Finding Flow

I am in the midst of an epic battle with myself to re-find my rhythm. My flow. I’ve had it at several intervals over the past decade, but I haven’t regained it since I rid myself of Mack nearly three years ago. I got close a couple of times, but the deaths of my father and brothers in rapid succession sidelined me. As I try to recover, to find balance, new responsibilities and challenges keep arising as a result of those deaths. I can’t seem to get a foothold. The world is not stopping long enough to allow me to find my center. My daily walks have been sporadic, the insomnia is back, my bladder is in a constant state of spasm, my eating has been less than stellar, my drinking has been more than I would like, and my writing has been less. My weight is yo-yoing, along with my motivation to take good care of myself. I’m falling back on old, bad habits of using food, and alcohol, and mind-numbing activities (tv and internet) to distract me from my less than fulfilling life.

Instead of making a healthful and fulfilling life in the present, I’ve been fantasizing about having that life in the future. When I retire. In 10 years. (Assuming all goes as planned.) Even assuming I live to be 100, 10 years is one-tenth of my life. Quite a large chunk during this current period of good health. So instead of fantasizing about retirement houses in the San Juan Islands on Trulia, it’s time to focus on finding fulfillment in the here and now. But how?

I’ve decided that to find my way to current fulfillment, I need to start with getting my life back into a healthy rhythm. Finding my flow. Flow, for me, is a by-product of healthful eating, moderate alcohol intake, writing, good sleep, and exercise in the great outdoors. Common sense stuff. The trouble is, I can’t seem to get myself to do these things consistently. Sporadic is doable. But sporadic won’t get me the brass ring of flow.

So I began researching motivation and self-discipline. (Likely a fancy form a procrastination.) Currently, I’m reading Willpower, Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Baumeister and Tierney. I’m only half way through it, and while interesting, I’m not finding what I was looking for. It contains lots of studies on willpower and motivation, but not much in the way of solutions. At least not so far. Which has my will to finish it flagging. So I switched and did some research via the Google, which repeatedly has me bumping up against the same advice: engage in a regular mediation practice.

Meditation. How can that be helpful? Just sitting? I’ve done it before. I can’t recall whether it made a difference. But maybe it did. Maybe it was during one of my flow periods. It certainly can’t hurt. After all, one of my biggest problems right now is stress. Anxiety. I know that’s why I’m waking up at 3:00 a.m. each night, and I know that’s why my bladder is out of control. Meditation. OK, then.

So Wednesday night, after an extremely difficult day sorting out how to deal with (evict) my nephews from my mother’s house (which could be the subject of an entire post in and of itself), I knew I had to do something. I. Just. Needed. To. Breathe. I went into my bedroom, pulled out my meditation cushion, turned down the lights, set my iPhone timer for 15 minutes, and sat. I focused on my breath. The thoughts swirled. My breath, cool as it entered my nose. But my work. The new case. My nephews. Why can’t they get jobs and straighten up? Why must history repeat itself? My breath. My chest falling as I exhale. Cat gallops by. Is she going to tussle with her step-sister? Slow, deep inhalation. Cool breath. Is it 15 minutes, yet? Exhalation. Warm breath. My nephews. Just breathe. Focus on your breath. Exhale. The breath is warm. Inhale. The breath is cool. But what if they end up like my brothers? Back to the breath. That’s right. Just breathe. Tinkly music. The iPhone timer. I had made it through 15 minutes. Yes, it was challenging. But I felt calmer. Some of the day’s anxiety had eased.

Sort of how I felt when I was here last year:

Great Bear Rainforest British Columbia
Great Bear Rainforest British Columbia

I’ve repeated sitting for 15 minutes in the evening for 4 nights running, now. Already I’ve noticed a shift. My sleep has improved. As has my bladder. It’s actually quite remarkable. And I’ve established a foothold just in time for my writers’ retreat–a course in memoir writing on Orcas Island. My flight to Seattle is on Tuesday. I had intended to begin writing a piece (part of a memoir) to work on at the retreat and share with the group. I haven’t written anything. More anxiety. What will I share? What if I can’t produce anything? Will they think I’m a fraud? Have I not written out of fear of sharing?

Just breathe.

My goal for the trip is to use it as a springboard to establish a regular writing practice. A daily practice that will get me to my goal of writing an entire memoir. Not in 10 years. But right here. Right now. Meditation and writing. The stuff that flow is made of.


  • I have no doubt you will find your “flow” again..Look how far you have come since I first start following your blog (the Mack days)..Enjoy your retreat and just breathe…:-)


  • Great post! I am so impressed that you made that much progress in just one week. Way to go! I can’t wait to hear about the writers’ retreat.


    • Thank you! I think my brain was short-circuiting. It feels like a few of the switches have been turned off. There’s more to flip, to be sure. But I’m up to 17 minutes tonight.


  • Meditation is good as it takes one out of all those everyday hassles one is experiencing. When you “reenter” the everyday again, you have a new perspective. Just like when you look at a problem too closely and cannot see the solution and then you go and make yourself a cuppa and look again and suddenly the pieces fall into place. It is doing something completely different – preferably without the need to succeed. That is where strength comes from. Relaxation – but controlled, unlike in front of the TV and with another bottle of wine.


  • Honey, I understand where you are at. I had 3 deaths within 3 months of each other, and it took me 3 years to get my Center back. I do NOT wish to discourage you, no. If anything, to encourage you. One step at a time, knowing that there will come a day when you can BREATHE again. I poured myself into physical activity because I had so much grief and anger, I did not know what to do with it. I built many gardens with only a shovel and a spade, nothing else. It will get better, I promise you. When you come out the other side, you will be a changed person for the better. Throw yourself into something you absolutey love, and don’t stop, even if you become “manic”. This is how I learned to come out of one of the darkest periods of my life. I am holding you in my Heart. Love, Amy


    • Maybe I am expecting too much too soon. I’m still very emotional, randomly breaking out in tears, but manage to push it away much of the time. Except when people are real with me. Like your note, along with so many others on WP. Then the tears come. Instead of pushing it away, I like your approach of channeling it. Meditation will help me calm down enough to do that. To see what’s there. To settle. And stop holding my breath. If even just a little. Thank you, Amy.


      • Oh, Honey, I know when you are stressed you do hold your breath. That is why I suggested work that will have you huffing and puffing and where you can put voice to your pain with groans. OUT LOUD. This stupid society frowns at any kind of emotional outbreak from anyone, especially a woman. Go to the gym and GROAN and huff and puff so you can BREATHE. I am headed for the garden to put more new flowers in, so while on my knees, I pray for you and others that have come to me today. With so much Love, Amy


  • I could so relate to this- the ongoing changes in which you feel you can’t get a foothold. How you can long for a rhythm that no longer seems to be present and you can’t find a new rhythm. I wish you all the best.


  • No, not ten years from now, but now. The future only ever comes as now. When it comes at all. You got it – breathe. I breathe into my chest and say, “No resistance.” It doesn’t mean I roll over and play dead; it doesn’t mean my bad feelings go away. It just stops me from fighting what is so (how pointless is that??) and gives me some room to ask myself how to deal with it.

    Peace to you, my friend.


    • Thank you, Denise. It’s good to see your face. Your “no resistance” is exactly where I hope I’m headed with mindfulness meditation. It seems to be helping. Peace right back at you, sister.


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