Slice of Life #31
I see there are many thanks posted already on Two Writing Teachers and posts on lessons learned for the month long challenge of daily blogging. I am in a quiet conversation with myself, not having quite come up with a neat lesson learned. Writing to learn…
I’m presently under the influence of Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life that I started reading last night. She is talking about writing as so much more than my exercise of a daily blog. And perhaps what I’ve “learned,” or am coming to suspect, is that to write well I will have to give it much more than I presently think I have to offer. Or am willing to give?
There is a realization trying to dawn on me that my shift of mode is not simply about vacation. I love it when someone else writes it down, saying it better than I can think it. From the blurb of the book When Breath Becomes Air by neurosurgeon and writer Paul Kalantithi:
What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present?
It is that line “flattens out into a perpetual present” that speaks for me. It describes what I have recently observed as turning off the striving switch. I’m no longer on driven.
This is in large part due to having my rapidly aging mother living with me and dealing with recent setbacks to her health and comfort. It creates a different take and pace. While I’ve subscribed to yogic traditions and philosophies of be here now, it really is different to live as if the present is all there is than talk about it and say a few oms.
I used to pay to sit still on a yoga mat. Now I can, of my own free will, sit and stare out the window watching the daylight play on foliage. Now, I am learning it takes time to be. It takes time to be thoughtful and kind.
So, while taking care of my mother has its challenges and sometimes demands a lot of me on top of my work life, I think maybe the perspective it gives my own life — seeing her begin dying — which is the surest evidence of my own mortality, has helped me take the ladder to the future down and store it in the garage.
So, it isn’t that I’m entering my dotage, but that I’m shifting how I want to live my life, the rest of it. Writing and art.
And still needing to work for a few more years, maybe two. So, I think that I will certainly continue to write and make a daily exercise out of it. But with more serious purpose, more artfully than tapping out an anecdote.
There are stories in me wanting to turn into lines that are far too raw for a daily draft on a public blog. Or so they feel to me. There are books that want to be read and things that my mind wants me to see, to look at clearly. My hope that I will live like this when I retire is a conceit.
I have to live like I mean it now. What else do I have except these moments? This exquisite atmosphere in a coffee house, with my decaf Earl Grey and classical guitar in the background of conversations. A student studying. The barrister chatting up the clients. Yes, on vacation and not mired in the daily demands of school. But this time I mean it, George, I’m taking what I’ve learned back with me. I have known for awhile, that, while I teach and coach teachers, I am really not a teacher. I mean, I do that job well, but I am at heart a communicator — the artist card, thank you for articulating it, Anne Lamott.
A gift of slowing down to take care of Dolores has been that I am attending more to what interests me, rather than running around looking for adventures to fill my soul.
Accepting one’s mortality before the symptoms are super severe can be a good thing. This is my life. Mine. I don’t owe it to the Company Store.