I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I sat down to write here.
I can, come to think of it. Life has been full of a lot in the past year, the good, the bad or the sad, the incredibly rough and the pretty-damn-easy, the insanely busy and the…well, more of the insanely busy. One of the things it’s been particularly full of, though, is my turning inward a great deal, and working hard to try and really cut back on all of the things I had tried to pack into a life, a month, a week, a day. There were plenty of conversations and thoughts I could have shared here, and found the time to share here, but ultimately, they were really things I mostly only wanted to share with people I’m close to and, even more so, only think, feel and work through myself. A few times over the last year I tried to bring some of that here, but I’d get about halfway through something, and it just didn’t feel right.
Earnestly, when it’s come to the stuff of my life — not work, my life — the truth is that I have wanted to be alone. I needed to be alone. Sometimes I think it’s harder, instead of easier, to see yourself the more visible you are to others.
I can’t sum up the last year in one post, so I’m not going to bother trying. I think the best bet to getting back into the habit of this is to just start with the simplest of right now: there’s time to go backwards, if I want, later.Here’s my aim: I ideally want to come back to creating something here (or perhaps in another place: this particular site as it is right now may be something that I say goodbye to in the next year), near-daily, if it feels right. It was a home for me for such a long time, and one I miss. I miss its space, but most of what I miss about it is the time made for myself in it. Sure, it’s public, so it’s obviously not just for me, but the practice of just sitting down and putting words or images on a page, that are primarily for myself, but might be of benefit to someone else, with care put to both, is what I miss and what I want back.It’s taken me a ridiculous — or perhaps it was just right — amount of time in the last year to finally, over the last few months, carve out one hour, every day, that is only mine. It’s just for me. It’s by myself. That hour as I have created it has been an hour at night, before bed, for my yoga and meditation practice. Sometimes it’s a little less, sometimes more: I don’t pay that much attention to it, I just go up to the loft when it’s time and I take whatever time it is I want to take without a clock around to tell me how long that is.
I got to that — or rather to understanding how very much I needed that, and how incredibly important and non-negotiable that is — when I took a few days all the way off a while back: without work, without ‘net, without much food (on purpose), with a whole lot of water and juice and things to eat that only came out of the ground, a few books, a whole lot of quiet, yoga several times a day, sitting several times a day, even trying to learn to nap some (with limited success, unsurprising as a lifelong non-napper, but hey, I tried) and the intent to give myself to myself for a little while, where the only person’s needs I thought about in that time were my own, and the only needs I really focused on were the ones that came from a place of the simplest kind of hunger, and not the kind of hunger you get when you’re starving.
It sounds simple. It was. making the time and space for it, not so simple, but doable. And thankfully, now that I live on the island, having a peaceful place to do it all was easy as pie, since where I live is just that when I let it be.
How I felt at the end of those days was also simple: a kind of simple I think I’d somehow managed to forget how to be save in fleeting moments.
I also felt like more than a bit of an idiot.
The work I do is stressful. Emotionally rewarding and the kind of intellectually challenging I have to have in work or else I feel bored to tears, yes. But stressful as hell. I’m in people’s most loaded stuff all day, often every day, working it through with them. Sometimes I get accolades for it, but just as often, there’s a cost to it: the cost of working hard and long with very little pay and other things, like healthcare or special perks; the cost of doing a thing that is just as often devalued as valued, the cost, to both myself and people in my life, of pretty much giving everything I can possibly give of myself to a lot of people, every day. That’s all stressful. That’s physically and emotionally expensive.
The amount of stress, toil and expended energy it requires or results in, of course, like with anything, or for anyone, means I also require an equivalent amount of the polar opposite. When something costs, you have to have something to pay that cost with. When we put pressure on something, at some point we have to move back from it and give it room to regroup and expand again, or else it will break or burst.
My chronic pain was getting worse and worse, my body was doing various things I know my body just doesn’t do when it and I are cared for. I looked ill, pretty much all the time: my hair was literally starting to fall out in clumps when I took a shower. I had turned into one of those vegans who eat like crap, which really is tremendously silly, especially since I live somewhere now where I have access to some of the freshest food there is. Things that were tough to manage already became infinitely tougher. Little annoyances were turning into big stresses. When any wins happened, they kept feeling more and more like nothing. My keep-on-keepin-on kept begging me to hitch a ride somewhere else, anywhere else, where it could just pass out and tell any passerby to fuck right off. My insomnia started coming back with a vengeance, and it brought friends. I was doing the small things that give me joy less and less, and that was a real kicker, since finding joy and pleasure in small things has always been such a big part of who I am, and such a big part of what has not just gotten me through a life that’s often been rough, but has made life, even in the tough parts, still feel so worthwhile. I smiled and laughed less. Probably a lot less than I even think I did.
When I did take downtime for myself, it was turning more into ways to tune out rather than ways to tune in, which not only way likely part of how crappy I was feeling, it was something so uncharacteristic of me as a person, that, probably more than almost anything else, I was starting to feel I was earnestly losing myself in a very, very big way.
I felt physically, emotionally, intellectually and even spiritually exhausted so much of the time: far more so last spring, and less so once I got to the summer and started making small changes, but I still couldn’t shake that feeling for good.
Why I felt like an idiot at the end of those three days was that I should have seen that I needed those three days WAY before I did. More to the point, I should have seen that I needed all that was within those three days, not just now and then, but constantly, as much as anything else in my life and my days, way before I did. After all, before those three days, I’d been gradually making small changes for months: getting back to eating the way I did years ago, the way people who make vegetables the core of what they eat should be, cutting back on a ton of things — smoking, booze, sugar (I managed to totally ditch sugar almost on accident last fall: that was a wacky surprise), negative thinking, toxic people — and adding or working on more of the good stuff, like sleeping the amount of time human beings do, playing outside, and things like just letting myself cry my heart out when I felt like it instead of bucking up and being macha about my feelings, even to myself, so much.
Where I’m going with all of this is that after those three days, I knew I needed to at least start with that one hour a day that was mine, all mine, for two of the things that make my body and mind the happiest. The cool part is, something about those three days made establishing that hour as a habit tremendously easy all of a sudden. That hour is goddamn sacrosanct: I look forward to that hour at the end of the day even when I’m waking up in the morning. I know making one hour for yourself might seem like it’s not so challenging, and like it should of course be easy, but before recently, it really wasn’t for me. Not for a long, long time anyway. I can make a million hours for someone else, anyone else, but myself. Getting to the point where I could make it for myself again wasn’t easy until it because far more than clear that if I didn’t, my body, my mind, or my heart — maybe all of them — were probably going to start limiting all the hours I’ve got left in my life for anyone soon.
I wish, every day, that that hour could be way longer than that hour.Which brings me to this: I’ve got that hour. It’s untouchable. Now I just need to make more of them. And that includes the time to sit down here and write just like this.
If you’ve read this in the past, I’m going to ask that you extend me a little breadth this time around; breadth I need to extend myself. What I need with this is room to be brief sometimes, and also to be unimportant sometimes, if not much of the time. So much of what I do when I write or share is about The Big Work About Big Stuff. That’s part of my life, and I’ll no doubt bring it here sometimes. But I’d like to take the — mostly self-imposed, mind — pressure off to have to do that here, and give myself permission to just share whatever it is I feel like sharing, and perhaps even share less (as my life has changed in my freedom to do that as freely, too, and I’ll talk about that in time, as well), but share as much that perhaps is of little to no real consequence as that which is. I suppose it’s about permission to be a person who is also just living a life, and a relatively simple one by desire and design, rather than a person who is doing the super-duper work or thinking the Very Big Thoughts.
And permission — again, probably more from myself as anyone else — to, when I talk about that life, talk about it the same way I’ve been re-learning to live it, where it’s very different, and separate from, work.