Last Friday, I wrestled with back cover copy for my book, struggling to balance my editor’s extensive experience writing this kind of copy with my impulse to include everything a potential reader needed to know to buy the book. (Since then, it’s occurred to me that I’ve already written that – it’s called “Chapter 1: Introduction”.)
After several email exchanges, I decided to give the back cover my best effort one more time and then set it aside until Monday. But I was still rewriting in my head after I went to bed.
On Saturday, I learned that my brother Russell had a massive heart attack early that morning. He was sedated, in ICU and his prognosis was uncertain. As you can imagine, the significance of the back cover copy and all my great rewriting ideas vanished.
Because Westerners, Americans in particular, are so blessed that all the Really Important things are typically in a good place, we cruise through most of our days with a sense of security that actually decreases our awareness of the Really Important. We’re lulled into thinking that merely important things or even trivia is worthy of our attention and emotion.
But when someone you love is in danger, your priorities crystallize. You realize that the people you love and living your life well and fully are what’s Really Important. Your passion, vision and purpose are important, but merely important, with a lower case “i” not Really Important as you used to think. You see that everything else is trivial really.
Monday morning, we still didn’t know what would happen. Meditating for Russell and the rest of my family was and is Really Important. So meditating and phone calls get most and the best of my focus.
Coaching, teaching, my book and this blog are all reflections of my purpose and passion and therefore important. So when I need a distraction, these are the activities that get my attention and time. But my ability to concentrate is impaired (so please cut me some slack if this blog is not as good as usual). Trivia fills in the cracks when I am so emotionally or mentally exhausted I just want to “veg out.”
On the Upswing
Russell is improving. He’s still in ICU, still sedated with a breathing tube, but he responded to a request to squeeze his son’s hand, and other indicators are hopeful. My ability to concentrate on merely important tasks is also improving, but I need to be careful to make time for plenty of Self-care.
Most of the time, we can be grateful that we get to coast along with the Really Important in a good place. If we’re wise, we try to remember the crises in our lives because that clarifies what Really Important is and helps us avoid overwhelming ourselves with the merely important or even the trivial.
But we can’t live our lives as if we’re in perpetual crisis – that would interfere with our ability to take action on the merely important, and the merely important is important after all.
As writers, we use our memories and awareness of both the Really Important and the merely important to inform our writing and to keep the trivial from invading our writing. Remembering that writing is important, but only merely important, can free us from self-importance and taking ourselves so seriously that we end up getting in our own way and struggling with resistance caused by our expectations and demands.
What became clear to you the last time you were in crisis? Do you let that inform, but not overwhelm, your writing and the rest of your life?