Keep calm and carry on believing in yourself

‘My sense of purpose zones in and out like a radio signal on a windy day.’

I wrote that this morning, in an online session with a coaching group I’m a member of.  I meant my sense of purpose in a writing sense, specifically, though that’s unavoidably interwoven with my sense of purpose as a human being.

That sense of self dive-bombed this weekend, triggered by the simple act of my printer packing up and stopping me actioning ‘publish’ on a very small and insignificant project to share an old teaching resource online in case it’s of use to anyone.  My inability to fix the printer then grew into an inability to do anything useful, and to questioning who even needs my stuff, anyway. ‘It’s not like anyone asked you for it, Alison,’ the inner demons said, and ‘who do you think you are, that they’d want anything from you?’

Twenty-four tearful hours later, my mood was lifted from rock bottom by supportive zoom-chats with my offspring and an invigorating stomp around the local cemetery with my friend Liz and her nutty dog.  She’s an artist, trying to make income in the online marketplaces that have stepped in to replace craft fairs and art shows, and admitted that she’s finding even the simple act of sharing a Facebook post difficult.  ‘This Covid thing’s much harder than we realise,’ she said. ‘We’re busy getting through and don’t appreciate the impact it’s having on us all.’

An opinion echoed by the writers in this morning’s motivation group.  We’ve been holding ourselves in ‘coping’ mode for a year now; sometimes we need to remember how difficult that actually is and cut ourselves some slack.

Ironically, as I was thinking about this just now a ‘memory’ popped up on Facebook, a photo of me with members of a writing group I once ran, chatting together at a writing event.  They were my first ever writing group, run voluntarily at my local library, and my first experience of supporting others to tell the stories they want – often need – to tell.

For me, absolutely everything in life comes back to story: the almost primal urge I have to tell my own, the impact hearing other people’s stories has on us as individuals and communities, even the significance of story to the way we learn, whether that be subjects we’re taught in schools or life skills we pick up in the day-to-day world.  The importance of storytelling is fundamental to my sense of self and following a Maya Angelou quote I heard about those who ‘show the way’ to others, I know that pointing out the route I’ve come along to those who need guidance is a really strong aspect of my purpose. Guidance on navigating life, through sharing my stories, and on how to share their own stories, too, to help them feel seen and understood.

And I’m not too bad at it, either.  And having a visual reminder of that fact pop up on Facebook this morning really, really helped.

So, with that in mind I’d better head off and order a new home printer, so I can scan that old teaching resource and go and finish sharing it online!

‘The Informals’ on tour at Writing East Midlands’ East Midlands’ Book Awards, De Montfort University, 2015. Photo: Ambrose Musiwiya

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