not back to the grind

graffiti of bright big orange orchid over a woman's faceBack at the day job today — but not back to the grind at all. Instead, I’m un-grinding, gently moving into a new rhythm.

Like most creative folks I know, I’ve got a day job that helps pay the bills; I had a week and a half off between the Xmas and NYE holidays. I had big plans for that time off: I wrote up a schedule that involved going to bed every night at 9 so I could wake up at 4 and do my morning pages, then a blog post, then spend a couple hours on one of the many writing projects that I have indefinitely on hold.Then, I’d take a break for lunch, and afterwards maybe I’d spend some time typing up the writing I did in the morning.  I’d blog! Organize my office! Get all my projects into very useful timelines!

Guess what happened? Of course! I got sick.

Not horribly sick — but the kind of sick that brings fatigue and aches. The kind of sick that doesn’t respond at all well to schedules. Rather than moving snappily through all my plans, checking items off my to-do lists — I slept. I took long hot baths and then climbed into bed for a nap. I spent hours reading Rob Brezny’s Pronoia is the Antidote for Paranoia (which I highly recommend to everyone. Like, right now.) and Women Who Run With the Wolves (which I’m finally finishing).  I curled up under the deep red shrug/shawl that my mom knitted and sent for Xmas and watched many, many movies (some terrible, natch) and cried and laughed. And when I was hungry, I baked. With wheat. Over the course of the last couple weeks, I made lots of cookies, several batches of biscuits, a couple batches of my french bread (which I got to share mostly with friends) and some soda bread. I made lots of soup from scratch. I hung out in the kitchen and remembered my own rhythms, outside of anyone’s schedule (including the Super Achieving Person in my own head).

I wrote a little, in my journal. Mostly, though, I didn’t write. I caught up on much, much needed sleep. I bathed myself in possibility and rest. When I’m sick, this doesn’t feel like indulgence.

Does anyone else out there recognize that voice? I’ll rest when I’m sick (or, the much more popular, I’ll sleep when I’m dead!). How do you respond to that voice? Or do you? I know, I’ve been proud of my ability to run myself into the ground — like it’s a skill! I find that when I’m at my most over-run (run-over), still, I often require sickness before I’ll slow down: like, I have to be forced to stop, sleep, eat well, replenish.

Not a terribly sustainable — because what happens is that, the busier and crazier I get, the more sick my body responds with. I don’t want to build that back-and-forth any further. So, that’s why I’m thinking about not getting “back to the grind,” now that I’m back to the day job after holiday break (with all my big visions for the new year, as I described yesterday). Instead, I want to think about not grinding at all — how to mesh all these gears together: artistic time, workshop time, day job time, friend time, love time, self time, dog time (we make the gear and then the dog will come!), enough sleep, good food, attention to finances… I’m hunting for new metaphors. Not balls in the air (I’m not a practiced juggler, so that’s just stressful!), not rats in the maze, but what? New sprouts in the garden, maybe?  I’ll keep thinking about this one. If my life isn’t a grind, then what is it?

Here’s a prompt: What’s the language you use to describe your daily life? Is it full of words and metaphors that invoke images or feelings of being chained, ground, wrenched, tied up? Is there other language you could use to talk about your now as you move into and toward your future? Let’s play with this some. Try this — on a sheet of paper, number the lines 1-10. (I always liked the numbering part of any classroom exercise about the best when I was in school.) Draw three vertical lines down the page, one about halfway across the page, one about an inch to the right from that line, one about an inch from the far right side.

1.                                                       |                   |                                  |             |<- edge of page

2.                                                       |                   |                                  |             |<- edge of page

Now, in the middle column, write a verb in the present tense. Fill in all 10 lines with a verb there; try not to think about this — just write the first one that comes to mind:

1.                                                       |  leaps        |                                  |             |<- edge of page

2.                                                       | crabs        |                                  |             |<- edge of page

Now cover that middle column with something else (your hand, a piece of paper). In the last column, write a noun (could be a common noun, like cow or foot, a proper noun, like Grandma or Las Vegas, or a feeling word (like love or hurt). Again, fill in all 10 lines with a the first noun that comes to mind.

1.                                                       |                  |                                  |  cow       |<- edge of page

2.                                                       |                   |                                  |  orchids |<- edge of page

Lastly! Fill the in-between column with “like” or “like a” and then fill the first column with “My life” (or His/Her/Your life, if that resonates better!). You’ll end up with 10 lines that read something like this:

1.    My life leaps like a  cow

2.    Her life crabs  like orchids

The best part about this exercise, of course, is that you end up with similes that often make little logical sense. Let yourself choose one of these and spend some time with it, writing into what it could mean!

And please feel welcome to share any good prompts and/or responses with other readers here!

Thank you for your patience with yourself, particularly with the parts of yourself that are so sure of themselves and others and then get knocked on their butts now and again. Thank you (thank you!) for your words.

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