Things happen slowly sometimes. I mean really, really slowly. Usually when you’re excited or anxious about something. Time is relative, I suppose, but recently I’ve been trying extra hard to be patient. It’s a virtue after all.
I worked for a few years at a counsellor with Cruse Bereavement Care and during a debrief session with my supervisor one day was surprised to hear him congratulate me on my ability to be patient. Apparently it was one of the main skills I’d shown with a number of clients who were facing difficult loss. I was surprised, mainly because I’d thought the opposite; I wondered if I was showing frustration with a lack of progress. But my supervisor saw something in me that I didn’t recognise, and I’ve always remembered it. Always remembered, too, that grief itself cannot be rushed. Nor can recovery of any kind: slow and steady is the key.
On a smaller but no less urgent scale, the editing process for my memoir has taken longer than I thought. Apart from the occasional (awkwardly nonchalant) nudges in his direction, I’m learning to accept that my editor is busy and that these things take time. And when the book shows up in an email with over two hundred edit marks, it feels like I’m back to square one when I dive in. Who said writing is re-writing? But in general the whole process has been both challenging and fun. And it still hasn’t really sunk in that I have an actual agent and an actual editor who are championing my book. It has taken upwards of twenty years to get to this point so it’s an accomplishment in itself and I’m still basking in it. The journey got me here. And that’s it isn’t it? As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, it’s not the destination it’s the journey. Whatever happens next I’m loving the creative process; I’m learning a lot and small achievements along the way are worth celebrating.
There isn’t one big goal with fireworks at the end, it’s all grist to the creative mill. I’m riding along with the wind in my hair, up and down, sun and rain. Hop on!
I caught sight of an angry-looking face the other day and was startled, nay horrified, to realise that it was me. I was sitting in a cafe enjoying a coffee and had glanced at my reflection in the window.
It seems I don’t have the kind of face that looks terribly happy when at rest – for some reason my features arrange themselves into this angry line (please don’t ask to look at the photo on my driver’s licence). This is a famous and fairly common phenomenon known as ‘Resting Bitch Face’ (but I note that it affects men and women equally, so there’s an unsurprising touch of misogyny in the phrase). “Give us a smile love!”, and all that. Sigh.
Where was I? Oh yes. I started to wonder if I was secretly very annoyed about something (see above), or generally not very nice. Maybe my face was just doing its best to communicate this fact to others? But it seems that it’s just the way things go – some people have features that ‘settle’ a certain way. I can blame my genes.
In the 1970s the psychologist Paul Ekman carried out experiments to identify the six emotions through facial expressions, even working out which muscles were used each time. Fascinatingly, he and his colleague started to notice that their mood was affected: on days when they had to form frowns they felt down, even after the return home and a good sleep. They discovered that signals arrive in the brain to identify a feeling when facial expressions take place. So emotions seem to work from the outside in, as well as the inside out. You can turn your frown upside down after all. And soon enough your brain will start to believe that all is well.
Next time I take a coffee break I’ll make an effort to form a smile, even a small one. If nothing else, at least I won’t scare the people walking past the window this time.