I’ve not been writing much lately and that comes as a bit of a surprise. My journal sits on my bedside, unopened in the weeks since my return from Arizona. Ideas for blogs litter one side of my desk, yet every time I sit down in front of the computer (which isn’t much these days), I gently stack them into a neat pile and move on to something else.
I suppose I could use the excuse that I’m incessantly interrupted by neighborhood noise…roaring chainsaws and barking dogs and cars gunning their way up and down my street at all hours of the day and night. I could say that I’m still fatigued by a long, hot summer that never seems to end. I could say that I’m too busy teaching yoga and socializing to sit in the mystery of trying to fill up a blank screen.
While all of these justifications are true, in reality, they’re not why I’ve been reticent to write. If I’ve learned anything about my creative process in the past seventeen years, it’s this: I can’t phone it in.
Last Saturday I didn’t feel like doing much of anything. My mind would tell me, Get up off the couch and stop watching Netflix, while my body would respond with a resounding, NO! In the end, they both won. Vacuuming the house earned me two episodes of Cheers. Hitting the gym to swim earned me a two-hour nap when I got home. Taking out the garbage translated into some quiet time on the sun porch, reading a good book. Alas, none of it motivated me to write...and for good reason. By that evening, I was running on empty and spent most of Sunday unconscious…until my consciousness got the better of me and demanded that I get up and do something, anything to shake off the lethargy.
Still, I’m no longer one to do something just to mindlessly do it. If it doesn’t have a purpose (even if it’s just for pure entertainment or pleasure), I won’t bother. Although it’s important to not get stuck in the quagmire of lost momentum, it’s also vital that there's a clear intention behind my actions (even if it’s simply to cross off something from my “to do” list). And if I can’t do something with peace of mind, I wait until the proper time…or let it go altogether.
Years ago I was knitting with a woman who was making doll clothes for a charity auction. While I worked on a stocking cap, she sewed buttons on a sweater and bitterly complained about the myriad of obstacles on the way to hosting the event.
“Well, maybe you should quit after this auction,” I shrugged, looking up from my needles. “It doesn’t seem like you enjoy knitting anymore.”
“I have too many of these sets to make,” she replied, sounding overwhelmed.
“I didn’t say quit now,” I told her, knowing she’d never resign without fulfilling her commitment. “But if you think about it, all of your anger is being knitted into those little sweaters. Whatever you’re feeling while you work on them is going right into the work.”
She thought about it for a moment.
Going back to my cap, I went on. “I’ve decided that, from now on, whenever I’m knitting something for someone, it will be because I want to…not because I have to. Do you think you could make those darling sweaters just for the pleasure of knowing some child will love dressing up their dolls with something homemade?”
“That’s a good way of looking at it,” the woman smiled. “I suppose I could do that.”
And she did, much to delight of little girls all over the Toledo area.
Over the years I’ve volunteered my time rocking newborn babies, nurturing litters of kittens until they were ready for adoption, weeding gardens, singing in choirs, stage managing plays, and doing a host of other enjoyable activities. Yes, there were moments when I felt like phoning it in if my workweek was long and I didn’t think I had the energy. But each and every time I held a preemie, every time I walked onto the stage, every time I knelt on the ground and pulled on my gardening gloves, a sense of purpose washed over me, allowing me to be fully present with whatever I was doing.
Now I translate that experience into most anything – washing dishes, doing laundry, meditating, swimming laps, and even lying down to rest. Sometimes my mind wanders to things I think I should be doing. But soon enough, I’m reminded of the freedom in knowing I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be in any given moment.
There are times when I’m afraid I won’t have anything left to write, that I’ve already done my best work. Lately I’ve been rolling these thoughts around more often than I care to admit, wondering if I'll ever find the time and space to discover anything brand new.
Then something magical happened.
After a yoga class this afternoon, one of my students walked up to me, tears glistening in her eyes. She smiled warmly, “I have to tell you about the incredible experience I just had in relaxation.”
I nodded silently.
“I could see my whole heart-space…,” she said, her face beaming. “Places that were already filled with light and love…and then there was all this space.” She opened her arms wide. “All this space that hasn’t been used yet.”
“Isn’t that incredible?” I smiled. “It’s never-ending…all the ways our hearts can open. And it's amazing what can happen when we can relax enough to let that awareness rise up, isn’t it?”
“Yes! Who would have thought I could still have all this space left inside of me?” she laughed, wiping her tears. “It was such a surprise, it made me cry.”
It’s a blessing to be reminded that, even after all of this time, after all of the books I’ve written, there is infinite creative space deep inside that remains undiscovered. Inspiration is waiting in the wings while I allow myself the time to relax and renew so that I can be open to receiving it when the moment is right, for there's more than enough room in my heart to embrace it.