Novelist | Singer
When I checked the last blog I wrote, the date on the file was two months ago. Good Lord, how could this happen? I’m a writer.
It’s not that I haven’t been writing. I’ve been doing LOTS of writing; emails, emails, emails and emails. They do count, don’t they? I’m also sure to make appropriate edits and spell checks. And I have an exhibit project in motion at one of my major parks, which means intricate writing—slow, meticulous “no word but the right word” kind of writing.
No wonder I’ve been so jumpy. I’m testy and tired and bumping into walls – literally. The straw that broke the llama’s back (I prefer them to camels—they’re not quite so cliché) was Sunday morning. I yearned for my T’ai Chi like a dog pants for water. When I arrived, the class was in full swing and serenely parting the horse’s mane. What? What had happened? Turns out that I had indeed been sent an email about the time change to a half hour earlier. I had read it, and weighed in – yes, that would work for me as well. I had no recollection of that email until I walked through the door.
The tardiness at T’ai Chi was just that particular final straw. T’ai Chi is my anchor; the practice that keeps me tethered to Earth. I finished up the abbreviated class and jumped in my car, tears fat on my bottom lids. At home, I broke down and sobbed on my husband’s shoulder. He was perplexed. I wasn’t one to cry about something so minor – in fact, I hardly ever cry except in the case of major crisis or a particularly poignant movie. But things had come to a head. Life was just too busy and I had lost control.
Most of the rest of that day was a little dreary and slow, but being a problem solver, I had to erase my pout.
I set about exploring what had brought this on. My active curiosity tends to push me over the edge on a runaway train of constant busyness, along with the expectation of heaven resulting from doing the right thing and serving a fellow human-being. We learned that as little kids in Sunday school.
It has been a rough summer at work. I supervise eleven seasonal interpreters who present natural, cultural and historic programs for the public, and it can get intense. If I had to choose a tough season, I would say summer every time. Not only are the days mercifully long and warm, but there’s just oh so much to do and experience. I have to live in the north just so I won’t burn myself out. I’d last about two years in a warm place, and would eventually be discovered face-down in the lapping waves on the beach.
Clearly, if this is happening to me, I’m either causing it or allowing it to happen. Self-reflection includes swallowing some interesting admissions. And it’s so difficult to let go. Life has so many choices – too many for me. I’m lucky that regular TV doesn’t appeal to me or I would explode from overstimulation. It can make for some pretty embarrassing conversation. I’ll bet I’m the only person in the country who hasn’t seen Game of Thrones.
As I calmed my racing mind, I stood for a bit in the middle of the living room, frozen in space – unable to make a move for fear it might be the wrong one. There were a million things to do – things that I had on my many lists and had left undone. Things that plagued me with guilt. Things that I know realistically would remain undone because I don’t like doing them.
I took a deep breath, released the T’ai Chi interruptus and began to visualize what I would most prefer to do at this point in time. Writing would be a great idea, except in this frame of mind, I would write myself into circles, and I didn’t want to have to straighten it out at some future date. Visualize and breathe. Visualize and breathe.
Make something. Creation with the hands. Tactile stimulation that is logical but requires very little thinking beyond modest geometry and entailing no measurements. Something simple, and square.
Once I glommed onto it, my spirit peeked around my ego; I caught my breath and straightened my spine. Down in the bottom of a drawer, I found three beautiful pieces of material that I had had for a couple of years, planning eventually to make pillow shams. Boring? A little, but this was good material of three different patterns. And, a square pattern. Perfect.
I dedicated the remainder of the day to creating my pillow shams. As I gently smoothed the cloth with my hands, measured, cut and inserted pins, I could feel the quietude of creative invention envelope my consciousness and calm my mind. By the time I had broken the last of my sewing machine needles (gotta get that Kenmore serviced), I was in much better spirits. My new outlook felt like a warm Snuggie and actually allowed me to think.
Full engagement in life is a true blessing. Being run by life’s chores is not. Especially now, with social media and digital everything, having access to your entire network at any moment can be overwhelming for a small town girl raised in simpler, slower times. I will always be busy because there are so many options in our world today; compelling adventures, interesting pursuits, great books and fun projects. But you know what they say, “You can’t do it all.”
The answer? To learn to say no and let a few go. That’s hard—especially when you believe in what you are doing every day.
Another solution is to tap into the healing power of creativity. The spirit feeds off creativity. Turns out there is a connection between the size of dopamine-rich regions of the brain and creativity. No wonder it worked so well on my truncated T’ai Chi day.
Life will never become slow and sedentary under my roof. I will always have a to-do list of uncompleted tasks and loads of percolating ideas that may or may not take root. But life is good, and I enjoy my incredibly busy job. It also allows for creativity. Let’s face it—creativity is the essence of life.