Ann E. Michael writes about practice. She’s been writing since she was 10, and though she’s lost the pages, she has the memories.
Sometimes I wonder if all these gaps in my life – the seasons lost from memory – have been lost exactly because I didn’t take the time to write them into being. There are long stretches where I wrote nothing, and there have also been long stretches of forced “morning pages” that went round and round each day, and I remember then my life going round and round in meaningless circles.
But I was present in those days – going round and round.
There were also seasons that I choose to identify as the authentic me – the person I long to get back to when I am feeling out-of-sorts. I have no objective basis for identifying these periods as the real me, and I am certain people who have known me do not see it that way, and quite possibly believe the authentic me is the anxious and odd one. But I have very few memories of her. She is not real to me. She is the warped-with-sickness me, the smudged and painful reflection of overwhelm, a torrent of noise.
Only the writing seasons are etched into my memories and – agreeing with Ann – this doesn’t mean these were seasons of well-crafted sentences, or of searing insight. They were nothing more than seasons of consciousness.
I am always pleased with the woman I write into being.
It is easier for me to make changes in my life when there are large shifts in circumstances. Two weeks ago I committed to a new and specific practice. Practice is something that reinforces itself. The psychological power of cycles: a day, a week, a season. A foot pushing the bicycle pedal down on the way up a hill. Momentum isn’t enough, but it still matters.
As a teacher, one of the first things I do – looking over my student’s shoulder at their screen – is scan their document and hit return again and again, separating the thoughts into paragraphs so I can take in their ideas in at a pace that allows me to find meaning. There are days when I wonder if my doing so – my providing white space – is actually imposing my meaning on their lives.
I guess this is what makes me a writer. This need to use writing as a tool for understanding the world. It has nothing to do with producing texts, or thinking deeply about everyday matters. It’s not about a gift at all, it’s simple a matter of which vehicle I require to navigate the world.
When one meditates, one experiences the consciousness that watches and interprets the “I” who is in a mood, whose knee aches, whose mind wanders. The “I outside the I” narrating an ego into existence.
New paragraph. Here is a transition. Here, something changes.
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Late. Past dark. Tired. Sleep?
But first. Breathe. Which also means, read, write. Read becomes joy. Write, more in a nameless way, nourishes, heals. I can feel it in my fingertips. Literally.
First response is to read, read again, one more time to swim with these words till they fit me like long familiar worn-in clothes. Warm to the skin.
But not tonight, not now. Rest. New drug therapy begins tomorrow. I’m unsettled with that change, only partly arrived. Yet a taste of words. Yes.
Which me is me? Amusing in an almost cruel sort of way. Likely all. But maybe what matters is when I walk into the room, who do I genuinely say welcome to. Some of me wouldn’t see it that way or even believe the question exists. But the one saying “welcome”, he knows.
Forgiveness then? For the writer who doesn’t write? For fear itself?
Do I even make it happen? Or is this just the result of process, when I let myself be water, when I swim?
You say, “New paragraph. Here is transition. Here, something changes.”
Yes, yes. Thank you Ren.
I loved this. After reading it, I felt like you had made beautiful sense of all the letters I had lying around in my mind. Piles of letters, without sense or structure. Just letters.
I’m in the midst of a massive transition … again. And I have to pull so many words together.
It was just so good to read your words. As usual
Thank you, Ren.
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