During 2020, I wrote one novel at 101,350 words, another at 63,026 words, and a novella at 13,000 words — and I still felt like I could have done more. Last weekend, I finished a nonfiction piece that had taken me over a week to write and painted a 36″ x 18″ canvas, yet I still had that niggling feeling I could have done more. This weekend, I wrote the synopsis for my upcoming novel for my publisher, sent review copies out to readers, and organized my Tarot collection and… well you can see where this is going.
Of course, this is all on top of working full time, spending time with my husband, talking with my friends, going for walks, and doing my workout three days a week. You know, the general things that go along with living. I can’t create all the time; it only feels like I should be doing so.
I’d like to say this need, this desire to do more and accomplish so many things came from a mysterious source, but the truth is that I do it to myself. For years, I’ve held myself to an impossibly high standard. I set it so high, I expect so much of myself that when I fail to meet that standard (and I always do), it sends me into a dark downward spiral I often find difficult to pull myself out of.
Thank goodness my husband has the patience of a saint.
I’d like to think I know where this is all coming from. I spent years being told I couldn’t do many things because I’d been born with cerebral palsy. So, that might be why I needed to prove to myself I could do anything I set my mind to, somehow proving I’m beyond being disabled. Maybe I do so much and take on so much to prove I’m strong enough to do everything.
Another thought that occurs to me is that when the multiple sclerosis (MS) first hit years ago, I had been bedridden for a month and a half. As I started to get better and learned to walk, speak, type, and function again, I found myself creating as fast as I could because I felt convinced I would have a relapse. I spent my time terrified of my MS rearing its ugly head and taking away my ability to speak, type, and walk again.
Maybe I really have been forcing myself to create because I’m always trying to outrun the MS and the potential possibilities I’m afraid of. But striving so hard to outrun myself and this disease has actually stopped me from perceiving things clearly. By pushing myself to live life to the fullest and create as much as I can, I’ve essentially forgotten to live.
However, for 2021, part of my resolution for the year is to be kinder to myself. It’s made me take a very deep look at myself and why my mind is set up the way it is. Before the MS diagnosis, I could be happily content to spend the weekend reading a book, and I didn’t have the constant urge to write and paint and create like it was running out of style. I miss that feeling. I miss the luxury of not doing anything except lounging in front of the television.
I’ve come to realize that part of being kinder to myself is that I have to act with self-love. I’m really good at showing kindness to other people but have difficulty showing that same kindness to myself. I definitely know this is all tied up with the MS and the high standard I’ve set for myself. I need to look at life not as the amount of work I create; instead, I need to focus on loving myself by slowing down and really enjoying what life has to offer. I need to let go of the fear that I didn’t know I’ve been living with and just love myself enough to not hold on to the fear. I need to realize it’s okay to slow down, and that in order to truly live, I have to allow myself to focus on my health and my mental wellbeing. I have to stop purposely setting myself up to fail and accept that if I don’t meet a goal, it’s not because I wasn’t able to do it. It just means that I need to think of another way to accomplish the task before me.
Letting go of a lifelong relationship with self-hate and the constant need to outrun the invisible parts of me will not be easy. I will have to rewire my brain and the way I think. However, I’ve made the decision to do better and that will be the start of an all-new journey.
All I can do is take things one step at a time and sparkle on!
Jamieson Wolf is an award-winning, number one bestselling author of over sixty books and writer of Two Steps at a Time, a blog about having multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. In 2019, he released his gripping memoir, Little Yellow Magnet, followed by Love and Lemonade (the third book in the Lemonade Series), and his short story, The Descent, appears in the Prix Aurora Award nominated Nothing Without Us anthology. He’s just recently re-released his first novella, The Ghost Mirror, and his latest novel, Beyond the Stone will be published in 2021.
He is an accomplished artist who works in mixed media, charcoal, pastels, and oil paints. He is also something of an amateur photographer, a poet, a perfume designer, and a graphic designer.
Jamieson currently lives in Ottawa, Ontario with his husband Michael and their cat Anakin. You can read more about Jamieson on his website or his blog, and can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.