There was a period of time in my life when I felt a bit empty. But I felt guilty about feeling that way.
I didn’t think I should complain about my life. I had friends, a good community, a lovely home, a great guy for a husband, my kids were doing fine, but I felt flat.
There was this low lying feeling of not living the life I was really meant to live.
I keep wondering, “Is this life the one I want?” I wondered what happened to me.
What happened to that feisty, creative little girl who was so filled with fun and exuberance?
What happened to that powerful teen who forced her high school to have girls sports teams beyond gymnastic and cheerleading?
What happened to the fiery young lawyer who founded a non-profit to help low income seniors fill out tax returns so that they got the refunds they deserved?
I just wanted to regain that feeling of living my best life – I wanted to figure out what lit me up, but I just couldn’t seem to get started.
Every time I did, my inner editor piped in and the door slammed shut.
Maybe I’ll go back to school …
“How are you going to do that with the kids’ college tuition?”
“What good would an art degree do you?”
“Do you really want to start at the beginning again? At your age?”
Wouldn’t it be amazing to travel again?
“What about the kids … and the dog?”
“Your husband hates to leave home.”
“You don’t have enough time off.”
I’ve always wanted to write a book.
“Who would read it?”
“What would you even write about?”
“Who are you to think you can write something that would get published?”
How Do You Turn Off Your Internal Editor?
How do you turn off that voice? You know, that inner voice that tells you “you can’t,” “that’s stupid,” “who are you to ….”
How do you learn to dream again when your dreams have been tied up in and layered over by everyone else’s dreams and expectations? How do you find space for dreams and responsibilities at the same time?
For me the process was slow. The shame of feeling this way made me pretend all was great instead of finding help. But I did find a process that worked for me. It included quieting my inner editor by finding inspiration in awe (through nature), through inspiring thoughts of others (TED Talks, music and books for example), and especially through guided writing.
I found that the positive feelings I felt while running or hiking, especially in nature, kept my strong inner editor quiet. Without that critical voice a different voice could break through and thoughts would come in to my mind.
You’ve always loved mentoring and helping people.
You’re creative — use that.
What if I could…
I would come home and quickly jot down my ideas. Ideas of times I did feel alive and inspired, ideas of things I liked to do, ideas of things that were important to me.
And then I found guided writing. I wrote stories about the times I did feel alive, and like a scientist I examined them for patterns of what made me feel truly “me.” And then I did more of the those things, slowly adding activities and people into my life.
Of course, your process may be different but the key piece here is writing your stories. Not as a way of complaining or gnashing over the past but as a way of noticing what lights you up, what you want and what inner strengths you already possess. Knowing that will allow you to design your best possible life.
Give it a try!
Think back on a time you felt alive, inspired, passionate, joyful, in flow …
Now consider the prompt What happened to…?
Do this not as a way of regretting, but as a way to connect deeply to that feeling of being alive that your former self felt.
Set a timer for 15–30 minutes (whatever you have time for). Start to write about this time. Begin by grounding yourself in concrete details. Where are you? Who are you with? What are you wearing? Focus on your senses: I see …, I hear …, I smell …, I feel …, I taste …. Are there things you don’t remember? Write what you don’t remember. That can be as revealing as what you do.
When your timer goes off, read back over what you wrote. What feelings came up while you were writing? Did you have any new perspectives about this part of your life? What is something you learned or a positive that came out of this experience?
Reflect on what made this a special time for you and why. What does your story tell you about your values or what really matters to you? What does it tell you about what you need more of?
Can you take one small step today to add more of what you need in your life?
Interested in learning more about the power of your stories to create a life of resilience, connection, and meaning? Check out my Write Into Joy workshops to learn how to build resilience and joy through journaling & reflecting. Click here to see a list of upcoming workshops.