“We’ll set a limit when we’re ready, and not a moment before.” ~ Melody Beattie, Language of Letting Go
This morning I reached a space of commitment, direction, confident willingness and understanding of myself as a writer at this point in time. I did not arrive here automatically or by wishing. While not being in control of the timing of getting here, I have been working toward this space. I’ve been writing toward it daily and diligently, most of the time seeming to grope in the dark of lack of understanding, too many opinions from others, and general distraction. But I kept on, writing and trying ideas, and this morning it is as if my mind and heart have found all the pieces and put them together, and I know who I am as a writer and where I’m going.
I see two lessons. One can only get to this point by living each moment as it comes. We can’t live in the past, nor can we live projecting into the future. Life is always in the now, living it the best we can at the present moment. I used to think, “if only I were a better writer…” “if I had more time…” “when I have less distractions…” But in the meantime I did my best at the moment I had, with the writing ability and time I had. When we use what we have, more is added.
As I write this, I am care-taking my elderly mother, as her normal caretaker has an emergency. My mother is every few minutes going back and forth to the bathroom with the aid of her rolling walker. We have bells attached to it, in order to keep track of her, and they are ringing out as she passes where I’m writing in the dining room (in order to be at her beck and call). I don’t know if her stomach is upset, or she simply forgets already having gone. The dog does a lot the same in and out the back door. An approaching storm catches my attention, as does the Bewitched theme blaring out of Mother’s television. Responsibilities swirl in the back of my mind.
But I keep on writing, and the time has arrived to know myself as a writer today and be willing to follow the value of my work.
“These, then, are an artist’s goals: to work and to affirm the value of that work; to find success and make success; to play a role in the maintenance of culture and to affirm the value of that role; to find love, provide love, and affirm the value of love; and to minimize self-hatred and despair…” ~ Eric Maisel, Affirmations for Artists
Today, as most days, I followed routine. Dear heaven, I love my rut for the bit of security it gives my psyche. 8:45 am, and I reached the part in my routine when I bring the tea tray to my office–I scurry, as if any moment someone is apt to stop me with a tap on my shoulder– and sit down in front of my computer to work on a writing project. My goal is to pay attention to this work that feeds my soul, and hopefully my pocketbook, too. It is dedication to my writing craft that holds value for me.
But there are other things that hold value, too, other places where I find success, and that is in relationships. I had a letter from a cousin and I wanted to respond, and some letters from friends. When I applied the idea of first things first, communicating with family and friends came first this morning, because tonight was already spoken for. Only after I was into the communication did I realize that I was writing after all. Not on the project at the moment, but writing from my heart in the same way. And I was honoring what I value as my role in the great scheme of culture. And sometime in the future, all of what I expressed to these loved ones, all I heard from them, goes into making me who I am. All of it feeds the writer-me.
A writer writes every day. Letters count.
The artist who, craving solitude, achieves it too little, feels sad and cheated; a dozen busy days are no substitute for one rich hour of solitude. ~ Eric Maisel, Affirmations for Artists
On Sunday morning, after a full week of enjoying grandchildren and contending with responsibilities of elder care and a busy household, I got four hours of solitude. It was not at all planned, but a time dropped in my lap: here, a blessing.
A rainy morning. I curled in an overstuffed chair in the living room with my journal and books, questions and prayers. Several times I cocked my ear. Silence in the house. Unbelievable. I could hear the birds outside. I think I began to breath for the first time in a week. I had not noticed I wasn’t breathing fully, until I began to do so. By the time people came knocking at my world, I felt energized and eager to see them. I felt as if I’d been plugged in and recharged by the hours of solitude where I could hear myself think some surprising thoughts.
The effect of those hours of solitude on my mind, spirit, and body is stark proof to me that I need that sort of withdrawal from the world on a regular basis. I’ve been aware of this need, and I’ve even written about it, but I think now I know that I know that I know. It is akin to an engine’s need for oil. Just this morning I took my car in to have the oil changed. I am as regular as clockwork about this, for I know the better I provide what my car engine needs, the longer it will last. I don’t just wait for the oil and time to change it to show up–I schedule it.
It is time that I began scheduling my solitude, and great swaths of it. It doesn’t matter what others think of my need and behavior. I know that in order to keep operating my best, even sometimes operating at all, I need time alone to listen to the silence, to dream, to explore, and just to be.