opening myself fully into a creative life

sticker graffiti of monkeys on these three stalks coming up out of the concrete,and birds resting atop the bulbs on top of the stalksGood morning writerfriends — what’s waking in you today? This morning there’s a small bird just outside the back window, maybe sitting on the garage or in one of the tree branches above, and she’s sharpening her chirp against the waking light, against the clouds and bare-bones blue, she’s a steady state reminder that all is not concrete and exhaust in Oakland.

I’m thinking of routines. My alarm went off at 4.45 to get me up for the blogging, and I think my fingers took over for my sleepy body, turned off the alarm with no snooze, and then I half-dreamed about what I would write in the blog. Then I became aware that I was doing this, and got so excited, because it meant the blog was just about done — all I had to do was get up and type out what I’d been imagining. Then I went more to sleep, and when I woke up an hour or so later, I’d forgotten what I’d dream-blogged. (Do you ever have dreams like that, with story or poems or songs or other writing/creative work in them, finished and whole and offered out from your psyche?)

So, routines: Yesterday I was in conversation with my friend Kathleen, who said, I don’t even know your schedule anymore — I used to know when you were headed to work, when you were on the boat, when you had time away from your dayjob, when you were in workshops. Now everything’s changed!

Right, everything’s changed, and the new schedule hasn’t settled itself for me, yet. Now there’s a lot more time with other people, friend dates, talking on the phone; too, there’s apartment-set-up time, unpacking time, errands and getting-settled-in time — a lot of time-consuming work that won’t persist into a daily routine, but is my all and everything right now. This is the transitory time, the getting here time, the opening time. It’s meant to be the opening time.

My friend Lou reminds me to be gentle with myself, and to take care of my body so that I don’t get sick, and the truth is that I have been fully expecting to get sick. I used to get sick every quarter, back when I was in college, after finals were over. I’d stay up late nights writing papers or studying, drinking coffee and soda, eating pizza and cereal and popcorn, plowing through, not even thinking of my body and its needs: no exercise, no sleep, no good food, no peace. (The — my– body was a tool to get me to decent grades, to get me to dancing, to get me through flirting, but not really some place to be.) Then, after it was all over, whether or not I had to go home, I would invariably get sick — my body would reassert herself, finally demand some downtime. I forced her to demand rest from me, in the form of illness. Not the best practice, and yet, the body, I think, always wins. Once I was sick, I’d sleep, read, get quiet inside — because I had no other choice. Given other choices, I tended to dissociate by being overly busy, that most American of dissociations: the more we do, the better/more important we are, right? And the less we have to be in our bodies.

At the writing retreat last month (which seems like about twelve years ago), I was reminded of the importance of rest, quiet, and downtime to my own creative practice — and to my own sense of embodiment; if I don’t ever get quiet, if I don’t ever stop multitasking, racing around (either physically or psychically) from one thing to the next, then its too easy to lose track of myself. I get out of touch with my deep self; I forget the language of my body — and my body, then, reasserts itself in ways I would prefer it wouldn’t.

My friend Ellen talks to me from a wide-open-heart place, even when she’s scared or overwhelmed, and reminds me of the importance of being all the way open, even to this time of change and too-much-to-do. There’s the practice: how to stay open-hearted (meaning, too, body-aware) when to do so means I can’t run my body into the ground the way I used to? There’s the tradeoff of awareness.  So this morning I’m slowing down, all this week, I’ve had moments of physically slowing down, noticing that I just can’t rush absolutely everything all the time — I don’t seem to have that capacity anymore. My body knows better.

Not my brain so much, though: I can certainly make my self crazy with multitasking: checking my email every three minutes, texting, facebooking, working on several projects at once, thinking that I’m getting it all done faster and smarter and the truth is that I’m doing it all half-assed. And when I’m doing this, I’m getting no writing done. The writing I need to do requires attention, requires patience, requires breath and bone open and present, asks that I turn off email, leave facebook alone for days. Yes, it’s important to get a writing space set up in my new home — and yes, that takes time and attention, takes trips to Ikea for storage bins and bookends — but I’m not going to get it all set up in one day, or even one week. I’m needing just now to get back into my practice of a little bit every day. Making a home, opening myself fully into a creative life, isn’t something I can plow through and get done during a single all-nighter. This is a bigger process than that, scarier, more demanding. Procrastination isn’t an option in this game. Just breathing, one thing every day, and allowing to emerge the practices that I know will save me: daily writing, daily friend time, daily exercise, daily eating well, daily self-forgiveness. This radical-self-care stuff, it doesn’t stop, does it?

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A prompt idea for today, this line from a poem of Yusef Komunyakaa’s: Why did you stay away so long? Take that line, copy it into your notebook, give yourself ten minutes (or thirty!) to follow the writing wherever it wants to lead you.

Thanks for your patience with you today, even when you’re feeling the most frustrated with everything about yourself. Thanks for your breath and hungers. Thanks, every minute, for your words.

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