Most mornings I journal at the dining table, facing windows that open to the woods behind my condo. Tranquility usually reigns over the start of my day with the familiar scratch of pen to paper, slow coffee sips and the faint rhythm of cars passing on the other side of the tree line. Birds and bugs warble and chitter.
The cats have their places, too. Lucie usually lazes in a sunspot in the middle of the room. Prana is always closer by (because she also chases Lucie away from me), at my feet or in a corner chair. She tends to claim chairs—even mine, if I get up for something. Sometimes Prana wriggles her way behind me and bats me with her tail until I stand up and figure out what she wants. (Whoever said cats are good companions for writers?)
During the recent COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, my morning ritual stretched across the empty morning hours from journaling, to reading, to other creative pursuits. I had more time off in those months than I had in about 20 years. The experience felt surreal, balancing the financial stress of maintaining the viability of my small business with the gift of much needed time and space for meaningful self-care.
I slept and rested for many extra hours in the beginning. My physical body had been screaming at me for months, and I finally had the chance to replenish. I connected with friends by handwritten note and extended phone calls, and ran errands and grocery-shopped for my mom. I read through piles of books I bought over the past few years and hadn’t yet opened; if I was no longer interested in it, or it didn’t keep my attention, I didn’t read through to the end. Some of those books are still on my shelf, but a large bag was headed out for donation.
One new purchase was Wild Words, so I could participate in the Tweetspeak book club discussion. While I had already lived through and processed so much of life stages the book covered, I found the read to be a good reminder of what I already knew. My daughter is grown, and I am no longer trying to balance her needs and my own in the household. My time is essentially mine to manage.
There’s a desk with a computer, in a corner of my bedroom. This is where I do my more serious writing work. I spent time developing this space several years ago, during the On Being a Writer workshop led by Charity Singleton Craig and Ann Kroeker. I’ve spent so much time at the desk in the past few months, but this space, too, needed a clearing. Physically, the desk area is spacious and allows me to write comfortably. I have a few inspiration objects and it’s near a window. Amazing light and birdsong in the background most days.
What I hadn’t realized, though, is that my mental space had become cluttered with time- and energy-intensive obligations. I made the decision to let go of several volunteer services that I had been holding onto. I knew my call to them had been completed, but was having a hard time walking away. When it came down to the final decision, I cut the cord because I knew it would free up time to write.
I’m not sure a few years ago I would have believed I had that option; now I understand how essential it is to my well-being. Letting go of something finite, to welcome in more liminal time. I’m okay with that, because I know I need the empty space for new ideas to form and drift to the surface.
In the past, I’ve attended group retreats to support my writing life. I’ve created my own personal writing retreats in remote areas, and I’ve popped into NYC or down the shore for daily retreats. I’m in a season now, like many others, where my home needs to be my greatest retreat. How ironic that so many of us have to be ordered to stay at home.
I can hear myself think again, in my own voice.
Photo by Fio Condutor, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post by Michelle Ortega.
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