I have a feeling we have a fair number of people here who work at home, which means we long ago let go of Tuesday, and Wednesday, and all the other days. And holidays. And weekends. It's why (I tell myself) I never know the date or day. It's why Memorial Day and Labor Day sneak up on me, and I'm always surprised when the restaurants are closed. Of course, it also means we let go of health insurance, pensions, and paid vacations, but hey, we trust the universe to provide, right?
Letting go is exhilerating and terrifying sometimes. Or, always.
Years ago, I read about a technique for letting go that is similar, but not identical to one I've seen therapists use. I wish I could remember where I saw it so that I could credit it to somebody, because it's a miracle-working wonder, in my opinion. It's intended for use in difficult relationships, or difficult moments in good relationships, but I think today I'll experiment with applying it to my writing.
Here's how it works:
Let's say you're faced with a person who's upset about something. Doesn't matter what, just something or somebody. The ordinary response might be to tense up a bit. Start worrying about how to react, or to help. Maybe get defensive. Maybe judge the person for being in that fix, or state of mind. Maybe leap in to give advice. Whatever.
The technique says, do this:
Faced with this person, breathe.
Then, silently, and ONLY for you to know, draw a circle around the two of you, a circle where you declare silently to this person that he/she is safe with you. Safe to be who they are. Safe to say whatever they need to say. Safe to feel what they feel. And within this circle, for this finite period of time, you will make it safe for them by doing several quiet things: shutting up, listening without interruption, suspending all judgment, letting them talk. And talk. And talk, if they need to. Imagine how wonderful that must feel, to get to be with a person who makes you feel absolutely safe for a few minutes. Not many people ever get to experience that with anybody, because people can be so quick to judge, criticize, condemn, adviseand correct, defend and attack. But to feel yourself unwinding, unspooling, uncoiling, relaxing in the presence of somebody who just looks at you with acceptance and doesn't try to make you think what you don't think, or say something else than what you really want to say, or do something else, or be something else, and who doesn't even try to get the last word when it's over. . .
That's it. That's the whole technique. The difference between it and some similar techniques is, I think, the idea of drawing the circle--which is helpful because it "contains" the interaction and makes you feel safe, too--and the overt, silently stated idea of wanting to make another person feel "safe." I've seen it work amazing wonders. Like the time a child came to me in tears--I can't even remember why--and I sat down right then and there on the steps with him and drew my invisible, quiet circle and listened with love. At first, he was just distraught. Gradually, as the minutes passed, his upset changed to something calmer, and then finally to laughter. It was the most amazing, wonderful thing I'd ever seen, watching this child repair himself within this circle of safety.
I passed the technique onto a friend of mine some time later, because she was facing a lunch with a woman who had a remarkable talent for making other people feel defensive the moment she opened her mouth. My friend was dreading it, and trying to figure out a way to get out of it. I saw her the afternoon after that lunch, and when she walked in, she was goggle-eyed with wonder. She said they sat down at their table in the cafe, she drew her invisible circle, made her silent promise to this annoying woman that she was safe there, and then shut up. She breathed, she relaxed, she listened with patience and compassion, she didn't judge, and if she felt impulses to get defensive, she breathed through them and remembered that her only job was to make sure the woman was safe with her. Long before the end of their lunch, my friend was enjoying the woman's company!
I'm telling you, it works miracles.
So I think I'll experiment with doing that with my writing today. I mean, why not? Why not draw an invisible circle around ourselves and our work and tell it we won't judge it, or get mad at it, or denigrate it. It will be safe with us, for a little while. And then I'll see what happens, see if my work responds to kindness, as people do.
The creek's gone down, everything's wet and green, there's more coffee upstairs, and I can't wait to get to work on my novel.
Thanks for being here. See you in the comments. :)