In the past few months, for the first time in his four years of graduate school, he had begun to feel that he might be at the edge of something. He had gotten to the perimeter of an idea, could feel the bounds of its questions, the depth and width of its concerns. He had been waking with the steadily resolving form of an idea in his mind, and this idea had been pulling him through the unremarkable hours, through the grit and the dull ache when he woke at nine to return to work after going to sleep at five. The thing that had been spinning in the brilliant light of the tall lab windows, like a speck or a dust mote, had been hope, had been the prospect of a moment of brief clarity. ~from Real Life by Brandon Taylor
Ways I would like to spend more of my time in the coming year:
practicing my hand lettering
playing the ukulele (badly)
This year has not started in the ways that I had hoped. My assistant at the Library has found a new job. And while I am utterly happy and pleased for her, after 8 years it’s a challenge to think about spending my work day with someone new. This has brought on new stresses. Now when I wake up in the morning the list of what needs to be done starts to run through my head like an old home movie. And when you’re down a person at work, there is the struggle of doing both jobs, while searching for a new person.
At this moment I am trying not to fall prey to the blues, but the grey day is hard to rebel against. There were bright spots: the yellow jeep with a sunflower tire cover, the dad reading aloud to his six month old and the handthrown pot I found at the thrift store for my new bonsai. His name is Fred, and I have manged to keep him alive for over a week. Today I went to buy him a special grow bulb to mimic the sunlight we are all sorely needing. I balked at the price, told myself he was worth it and handed my credit card over. In the interest of keeping him alive, I have also spent some time watching videos and would be hesitant to admit, though it is probably true, I am a little in love with the man from the British nursery. It’s fun being smitten with a new idea, in this case a tiny potted plant. Being smitten is my ideal, though it reminds me of Elizabeth Gilbert and her book, Big Magic, where she advises the reader to have an affair with their writing. When I look at it that way, it is easier. It’s easier to do anything if you are fanning a tiny flame of passion. Even when I sit down at 10:30 at night and even though I write about 200 words or so, they are slowly adding up to something.
I like writing, I do. I fantasize about it when I am in the midst of work or other things I must do as an adult, like laundry, cooking, dishes. Sometimes I get great ideas when I am doing those mundane things. But what I am trying to convince myself, and it seems like I need to be a professional litigator, is that I can also be inspired when I am doing fun things. Spending time with hobbies, or things that just plain interest me doesn’t have to involve effort or guilty feelings. I don’t need to master them, I don’t need to be an expert or have command of any of those areas, I just have to enjoy the process.
My word for 2020 is practice and I am sinking into the definition of the word and the effect it might have on my life this year. Part of it is the discipline to do it, part of it is the fun. Part of it is the awareness that if you pay attention there will be reminders wherever you look (or listen.) On Debbie Millman’s podcast Design Matters she had this to say in conversation with Lisa Congdon: “Some say doing something over and over and expecting different results is madness. You think it builds skill. I think it’s hope.”
And I keep thinking about these articles I’ve seen recently: this one in praise of hobbies and this one about the practice of practice I love the line, ‘Lost here is the gentle pursuit of a modest competence, the doing of something just because you enjoy it, not because you are good at it.’ I miss this. What if we all tried to bring more of this into our lives?
For Christmas I asked for a pair of ballet slippers, with the thought that I might like to take some classes. If you had asked me five years ago if I would ever think about doing such a thing, I would have adamantly insisted you had me confused with someone else, because the chances of me wearing the right clothes for such a venture would be slim to none. But here I am, almost 49 years old, enjoying the thought each day of coming home to these slippers and dancing around the kitchen when it is quiet and I am alone.
I will never become a ballerina in the traditional sense, and I am 100 percent okay with that. But the actual act of dancing puts me in a different mindset. I find that that is also true when I am creating, in any medium. I love making something out of nothing. The same is true of writing, which I absolutely adore, until I don’t. I keep chipping away at this novel, but I find that writing these posts helps keep me flexible. and requires its own type of commitment.Showing up here is a practice. It’s a discipline too. But also a hope and a connection. A wish with arms wide open. A prayer flung out into the world.
A, your word for next week is Heavy