Put The Pen Down: Bad Advice From Good Friends.
Sometimes a well-meaning friend gives you a good-intentioned piece of advice. It hits home. Stabs you in the core. Not because it rings true, but because it is so, so wrong.
I used to think, when I got that wounded, ugly feeling deep in my gut, that a horrid truth had been discovered. Something buried had been unearthed within. They’d struck a raw nerve. Like a micro-death, my insides screamed No. Run. And I’d think “Ah, this is something I’ve hidden. I’ve shrouded this part of me in fear-based protection and now someone has cracked it open. They’re calling me to examine the truth.”
But Truth isn’t horrible — it’s a direct contradiction to its nature. Truth is a liberation. It releases you. There’s lightness to it. A sigh of relief; an exhalation, “Ah, yes, of course! I’ve known it all along!” Your soul nods in agreement, “I remember now.”
The process of extracting hidden parts of our shadow-selves often requires uncomfortable examinations, but the discovery is the revelation. The truth allows relief to flood in and wash pain away. Icy water licking your feet before the refreshing reprieve after diving in. Uncomfortable holding on before the warm pleasure of letting go. Fear of the dark unknown which dissipates as soon as the light of reality is switched on.
So when advice is administered by a well-meaning but under-qualified source, you don’t need to take it. Advice is not a painkiller to be swallowed with a splash of water. There are errors you shouldn’t digest.
While I’m becoming more aware of advice’s bitter taste, I still find myself chewing some up — hoping to glean a nugget of wisdom from well-meaning insights people have about me. I mean, God forbid I became one of those guarded girls with her walls up. I want to be oyster-open, to the world, to her people, to the experiences they offer. But when you take it all in, it’s not all good stuff that comes with.
Even well-meaning friends don’t always spew hard-hitting truths your way. Some are so off the mark, the confusion they cause gives you pause.
This recent bullet shot right through me: “Put the pen down.”
My friend said it to me, as if a light-bulb went off in his head. This is what she needs to do, he genuinely thought. “Don’t write anything for a week,” cutting off my oxygen supply. “Be in the moment. Live for the now.” My insides rebelled at the entire concept, a squirming worm on a fish-hook. “Get out of your head.” I felt sick. “It must be exhausting being you.” Asking me to deny part of myself.
When something feels that uncomfortable, don’t assume that it’s pushing you toward growth. It could be your gut, screaming No, because, well: No. Incorrect. Bad advice. Untrue. Listen to your own inner voice, not the projected understanding of others onto the parts of you you’ve revealed to them, the tip of your iceberg.
“Put the pen down.”
The drip that connects me to my life support? Why?
Inextricably linked to every part of me is my inherent need to express myself. I want to write it all down. Pour it out of me. The exquisite agony of being alive. The intricate details of the moment. The intensity of which I feel everything.
The fact that when I’m sitting on a rock and chatting to him, staring into the ocean, I am not just thinking “Nice weather we’re having,” I’m noting every aspect — the iridescent sparkling reflection of sunbeams on the ocean’s navy waters. Hearing the waves lapping. Feeling gentle wind kisses blowing strands of my hair across my face.
Sinking into gravity, my body on rough rock, thousands of years old — my human impermanence in the permanence of nature. Watching memories play out, projected onto the reality in front of me: of past happiness and tragedies in similar settings. Imagining, with hopeful anticipation, what lies in store. Reprinting each and every detail in my mind so that I can share it on paper.
Duplicating my existence, capturing it, reliving it again and again — as many lifetimes as I choose to create. Living in a reality that is only one of the million alternative realities available to me, an eternity of variables and variations possible. Savoring my ability to be jotting down notes in my head while I maintain chatter about adorable penguins and, oh, look, a whale! The Ethernet of my mind doesn’t shut off because I’m tuned into this particular conversation.
It’s all so vivid; I could dance my feelings and sing the story in colors.
“You’re never in the moment” — do you even know the magnitude of what this moment contains? It’s a galaxy. I am so absorbed in the entirety of the complexity it is, I could write an essay. I am writing an essay in my mind as we speak! Creating the narrative and simultaneously living the story. And yes, it’s exhausting to feel so alive all the time and be acutely aware of it all. To see it differently from how they do.
And when I open the tap, I’m talking too much and too fast but still not saying a tenth of what I’m experiencing, and it fills me up and up until I’m about to burst, and the very best way I’ve found to ease the pressure is to write it out of me.
Put the pen down? And not be able to release it? To empty the contents of my mind and tip it out onto paper, giving meaning to the chaos. The delight of sharing with readers, who relate, are entertained or provoked. The joy of all being connected through a shared story.
I won’t amputate myself from my consciousness. How could I un-see it? Un-feel it? I cultivate living through reliving by writing.
My words: my questions asked and answered; progress toward actualization. My words: my legacy, I was here and I lived to tell these tumultuous tales, once upon a time. And I felt all the feelings. Reveled in the ecstasy and agony of it all. My words: the expression of my life. Because the ink of my pen is the blood in my veins, and without it, I merely exist instead of living in the totality of my ability.
So when he said, “Put the pen down,” and I felt gutted out, I quietly replied, “I’ll think about it,” because without my pen I didn’t have the words to save me. But the correct answer was No. And I can state it now. I will not put my pen down.
I will express my truth to the best of my ability and let no one try to stop me — no matter how well-meaning they appear to be. The world is full of excuses to live diminished existences, in disguise as good advice. I’ll allow my spirit to spit it out and allow less external input into my soul.
I will take my own advice: Defend your right to be who you are — as complex and exhausting and confusing as you seem to be. Poise your pen, and don’t stop writing.