What to do when you lose the magic

Warning: No easy solutions appended.

I’ve been feeling the loss of magic in several areas where I usually excel at conjuring: walking, cooking, writing. I usually love getting lost in a character’s journey. I feel satisfied with myself when I walk a few miles instead of using my car. I pat myself on the back when I put together an entree involving pantry staples, leftovers, and just that dash of magic that makes a dish delicious.

magic cooking illustration penelope dullaghan

But recently, these pleasures have lost their sheen.

The editing work gets done because I’m on a schedule and people are waiting for me. Or it doesn’t.

The cooking gets done if I manage to curb spending and snacking cravings, but it doesn’t give me that I-care-about-myself-therefore-I-cook feeling.

The walking gets to be more tiresome, as in lugging bags back up the hill from the farmers’ market and feeling drained, not charged with the healthy produce possibilities.

There seems to be in each of these examples a magic that is lost. A sort of pride-in-accomplishment result that has suddenly disapparated and left me with no motivation to take these higher roads.

undine arthur rackham illustration lost magic

This is called depression.

For walking, I’m not worrying about it for the moment. I’m driving more for work anyway. It’s a higher bill for gas each month which hurts my tree-hugging soul as well as my checkbook, but I can’t focus on this.

For cooking, I started replacing one meal a day with a protein shake–Soylent–in the hope that this would free up brainpower and motivation for making at least two healthy meals for myself per day. It’s helped considerably in the past six weeks.

But for writing…it’s different. Because it comes from such a personal place, it’s hard to dropkick something into starting after it’s become stuck. I’ve even lapsed on Morning Pages. Where I used to be able to summon the concentration for editing merely with setting (table, blanket on chair, pages, laptop) or sufficient anxiety-quieting props (tea mug, pretzels, music)…

It just doesn’t work.

I watch YouTube videos. I sort out finances. I clean the sink. I lay on the floor on a pillow and fall asleep. I deal with my health insurance, for god’s sake.

What am I avoiding? Is it that day, the facing of a work not yet worthy to see the light of day? Is it the editor’s comments, which seem less and less to understand my characters’ background?

Or is it the long term goal, launching the new book, and having nothing left to hide behind?

Whatever it is, it’s taken the magic out of the process.

I need something else to temporarily replace my own motivation.

Ice cream?

A meal out?

The trouble is, enough layers of these temporary substitutes and you get cumulative effects that you can’t easily wash away: debt and weight. They become, in the present, yet another threat of unworthiness.

What I want is for someone to tell me what a good job I’m doing, and that I don’t have to keep up the brave face. But that’s external. What can I do for myself?

What to do?

Move. If running in the morning isn’t happening, I roll around on my bed, stretching the spine and the big muscles. I do my chiropractor’s prescribed exercises (oh yes: side effect of depression is bodily pain, easily manifested by Psychosomatic Me). I take 5-minute dance breaks from work. I watch Yoga with Adriene’s videos, particularly for Upper Back Painfor the Service Industry, and the Rinse.

Be still. Say no to the endless demands on your time, including but not limited to: taking out your minuscule recycling container, cleaning your bathtub, going out for a carton of milk, scanning social media, answering emails, popping joints, reading books you don’t enjoy, shaving, constantly reaching for your phone.

Instead, say yes to things that make room in your heart: good movies, good books, good times with friends.

friends april nesa

Spend time with good people. Not energy vampires. Not superficial acquaintances. Not people who may be good for your career. Ask for help from those people whom you trust, whom you’ve had deep conversations with, who know what an emotional toll feels like.

I went to a kickoff potluck for the Wayfinders Academy this weekend with a friend. It gave me all sorts of deja vu for when I was in Public Allies: the inside jokes, the feeling of being in a crucible, the special cheerleading provided by loved ones for your journey, and the feeling of having an openness, a kindness, a trusting nature.

Thirteen years after my PA experience, I feel the loss of that hope. I realize that it is another type of magic lost, to no longer have that feeling of possibility, of loving kindness. Now it is responsibility, obligation, and the shoulds which crowd in on me just as heavily as when I left Washington DC.

Where is the path out of this lost place? I remind myself of a few things.

Writing is what I want to do.

Success doesn’t come quickly.

This, too, shall pass.

I described the feeling to a friend recently as being suddenly outside the house of your life. You can look in the window and see the life you used to lead: commitments, joys, habits, goals. But you are outside amid a howling gale, where none of those things inside matter anymore. How do you apparate back inside, where you have control, and your effort matters once again?

Step by step.

Bite by bite.

Word by word.

 

Do you have comments or suggestions? Chip in below. Regular book launch programming will resume in the next post, we hope!

 

Images via pinterest, terriwindling