The Power of Having 'My People'

April has been a bit of a bust, friends.

My most recent post was published on April 6 (three weeks ago -- yikes!), and on April 7, the following morning, a giant SUV pulled out into the middle of the road to turn left. We were chugging along minding our own business, talking about where to plant the flowers we'd just purchased from the Butterfly House. We were going about 40 MPH, and the SUV driver didn't look to see us coming.  

It was absolutely horrifying. I was driving. The air bags deployed, and the car smelled like it was about to explode. Andrew was a pillar of strength and stability. He took control of the situation, got me out of the car, spoke with the police, and conversed with the irrationally angry guilty party. Meanwhile, I mostly sat on the side of the road shaking and crying. A few angelic strangers stopped and held my hand for a minute, assuring me that everything was going to be fine, and that it was perfectly acceptable to be rattled after something like that. (Bless you, strangers, wherever you are!)

Mercifully, Andrew and I walked away with no major injuries. We've definitely experienced some whiplash/muscular discomfort, and I had a first degree burn and bruising on my forearm from the airbag. But we walked away, and it could have been a heck of a lot worse than that. 

Nonetheless, car accidents are followed by a MOUNTAIN of grown-up stuff. I spent gobs of time on the phone with various insurance representatives, trying to get everything sorted out. The other party's insurance company was not cooperating with us. It took almost a week to learn that my car was indeed totaled, and that we would be getting a total loss payout. It took two weeks for me to get a rental car, for a variety of reasons. Finally, we had to involve our own insurance to get everything taken care of on our behalf.

And still, we have yet to close everything out and purchase a new vehicle. The process has been exhausting and time-consuming, and it is super hard not to silently curse the random stranger who pulled out in front of us without looking, inciting this avalanche of crap that landed squarely on my to-do list.

But the biggest 'damage' revealed itself more slowly. It wasn't until later that I realized I was dealing with a variety of PTSD symptoms, and my writing routine was completely shot. I've had trouble sleeping, and couldn't seem to find the motivation to get back into my routine. My anxiety has been off the charts, and I just haven't had the energy or the capacity to pick myself back up again. 

Enter 'my people.' Oh, how wonderful it is to have 'my people!'

I attend a writers' meet-up once a month, and we had our April meeting earlier this week. The impact on my motivation and capacity was instantaneous. 

I spent one hour discussing a writing topic with a group of forty writers, then spent another hour with them in small critique groups. And that was it-- that was all I needed. Energy is contagious. I left feeling known, resourced, encouraged, and motivated. I even spent a few minutes in the parking lot with some of my new writing buddies, who convinced me to be brave and submit a piece for critiques next month.

And you know what? I did it. The following morning, I got up, did an hour of edits, and submitted the story for critique. I chose to willingly subject myself to live, public criticism, y'all. They are going to sit there with my story in their hands and tell me everything that's wrong with it. I can't say that I'm looking forward to it, but I'm super proud of myself for the decision to enter into that process willingly, arguably sooner than I really need to. That is worth celebrating.

No, the writing group did not make my PTSD evaporate into thin air. But they did give me a boost to get back in the saddle and write. In addition to the story submission, I've been able to work on the second draft of my novel, and I'm sitting here writing this blog post with a smile on my face. The sun in shining, the spring breeze is drifting in through the open window in my office, and I feel much better than I have at any point in the last three weeks.

We are not meant to pursue our interests alone. Even for something as individual and private as writing, it is so helpful to have people who get it and understand the process. Without having close relationships with any of them, really, my fellow writers managed to give me a boost and help me out of my rough patch. I can end the month well, and move into May with renewed purpose and restored motivation.

This is a short entry today, but worth stating regardless. To my people: thank you. You know who you are, and I am beyond grateful for you.

To everyone else: if you don't already have them, be brave and go find your people. In addition to the obvious benefits of friendship and resources, shared-interest people possess a power to encourage and motivate you to a degree that will, quite frankly, blow your mind. Find your people, and hang on to them. The fruit is absolutely worth the search effort.