I started writing my first book in March of 2019, only a year before the COVID-19 pandemic, but it seems like another lifetime. I’m sure I didn’t conjure coronavirus, but on many days I’ve felt like writing a mindfulness book gave the universe permission to test my coping skills, “OK, you call yourself a mindfulness expert? Let's see how you deal with this!”
Publishing is one place you are encouraged to judge a book by its cover--a cover meant to have my picture on it. I needed an updated headshot and made an appointment for a few months ahead of my deadline. March 2020 brought worldwide chaos and uncertainty due to coronavirus; it didn’t seem right to meet with the photographer, so I rescheduled for April.
Good, more time to make myself beautiful, though working from home through the spring was more about Oreos and yoga pants than self-improvement. No worries, I’ll get my hairstylist to touch up my roots right before my photoshoot, but the governor had other plans and closed all non-essential businesses. Hey, getting my hair colored is essential, I have a book coming out!
By May, all I see when looking in the mirror is the fluffiness of two months away from the gym. I feel white hair poking up like wires from my scalp. Stay-at-home orders remain in place, but I reschedule for the third time as I leave town to help a friend. They are released from the hospital on the same day I return to town with only an hour to spare before I meet the photographer. No time to wash the outfit I planned to wear, so I revive an old college trick of spritzing the clothes with water and throwing them in the dryer with a fabric softener sheet for five minutes.
My mind doesn’t recall much from the session, but there are proofs as proof I was there. I must have commented on my roots as the photographer mentioned she could "take care of those” if I wanted the gray gone. To photoshop or not to photoshop? What should a doctor who wrote a book about mindful self-acceptance do?
Like any critical life choice, I allowed Facebook to decide. Within minutes there was overwhelming positive support for the gray AND compliments about my smile and my energy? My stressed mind jumped to, “What’s wrong with people? They’re just commiserating”. Breathe.
With mindfulness practice, it’s OK if I'm not feeling grateful even though my friend and I were healthy? Yes. In practicing non-judgment, it’s not a character flaw to fret over a headshot when cities are literally on fire after George Floyd’s death? Yes. OK, I like this non-judgment stuff, but I can't celebrate for too long as my stressed brain also reminds me I should be working on my social media platform. Shouldn’t all this breathing and meditation get rid of the shoulds? You tell me, Dr. Good.
Luckily, my book was written before the pandemic, as I didn’t feel very creative for several weeks. I couldn’t focus on writing. The mindful path was taking a few weeks off from my blog and social media, even though I clearly had outlined content to stay on schedule. I chose to be kinder to myself and conserved that energy to hold what was happening in the world. After many loving-kindness meditation sessions, I rediscovered gratitude in my beautiful book project.
The Power of the Project
My gratitude practice taught me there was no better time to have a book project. My sense of purpose grew with each decision; even small tasks gave me a sense of direction and control throughout the pandemic. Deadlines reminded me of a sense of time, as otherwise, days and weeks were getting lost. An added gift was watching as neighbors and colleagues rediscovered hobbies and outside interests, creating boundaries between home and work; adventures like gardening or puzzles lent a small sense of accomplishment.
And Now for Non-Attachment
My book is ready to be out in the world; I want her to do well, but I’ve done everything I can—it’s time to let go, let her fly! I will continue promoting, but ultimately have no control over what happens next. My job now is to reflect on this time, certainly one of the more interesting times in my life, and celebrate the accomplishment with the fantastic team at Greenleaf Book Group, Well Spirit Press, and Urban Wellness Magazine. Namaste!
P.S. Own Your Present: A Psychiatrist's Guide to Mindful Meditation and Living a More Conscious Lifestyle will be available August 25, 2020 on Amazon. For a sneak peek, sign in here.