Trust the Process

Yesterday morning I stood in my kitchen making a cup of tea, a nagging feeling in my belly and a tightening in my throat. A bundle of nerves. I feel this resistance every morning at 8:58am, I thought to myself. Just before I begin to edit, the thoughts begin to race: What if I don’t know what to do? What if I can’t find the right words? What if the project stymies me and I have nothing to offer?

When I decided to transition from my old job to be a self-employed editor and writing coach, I did not anticipate starting each day feeling insecure. During my first weeks and months editing I assumed I was experiencing imposter syndrome, the self-doubt that comes with trying on a new identity. But now, after plenty of practice, the electricity between my belly and throat remain. 

So, what are these nerves, if not imposter syndrome?

I picked up my tea and walked into my office. After setting my mug down, I rifled through my files for they day’s project. I never know the specifics of a day’s work. I can say “I’m going to work on chapter such-and-such” but will completion come easily or will I slog towards that final period? Will a project take an unexpected 90-degree turn and change the amount of time I proposed to my client? Although I create my work calendar each Monday, I almost always have to make adjustments by Wednesday morning. To engage with work like this is actually a bit scary, and requires a certain type of gritty endurance.

But as I searched, a sticky note flipped out. A former me wrote a message to the current me in blue ink: Trust the Process. Of course. This is a process, not an item. I am a traveler from point A to point B.

On page 6 of Trickster Makes the World: Mischief, Myth, and Art, Lewis Hyde writes, 

“[T]rickster figures are the lords of in-between….He is the spirit of the road at dusk, the one that runs from one town to another and belongs to neither….Travelers used to mark such roads with cairns, each adding a stone to the pile in passing. The name Hermes once meant ‘the stone heap,’ which tells us that the cairn is more than a trail marker—it is an altar to the forces that govern these spaces of heightened uncertainty, and the intelligence needed to negotiate them.”

I stood in my office and thought, perhaps the knots in my belly are actually stones ready to be placed at a cairn of my Work—a message from my body to my consciousness that I am about to cross the threshold into a Divine space where anything is possible. Holding the sticky note, I realized that my nerves belong in my creative process. Waiting for them to disappear would be futile, and wanting them to never return would be foolish. Perhaps, I thought to myself, my sense of endurance can be retooled into a sensation of devotion.

So this morning, when my nerves rose while making my tea, I inhaled as an embodied prayer for safe-passage. I thanked my body for orienting me to the bigger picture. And then I exhaled, imagining my breath as a stone, which I placed at a cairn by my feet. With that simple breath and self-acknowledgment, the knots in my belly released. I felt steady and capable.

I took my mug of tea and crossed into my office to begin, again.