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  • Melissa Panara

Setting Myself Free
















Friends, this is not even close to the blog post I set out to write. That said, I cannot understate how thrilled I am that it is now written. You’ll soon see why.


Both Are True, And That Works Too Blog Post, Take 28:


Not long after my book, Life Is Written in Pencil, was published and out in the world, I began to miss the no-longer-needed practice of daily writing. Since there had been good reason to finish my book in under a year, I really did need to work on it everyday. And that was lovely. Dare I say fantastic. Writing, I had come to discover, was a perfect single-tasking activity in an existence overwrought with multitasking. I bet you have your own single-tasking safe haven. Maybe it’s mowing the lawn. Or knitting. But definitely not both at the same time. Regardless, I hope at some point you get to say any version of the following: Sorry, family, but I’m on a roll, here… I’ll need maybe another 30 minutes of doing just this… thank you for being so understanding… you are the BEST.


With all of that now behind me (at least for this go-around), my new-found predilection for daily writing was going unfulfilled. Although not quite ready to start book number two, I was definitely interested in a lower-commitment way to expand upon my existing premise and maybe introduce some new content. In reality, there was nothing stopping me from doing just that - I could still carve out some time, open my laptop, and close the proverbial door. Social media could help me share.


Building on this budding idea, I grabbed my pencil and sketched out a plan. I decided that I would pick a topic, post about it for a week or two, and then wrap it up with a summative, hopefully insightful blog post. Using a recipe like this felt right because I’m a girl who loves me a game plan. “This is how I’m going to do it” has always been a very comforting sentence for me.


I field tested my plan with the topic of Apologies: Big, Small, or Not At All, the first “takeaway” in my book. By my estimation, things had gone as planned. Going in order, my next topic would then be Both Are True, and That Works Too. By mid-October, I had completed the first two steps; it was now time to write the blog post… the blog post you are now reading.


So I wrote, and I deleted.

Wrote some more and deleted some more.

Tried to re-work my original hypothesis a little. Wrote about that. Hated it.

Moved sentences around, swore a little, deleted a lot.

Apologized to the dog for startling her.

Erased the whole dang thing and began again.

Scrapped that whole mess a few hours later….


At this point, I think I started the whole process again from the top, but honestly, I’ve lost track. What I do know is this: nothing sounded right. And I mean nothing. My writing didn’t even sound like it had come from me. This had me baffled, especially because my thoughts on the topic are so clear. As I sat there having a staring contest with a blinking cursor, I envisioned the 80s movie montage of this scene: an analog clock in a dim room features hands spinning rapidly through time as a harried and bathrobed Melissa sits at a typewriter, tossing wad after wad of crumpled paper over her shoulder. Then she gets up from the table and does a hair-flinging, Kevinbaconesque shuffle across the dining room. (Okay, that last part is a bit off-script. But, to be fair, there’s always an 80s dance party going on in my head.)


Clearly desperate for a break (and maybe a drink), I stopped working on my blog and did what most people do when they need a change of pace: hosted an Irish exchange student for 8 days. You know, the standard. Now I’m back. It is November 3rd. It is today.


This morning, after I deleted my 27th attempt at this thing, it hit me. It was my formula. It wasn’t helping me; it was trapping me. My penciled-in plan had somehow become a rule written in permanent marker. Clearly I didn’t want to write about this topic right now. But, even more than that, I didn’t want to break this completely arbitrary rule I had made for myself. I’d somehow decided that I needed to write this blog post before I could move on and write about anything else. In short, I had decided there was one acceptable way to go about sharing my thoughts. This way and only this way.


Um… hello? Melissa….?? (Reader, I bet you see it…)


Embarrassingly enough, while writing this blog, I had fallen prey to the exact notion I had set out to argue against… in this blog. Wow, Melissa. You’ve really out Melissa-ed yourself this time.


While attempting to sing the praises of multiple ways to do it right, I trapped myself into thinking that there was only one acceptable way to move forward. My rock brain had taken over as I was bound and determined to stick to my original, it-worked-exactly-once-but-is-now-making-me-crazy idea. I became my own cautionary tale: “Take Melissa, here, for example. She completely discounted the fact that she could use her flexible brain when writing about the virtues of having one.” If there was any more irony here, Alanis Morrisette would have to write a song about it.


Maybe the only piece of good news here is this: I didn’t forget that I have access to a beautiful pink eraser. So I’m hereby erasing the totally unnecessary, self-imposed rule stated above. I’m simply going to say what I actually want to say:


  • There are many ways to do it right. I truly believe this, contrary to what you’ve just read. And even though my rock brain still occasionally gets the win, I’m getting better at catching myself and calling my flexible brain to the mat. You just witnessed that happening in real time.


  • Someday, if the mood strikes, I may compose a novel and flowing blog post about this very topic. But today is not that day. In the meantime, I am happy to direct you to page 33 of Life Is Written In Pencil. I’m quite proud of what I’ve already written on the subject.


  • As often as possible, ask yourself, “Could both be true?” and “Would that work too?” I think more often than not, the answer will be yes. And when we let go of the exclusivity of true and the singularity of correct, we set ourselves free.


And now (read: just as I’ve always been), I am FREE to post and blog about whatever I choose. The moment will be my guide. That, my friends, is the new game plan.






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