I’m on summer vacation time this past week. My internal clock finally adjusted itself. It looked around, said ‘oh it’s July’, switched into slower, and then into slowwwww. I am now in summer mode. Hooray!
Summer mode means my time stretches. Becomes casual and bendy. I start tacking ‘ish’ onto my times for meeting friends and family. Six-ish. Noon-ish. Eleven-ish.
I like ish-time.
I worked with a fellow who taught me about summer mode and ish-time. Every year he would take his vacation, six weeks of it, as one piece. On the morning of his first day off, he would pick up his watch, put it at the back of a drawer, and leave it there. He moved through his vacation to the feel of each day in his body, to the rhythm of the sun rising and setting, to long conversations with friends, to the stars appearing at night. Eating, moving, resting as the mood took him.
On the evening of the last day of his vacation he would go back to the drawer, pull out his watch, and return to the world of time and appointments set without ish on the end.
This summer it took me until mid-July to remember to take off my watch and put it away. After an intense twelve months, it is time to play, to re-balance and recharge. To wander through summer. Let my days stretch. Let my body and the sun tell me what time it is. Let ish-time lead me where it will.
Thank you, David, wherever you are, for showing me this so many years ago. Thank you for the gift.
I’ve been reading about vulnerability in Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly. Her words have me feeling and remembering.
Growing up, no one told me that strength included vulnerability. If they did, I didn’t hear them. Maybe the people around me did not know this either.
Growing up, I was taught that being strong meant holding back my feelings from public view. Show a calm, controlled front. Always pretend everything is okay. I became so good at this, even I didn’t know what I was feeling sometimes.
I kept pushing my feelings away. I thought I was getting rid of them. Truth is I was storing them behind a fence of ‘okay’.
This is not the way to live. I knew it, but did not know how to be different.
Things changed when I was twenty-one. I began the relationship with my future husband. He saw my heart behind the fence, and he loved it, and he wouldn’t let go.
Something in me knew it was time to build a gate. A skinny gate at first, but enough to let me say out loud for the first time in my life, to someone, I love you.
I was terrified saying it. This was laying myself open, a direct path to hurt me and reject what I offered. Despite all of the loving actions and words Lyle had given me, I did not trust I was truly worthy of love. I didn’t much love myself, so how could someone else love me?
I could not say ‘I love you’ to Lyle as a statement. I said it like a question needing the right answer.
He said it. He said I love you. He answered. To me.
Love made the gate in my fence. Love and the courage to love. I don’t know where the courage came from, and the ability to hear the voice that whispered inside me, ‘do this’.
I knew this was a choice, to stay with fear or to step forward to love. I knew Lyle saw me differently than I saw myself. He saw a world that did not require fear, and he saw me in this world braver than I saw myself. Maybe this is how my courage appeared. His vision sparked my belief, and my belief sparked courage to arise, be seen, and claim out loud my ability to love.
Lyle showed up for me when I needed someone to help open a way through the fence I had built around myself.
Lyle told me how he felt and what he saw in me. But louder than the words were his actions. He treated me as a person of great value, who had gifts to be seen and shared.
He believed in me.
This is what we do for each other. We see the best in the person standing before us, even and especially when they can’t see it themselves. We believe in them. We say ‘let’s do this together’.
We all have the gift and possibility of being a Believing Mirror for the person standing before us. We just have to choose to see that in ourselves, and be vulnerable enough to offer it to someone else.
‘I believe in you.’ Words as precious and important and life-changing as ‘I love you’.
Lyle and I have been together thirty-seven years. We have a son to be proud of. My fence? It shows up sometimes as a ghost of itself. Old habits, old patterns of thinking and reacting, reminding me where I was, and showing me where I am now. I pat it kindly, and thank it for keeping me safe at a time when I thought I needed protection. Then I walk around it.
Lyle, I love you. Happy Father’s Day.
In this post:
Brene Brown, book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Avery, 2012. http://brenebrown.com/
Five words. A declaration and an intention. A pen with dark pink ink and a stack of loose leaf paper. An open heart and a hungry mind. This is all it takes to give me joy.
I can write anywhere. My joy is portable. How cool is that? It is easily called and easily, instantly created.
I could make this difficult, make my writing feel like work. Be all serious and ‘this has to be good, this has to be perfect, this has to be outstanding, a twenty out of ten on the Writing Scale.’ Putting my focus on the product, the outcome, how my writing will be received.
Ick. No. That is the job of my internal critic, who is sleeping right now. There is no need to call her. She is grouchy when woken up. Truth, she is grouchy all the time. No. I don’t need her here, being bossy.
I am putting my focus on creating. Being in action. This is play. Writing my blog post is play. Jumping into words like they are the biggest ball room at the playground, and I get to wiggle into the middle of all these words and find the ones I love best today. Try this one or this one. String together these ones. Nope, not this one. Choose the one over here instead.
Joy. This is joy. Imagining. Being curious. Experimenting and finally choosing which words I want.
This is how I played as a child. No expectation. Just diving into the ball room of my imagination and letting myself go wherever I wanted, for as long as I wanted.
Pablo Picasso said every child is an artist.
He is right.
I am a child today. I am playing with words and pen and paper and my imagination. I am in joy.
I’m in resistance mode today. Unwilling. Grouchy. I am a two-year-old in tantrum. Don’t wanna.
What don’t I want to do? Anything that my mind decides feels like work, like writing this blog post, paying the bills due today, doing up the grocery list for tomorrow’s shopping. Don’t wanna, my mind keeps saying.
What do I want to do? Lay on the couch and read all afternoon. I am on page 221 of The Peripheral by William Gibson. Bought it during Christmas holidays and started reading it this week. Yes, it’s GOOD, and that’s why I want to read all afternoon. Find out what happens next—the hallmark of a well-written book. Thank you for sharing this, William.
So what am I going to do about all this ‘don’t wanna’?
I am bribing myself. I have a big mug of cocoa at my side, one of my last candy canes melted into it. I have music on, a combination of melody and the sound of ocean waves running against a rocky beach. I have my Minions standing guard atop the unruly pile of papers on my work table. Kevin with his banana and black English bowler hat. Stuart in his blue vampire cape, showing off his spikey teeth. They make me laugh. And they are cheering me on.
Bribery and a cheering section. This works.
So I sit myself at my studio work table. Pick up my purple BIC pen. Lay in front of me a stack of loose leaf paper. I have a blog post to create. What do I write?
I start here, where I am. Unwilling. Crabby. Bad mood. Resisting everything. And I write exactly this. How I feel. Struggling to not struggle.
I learned this from both Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron. Begin where I am. Become present to my life just as it is in this moment, bad mood and all, says Natalie.
Accept it, and write anyways. Place my tantrum on the page, put the drama where it belongs, says Julia.
The page accepts everything. Holds it for me so I don’t have to. Tells me it is alright and I am alright. The mood I am in will shift and change and fade to something else. Let it. I know it fades quicker when I let myself create.
Am I feeling better? Yes. Is the ‘don’t wanna’ still hanging around? Yes, but not as loud. I’ll get through and past this tantrum.
Sitting here writing, I suddenly know why I am grouchy. Yesterday I wrote for four-plus hours, material for a creativity course I am teaching in the Fall. Felt awesome while I was deep in creation. Excited, inspired, energized. Ideas and words flowing. Unstoppable.
And now today, the water level in my creative well is low. Almost drained. I need to refill it. Julia taught me to understand this, too.
I know what to do. Play. Lay on the couch and read William’s book. Do a crossword puzzle or two with my pink BIC pen. Colour in my new colouring book with my set of fifty Crayola felt pens scattered across the table top. Watch one of the animated movies I have collected, and laugh. Marvel at the collective imagination of those who created the movie characters and the story. Laugh more.
And then love myself. Love and celebrate what I created yesterday. Love and celebrate what I create today. Just love myself, resistance and bad mood and writer and artist and all.
I am who I am in each moment. Love this, and allow, and accept. Create from exactly where I am, especially if it requires some bribery to get to the studio and pick up my pen.
Love my unwillingness. It gives me a place to begin today. It gives me a blog post to write and share. It reminds me to love myself, whatever is happening.
I have read all of Natalie Goldberg’s books, several times over. Underlined and highlighted and written in the margins and inside the covers. Sometimes I listen to her audio books while I work in my studio at my easel. Do writing practice, just for fun, to see what appears. Do writing practice, with purpose, my way of getting first drafts down onto the page with my wild words intact.
I love Natalie. She is all about writing and creating, attitude and determination. I’ve read and listened so often, I now have a Natalie voice inside me. She urges me on as I create words and images. Keep your hand moving, I hear, ten minutes, go! And I do.
My Natalie voice is busy today, and here is the result:
Natalie says, six lines, go!
November, 2:03pm, snow, and wind through my window.
My toes are cold.
Hammering next door
and a saw humming two doors farther.
My solar power Japanese lucky cat waves her paw at me.
What to do with the rest of my life.
Natalie says, six lines, go!
Thursday afternoon. Snow and cloud.
This summer’s crows calling, feed me mama.
I understand that.
My pen is fat in my fingers, awkward.
I love it anyhow for its four colours of ink.
No place to go where I am not me.
Natalie says, ten lines, go!
There’s a space in me where joy moves in and out like the tide.
Think The Wizard of Oz. The 1939 movie with Judy Garland as Dorothy.
Dorothy and Scarecrow and Tin Man are walking through a forest. It is creepy. The light is dim. They start talking about what might be hiding. Lions. Tigers. Bears. Oh no! They manage to scare themselves silly by the end of the scene, even though there are no lions or tigers or bears. The Cowardly Lion, who they eventually meet, is nowhere near scary.
This is what I have been doing the last two months. Scaring myself silly. Imagining lions and tigers and bears. Blocking the writing on my book.
I’ve been doing other things instead of my book. Useful good things, I tell myself. Yes, true, they are. But it is odd how I do those useful good things first, plan to get to my book writing second, and somehow never get there.
I’m watching this happen. Two months of watching and not doing. I can’t seem to break the pattern. I’m not choosing to. What is stopping me?
Over my years of creating, I have run myself into blocks and scared myself a lot. I see what’s happening and I find my way through. Every time. Except now.
I could blame it on the fact that this is my first experience writing the second draft of a book. I don’t know what to expect, don’t yet know my process for this kind of creating, or how long it might take me. I do know this long at not-writing is too long.