, stress and team building workshops and speaking engagements. The speaking/consulting work is being generated by repeat business along with marketing team and new web site-bookings.
Also, I just discovered an old college and basic training bunkmate paved the way for me to speak at a legal conference in New Orleans. Neal and I had been out of touch for decades. Then, a couple of years ago, through the magic of the Internet, Neil finds me. I again let our connection slip away. Mr. G, now President of this legal association, insures the conference planner I will speak for less than my regular fee. That old wily fox! And the bond is as natural and close as ever. So maybe you can let go, even more than once, and come together again.
And, of course, there's a distinct connection between public speaking and letting go. I’m envisioning using my highly popular discussion and drawing workshop exercise with audiences as large as three hundred. We’re attempting to generate a psychohumorist art happening, if you will. I’ve done it successfully with a hundred or so. Can it work with three times this number? So I’m trying to follow my opening process as outlined in, "Creative Risk-Taking: The Art of Designing Disorder": Aware-ily jump in and "let go" or "strive to survive the high dive." (Okay, as an honorary native of N’Awlins, check for alligators before taking the plunge. And email me for the risk-taking article.)
And today, there is another time and place for letting go; not as a stage performer but as a deadline writer. With the aforementioned engagements and the, prayerfully, final stages of manuscript editing generating a bimonthly "Notes from the Online Psychohumorist"™ for the short-term future is beyond my grasp.
How hard it is at times to acknowledge the obvious, to reconsider an egoal standard, especially when one’s goal and ego are both precariously intertwined and inflated. For my friend Hank (who has been one of the Stress Doc literary beta testers long before I even knew the term) it was a no-brainer. When I recently admitted "defeat," that is, acknowledging being able to just squeeze out one newsletter in March, his reply: "Good. I’m glad you’re not being so compulsive."
It’s true, too much of my own identity and self-esteem is tied to being productive as a writer. This may be due to late blooming. Also, for many years I had great doubts about my writing abilities. The lurking fear: "Use it or lose it!" If I don't write constantly or, at least, consistently, the magic may disappear. The red hot, glowing burning charcoal psyche will die down into a warmish wimpish ashen afterthought. Never enough heat to spark combustion, just a low grade fever. And, truth be told, having for years labored in relative obscurity both as a speaker and writer, there's the fear that if I don't keep performing, I'll again lose both the edge and my stage. (And I must say how reassuring it was getting several emails from readers wondering when the newsletter was coming out.)
The other vital problem: obsessively pondering, "Can there be life after deadlines?," is choking off the creative wellspring. Constantly trying to be original or imaginative on demand feels like the paradox engendered when someone suddenly barks at you, "Be spontaneous!" Your disoriented, paralyzed look comes closest to being the authoritative answer to the communication conundrum.
And it's also the way my brain feels trying to grind out uncommon work without enough down time. Living on the creative edge requires periodic retreats, taking an incubation vacation to hatch a new perspective. Hitting the wall stirs what psychiatrist Richard Rabkin called, "thrustration." I have defined this neologism thusly: when you're torn between thrusting ahead with direct action and frustration as you haven't quite put together the pieces of the creative puzzle. Thrustration which retreats into an incubation vacation is sowing the ground for...Aha! Creative retreating as "letting go."
It's suddenly obvious: life does not have to be all or none. I'm reminded of a classic New Yorker cartoon. A humble looking Charles Dickens is being dressed down by his self-righteous, power-suited, power-desked publisher: "Really Mr. Dickens, was it the best of times or was it the worst of times? It can scarcely have been both!"
So once I realize the issue isn't putting The Stress Doc Newsletter on the shelf but temporarily limiting publication to one newsletter per month, letting go feels affirming. (And it probably is a mutual relief, especially if feeling bad about being a two or three newsletters behind in your reading. Remember, you can always delete a newsletter guilt-free. Three deletions, then I might start inquiring, "What's your problem? Are you feeling overloaded? ;-) And now there's a solution: "letting go." Just keep in mind this newsletter's opening lyrical anthem:
Fight when you can Take flight when you must Flow like a dream In the Phoenix we trust!
Letting go...It's a vital tool for keeping your cool and for helping us all... Practice Safe Stress!