The sky was fire and tropical ocean and newborn skin this morning. A front is moving in to what has been clear, crisp Autumn weather, and the sun rising east of the clouds made a spectacular display of the bowl over the world as we drove to school this morning.
Ravel’s “Pavane For A Dead Princess” happened to be on the radio, providing a lush soundtrack to what should have been a hectic, little bit late drive, as cars swirled around the school like angry bees. I couldn’t seem to get agitated, though; the world around me made me grateful for the excuse to get up, even after a night with too little sleep. We moved through the streets in a peaceful cocoon, cresting a hill and exhaling as the trees opened and the sky surrounded us.
Sunrises are fleeting, changing with each moment, and by the time I dropped my daughter at the curb at school the sky was just a pale, morning blue with gray clouds moving in. I should have taken a picture when I could, but I simply didn’t think about it. The moment was all there was. It’s a little bit like raising kids, I guess. The beautiful moments are fleeting but change your outlook on the whole endeavor, enriching what otherwise would be an ordinary existence.
Perhaps the weather will turn colder today, perhaps it will rain. It won’t make any difference to me. A little bit of this morning’s skyfire will stay with me throughout the day, simply because I was up and witnessed it.
Well, this is awkward.
“What happened to your blog?”
“Why don’t you post anymore?”
I must admit that when I first created “One Bird At A Time” and made the decision to post every day I worried about running out of material to write about. Luckily, things just kept happening and I found plenty I wanted to turn over in my mind, making sense of as I filled the page. Things are still happening, perhaps even more than before, but the effort of examination may have become too much. Meeting my daily goal became a little obsessive, and I pre-planned posts for days I knew I’d be busy. Sometimes I wrote when I needed to be doing other things.
I also found that writing so publicly is a balancing act. I chose to write about things as they affected me, yet I tried to avoid bruising others. Walking on familial eggshells put a bit of a damper on some of the things I could write comfortably about. The kicker about trying to be so diplomatic was that the entries that helped me most were the ones that were somewhat controversial. It’s hard to both please yourself and not embarrass those around you when you enter the blogging world.
I liked seeing my thoughts blossom and finding out what life meant to me. I appreciated friends commenting and sharing insights, whether it was a hearty “Yes! That’s how I feel too!” or pointing out another side to my story. Re-reading old posts reinforced lessons learned so I wouldn’t repeat mistakes and let me look back and see exactly when I turned a particular corner.
When I broke my daily streak at the same time that my life got busier with end of school year activities and plans, I did what was easiest. I quit writing. No one to worry or offend or embarrass, and writing takes time that I couldn’t find, at least the way I do it. I like to let it stew on the page for a while, eventually stirring the the ideas I start with into just the right dish with just the right flavor.
Will I get back to regularly posting? I hope so, with a little more kindness and understanding toward myself. It’s less effort to let life flow past, largely untasted, unexamined. After all, that’s what I seem to have been doing most of my adult life. Lately, however, I find phrases and ideas popping into my head as I try to fall asleep; posts writing themselves in my subconscious. I miss writing.
I took the path of least resistance, and that has made all the difference.
Today would have been my mother’s ninety-first birthday. You would think I would be reminiscing about old times, remembering how well she took care of me whenever I was sick, calling the doctor for a house call and hovering over his shoulder in my fevered memory. The food she spent all day making for us, or how she was a do-er; how she could get “drunk” and giddy on just a Coca-Cola, or how she lost her first husband at the very end of World War II yet was strong enough to build a different life with my father and us.
Instead, I am spending the day wishing I could apologize. As my daughter approaches her last day of high school this week, I find myself understanding more and more about my relationship with my mom during our contentious years, discovering what she was trying to do. Time and experience wipe the bull-headedness of youth out of the picture, and I can see her more clearly.
I used to get so frustrated, so irritated that last year before I went away to college. She seemed to be holding even tighter to me, and I only wanted to take flight. As my girl does the same thing, I struggle to not want to hold her to my chest for as long as I possibly can. My mother would tell me things I already knew, give me advice I thought I didn’t need, and treat me like a child. I fought like a toddler wanting to be put down, trying to get away, only looking forward.
Mama, I understand. And thank you.
I took a day off from writing yesterday and I was watching the heavens and waiting for the lightning to strike all day. For the past five or six months I have been requiring myself to write and post daily, but yesterday I didn’t make it. I know myself. If I break a streak, I have been known to give up on it, so I was being very careful to post. Some days it was a stretch to find something to write about, but that was part of the effort required: to examine what was going on around me and discover something to focus on.
So now that the streak is broken, what to do? Well, I was having a hard time coming up with a post today, too. I had already broken my promise to myself. What would one day more matter? No one would care anyway – no one but me, that is. With that realization, I stilled myself enough to notice that the thing at the heart of today was that I had not written and posted yesterday. What better thing for me to analyze, then?
Why didn’t I post? I could have found some time and energy to do so, even though I played trumpet at three Easter services and had a long, leisurely, luxurious brunch out with family after. I could have found something to write about from my pile of half-formulated posts in my pending file. I thought about doing so a number of times, as I went through my day, with various degrees of concern. Earlier in the day, I felt anxious about not having already written something to have ready. After all, I knew last week that the day would be busy. Later on, though, when there actually was time to sit down and think, I felt very peaceful about it. I was happy, and content, and fulfilled. Anything I would have written would have been forced. I gave myself permission to skip a day, even though it meant breaking a streak.
So here I am, back on the horse again. No less happy, but still enjoying writing, and sharing, and most of all, the act of examining my world.
It is always days when I have too much on my mind that I have nothing to write. The distilling process in my brain hasn’t had enough time, and decisions need to be made or changed. I go to write down one thing, and the scene changes. I adjust, and it changes again. The act of thinking too many things stops me in my tracks sometimes.
There are days when I would just like to wipe the board clean and wait silently for whatever new will show up. This seems to be one of them.
Anyone Can Whistle – music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
Anyone can whistle,
That’s what they say-
Anyone can whistle
Any old day-
It’s all so simple:
Relax, let go, let fly.
So someone tell me why
I can dance a tango,
I can read Greek-
I can slay a dragon
Any old week-
What’s hard is simple.
What’s natural comes hard.
Maybe you could show me
How to let go,
Lower my guard,
Learn to be free.
Maybe if you whistle,
Whistle for me.
As much as I take pleasure in being something important to someone else, and as much as it is a major part of my make up to be so, sometimes it’s necessary to be myself in a solitary manner. It’s not selfish, just smart.
Getting back into my music making, in perhaps a more aware manner this time, has allowed me to find an unexpected but important side effect. When I am playing, especially in an ensemble of some kind, I am not anybody’s mother or wife or teacher or daughter. I’m not supposed to be somewhere else, I’m exactly where I should be. What is important is what is in front of me. I’m myself, responsible only for how I perform. If I mess up, I can fix it next time with more practice. If I do well, it’s only due to me, not to those around me. Though much of the joy of ensemble playing is what I help to create as I add myself to the efforts of others, it’s a singular me that gets added. I don’t bring baggage along.
Then, after I’m done playing, I can return to being something for others. Renewed and refreshed, stronger and more true.
Just when I think I’m making some progress, some forward motion, I find myself right back not far from where I started. It’s a three steps forward, two steps back feeling, and I am not sure how to get where I want to go. I suppose that if the circle is large enough, I don’t notice I’m heading back to where I came from.
Life has become a series of restarts. I’m not sure I can do that too many more times. Regrowth, repurposing, renew, re-this, re-that… Is it just that I need to get back to things I know or do I need to move in a new direction? My rededication to music is going well but slowly, my rediscovery of myself goes apace, yet sometimes I still feel like I am not going anywhere.
Maybe I’m meant not to stray far from what I am already… or perhaps I need a new compass.
Sometimes a circle feels like a direction
Up and down, still lookin’ for perfection
There’s a lot goin’ on but it all adds up to nothing
Sometimes a circle feels like a direction
“Sometimes A Circle” – Louise Goffin