maintaining creativity and survival

graffiti of vines, painted in white on red brick It was 47 degrees when I turned on the space heater in our office this morning. Thank god we’re moving.

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Let’s start the year writing! Here’s what’s coming up: on 1/15, the first Writing the Flood of 2011! Then, on 1/29, come on up to Sacto for a day of erotic writing and fun: Reclaiming our Erotic Story: the Liberatory Potential of Writing Desire.

Visit the links for more information or to register — can’t wait to write with you!

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Still learning the ostrich feathers of my own heart, still learning how I grow, how I twist, how tenacious and strong my roots are, what I care for even without conscious awareness.

One of the things I struggle with (and also have been saved by) as a survivor has been living in the present. As in, only in the present. Even still, when I get very stressed, suddenly time itself seems to contract and all I can think about is the very right now: nothing else matters, or even exists. Until quite recently, making a 5-year plan seemed outrageously outlandish to me — how can you plan for a future you don’t see yourself in?

This isn’t about feeling suicidal, it’s something different — something about having to be very very present in the right now, in the this moment, just to put one foot in front of the other, just to maintain.

And these days, I am learning how I don’t maintain anything else — just the present moment. In the Open Exchange magazine (yes, I do read it sometimes — no judgment, blame, shame, or guilt around these parts!), Claudia Six writes about the importance of maintaining relationships. She says that relationships are like plants: they have to be tended and nurtured.

As I was reading, I thought: But I don’t tend to or nurture my plants — or my car, or my body, my car or my relationship(s). I expect it all to just carry on around me.

Claudia Six writes, “[Y]ou don’t wait until you need a root canal to go to the dentist” — and I thought, Actually, I do. She suggests, rather matter-of-factly, that folks don’t wait until there’s a catastrophe before they attend to or maintain the things they care about.

But I do. I wait until there’s a catastrophe. I wait until things are falling apart and have to be replaced. I don’t mend, clean, wash: maintain. What is that about? Do I act like royalty in this way, like my stereotype of the very upper-class, the wealthiest people who just throw away the car with the check engine light on instead of taking it in for regular service and fixing small problems before they grow?

Maintenance requires a larger vision — I mean, a larger view. A wider view. Catastrophe is immediate, and, of course, eminently more familiar. Catastrophe is right now. Maintenance is dealing with what’s possible, thinking ahead, is preserving for the future — this assumes the existence of a future.

It’s hard for me to do this writing: I don’t know another way to be.

Maintenance, as in self-care. What an idea! Clearing before the house is filled with clots of dust bunnies. Weekly tending to the plants. Daily food preparation. 6-month dentist visits, annual dr. visits. These can seem somewhat extreme to me. It ends up that I only want to deal with crises.

What’s the point of taking care of myself — maybe I just end the question there? What’s the point of maintaining what surrounds me, to moving away from living from crisis to crisis? (That sounds like a prompt-type question.)

This is life has looked like: crisis – mobilize resources, man up, make sacrifices of money and time — and then recover — excuse not to do anything, watch tv movies, don’t return phone calls (too busy! too tired!), be unavailable¬† — build up to the next crisis (because everything’s being left to the side while you recover). It’s totally that old cycle of violence, having to put out fires in all parts of my life over and over again.

What would it meant to be calmer? I can feel myself relaxing into that possibility (breathe into it, actually). Too, it feels more boring: less important, less adrenaline. Important people have to deal with crises! It’s absolutely part of my identity to be too busy, too busy. Too tired, too many jobs: Something to be admired for, and an excuse not to have clothes that fit, an excuse not to have time for deepening relationships, an excuse to be noticed but unavailable. Whew. What does/would it mean to release that part of my identity?

If 2011 is about fully devoting myself to and living a creative life — that means balancing in some organization and maintenance, at least for this one life here. Organize and maintain so that there’s time for spontaneity and play. That means being aware and intentional with money. That means self care comes first. Enough sleep comes first. Being healthy and sane has to come first because I stop functioning otherwise and so do the workshops, which have become my heartbeat.

What can maintenance look like for the different parts of our lives? Let’s make that the prompt — How can maintenance not equal dull? How can maintenance be creative and joyful, life-affirming, even? (Remember: You can write about this for/with any characters you want to learn more about, if you’re working on a fiction piece!)

Thank you for all the ways you maintain — and what you maintain, even without being fully aware of it. Thank you for your writing, your words, your words.

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