On relearning the important parts.

It’s exhausting to keep living this nonlinear life, with its ups and downs, its difficult lessons, its outrageous joys.  You learn something, then forget it, then spend years learning it again.  I much prefer more academic models of learning, where we learn something, check it off as “learned,” and move on.  (It doesn’t really WORK that way, but the shared illusion is so pleasant.)

Alas.  Here we are. And so this holiday season totally ate me alive, and I was not present or thoughtful or connected.  Indeed, I was barely civil.  I spent much of my time holed up waiting for something loving or memorable or fun to happen…and as you might guess, those things don’t typically come looking for you.  You have to generate them, and generative was about the last thing I was.

But it’s a new year now, and another new beginning.  I will write again.  (See?  See?  I AM writing.)  I will read more.  I will ask better questions of my friends and family and I will work harder to remember the answers.  These are not resolutions, because those are part of the whole linear mapping of the world that frankly doesn’t work for me.  But if I can hold to these simple intentions, I will be grateful: to show more often the love I feel; to use more often the gifts I cultivate; to move more often beyond a place of comfort.  To hold myself open to the pleasure and the pain.  To be both the adult and the child I am.  To cherish, savor,  create, let go.  Most of all, to remember that ass-on-couch is a default mode rather than a true rest, and that restoration often looks like work.

Thanks for reading, friends.  I hope to hear from all of you as your new year’s journey unfolds.

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On wading in: Day 4. Going under.

But not in the bad way, not like you’re thinking.  I mean it as in swimming lessons, as in my three-year-old who loves the water but is afraid to put his face in or actually go under.  (Not surprising, considering his first total submersion in conscious memory involved falling off a dock…)

I mean it in the sense of this extended metaphor, that life itself is this vast and beautiful body of water and we dip our toes.  We wander along the strand.  I’m working on wading all the way in, and what I find is fear.  Not of drowning, per se, since I’m awfully good at survival, but of never wanting to get out.  (Here my fellow Mainers are laughing heartily, since the waters here are COLD.  Staying in is not a winning proposition.)  But you hear what I’m saying.

I know artists (of many stripes: academics, builders, designers, cooks, writers, painters, photographers, etc.) who get so immersed in their work that it’s hard for them to resurface.  They skip meals and neglect their families and commitments, or at least experience transitions back to dry land a little like a fish: there’s gasping and often a little thrashing about.

I am afraid of that.

I LOVE the work I am doing — the reading, the writing, the scholarship, the design; the complexities of play with children; the management of many lives.  But I’m always afraid that if I dive right in to the art, to “my work,” I might not be able to come back. And I NEED to come back.

This is where you’re wisely examining my metaphor and saying, “But Anna, who said you had to look at life as a matter of safe, dry land (dry in every sense) versus joyful, life-giving sea?”  And you’re right.  It’s a false binary. But for survival-oriented kids, and perhaps anyone taught that creativity and contemplation were wasteful, it’s reasonable to see a divide.  So here I am.

The intention today, then, is to put my face in the water.  Perhaps even to try going under.