When choosing a word to represent something I wanted more of in my life, I boldly declared it to be my year of Presence. And then immediately wrote Joy on the first rock to find me. I’ve carried that rock around with me long enough now that the gold paint pen has almost faded off. Twice. And I’m almost sure I know what my Freudian slip– exchanging Joy for Presence– means to me now.
Being present in a moment doesn’t automatically guarantee joy. There have been times in my very recent past where all I could do was just keep breathing, looking for the inflection of a song, the tonality of a voice, or the quality of light against tile. I note it. Savor it. Anchor the emotion to that precise moment. Know that later, when I remember this time, those noted moments will roll back like a tapestry, like a music score’s rises and falls.
The calendar pages have flipped forward to December, and November’s giant writing push of NaNoWriMo is supposedly over, but the emotional cap I thought I’d feel is missing. I had to acknowledge the absurdity of these giant feelings of let-down-ness. When I started the first two weeks of the month finishing up the interviews, I asked myself to remember how important it was for me to sit surrounded by sticky notes in the slanting fall light, uncovering this book’s skeleton. It’s like I knew, with the White Queen’s forgetful certainty, that I’d find myself in exactly this situation.
Writing in Google Docs– so I can type a few lines from any computer that happens to be at hand– I have hidden the pages and word counts from myself. I am too prone to judge my progress. The only carrot I’ve let dangle is the book’s skeleton: The five main topics, opening, closing, and all of the chapters that fall under each heading.
Note: I finally buckled and started calling them “chapters” instead of “sections,” since I am, I keep telling myself, writing a book after all.
I’ve given myself no requirements for each chapter; it’s done when it’s done when it flows like a river, seamlessly against the chapters on either side. The only numbers I let myself have are these: I’ve completed all of the chapters for the topic on Presence, and I’m about halfway through Balance. I’m 20% complete with my rough draft.
And that is cause to celebrate.
So are those other moments, where some of these hard-won insights spring forth in the context of daily life. When I remember to breathe into the present , and why I’m doing it. When I allowed that this writing will extend into the new year, far beyond November’s big push and asked: How will I create a new balance that allows for writing + the rest of life? Find that line between momentum and stamina.
Oh, it will be a daily balance, for certain. But Sunday, after reaching that 20% goal, and my eyes were swimming through spots, I closed my laptop. I had a surprise date with my husband for enchiladas. We stopped by a friend’s house where I broke my brain on fast ukulele chords before learning to play the cello. Badly, to be sure, but I howled with laughter when I almost kept up with Tom Waits’ “Burma Shave.”
Only later did I find the deep joy that came from acknowledging the progress towards my intentions, my body’s need for a break, a dinner date, and falling into a musical wonderland for an evening. All of those moments happened spontaneously, but I couldn’t have planned them better if I’d tried.