The next number of posts, all titled Conversations on… come from email communications between a dear friend and me. With her permission, I am publishing excerpts from them because I feel they pertain to everything we’ve been discussing on the blog. Kate has been in the process of trying to figure out how to be a writer and still maintain her teaching job. She has very recently decided she must leave her job and fully embrace a “writing life.” At her request I’ve changed her name and am using initials for people she brings up. Those of you who have not read any of the earlier Conversation pieces, may want to go back to have a better understanding of Kate’s progress. You’ll find her story under the topic category, “Kate’s Story.” It’d be great if you all would join our conversation…
All of the photos in today’s post were shot by Kate on visits to New Mexico.
I am feeling much better today and will be in my studio for most of the morning, once I get through chores. I am so grateful for that space, though I am feeling some pressure to experience some kind of watershed writing moment that I know isn’t going to happen. I still have an awful lot of replenishing to do. This trip drove home (no pun intended) just how burned out I still am from the past six months—and before that. I feel like I could build a castle with my bare hands right now, but there’s no poetry in me. None that is accessible, at least. I need time and patience to allow my artist to revive. She has all the pieces in place to heal, grow and thrive. But she’s still languishing in ICU—or maybe it’s rehab 🙂
I got an email from one of my students yesterday saying that she misses me and can’t believe I’m not there to talk to every time she goes by my office. I got a note from the CAO, the Dean (my boss’s boss), saying how much she enjoyed working with me and that I “added substantive energy and expertise in an area critically needed for students we’ve been neglecting.” I see that I’m still vulnerable to these types of messages throwing me into a bad place emotionally. That too will take time. Part of it is that I know that neglect she speaks of will be the status quo without me, and I have to let that concern go and somehow not look back. It’s difficult when they keep asking me to let them know “if and when you’re ready… that you’re interested in working with us.” I still know there are a million phone messages on my work voicemail, and I have a responsibility to deal with them before the end of the month, when my contract officially ends, but I haven’t been able to face the messages. “Maybe tomorrow or next week” is what I keep saying to myself. I know I will feel freed once I deal with that, and the sooner the better.
How are you doing on replenishing? Are you taking “artist dates”? You know they’re designed to replenish your artist’s reservoir. They were the hardest part of The Artist’s Way for me. So very hard for me to give myself time. But I hope you’re able to do for yourself that which is always challenging for me. I see you as being in the place I was when I first got out of the hospital. I kept expecting to be HEALED without giving my body, my psyche, my heart the time to do so (not that you’re doing that). I’m glad you’re aware of your depletion. You know there is absolutely nothing wrong with hour after hour after hour, day after day, of resting in a lounge chair in the shade. THAT could be your watershed writing moment! You are just seconds away from a time when doctors said you were going to need surgery. Please let yourself heal. Then rest. Then restore. Then replenish. THEN begin to write.
I am sorry you’re getting the kinds of emails you are. I think they all mean well. They want you to know you’re appreciated and will be missed. But I hope you can look at them as a part of your past you must let go. I hope you’re able to set boundaries with these people. I understand your unwillingness to listen to the voicemails yet and that’s perfectly fine. There are so many things I haven’t had energy or time for while doing the gallery. I have just set them aside and tackled them one at a time as I could. We can only do what we can do. What people like you and I need to learn is how to attend to others/things without eating away at muscle.
I have had a momentous week. Yes I have been giving myself “artist’s dates”, though it is a constant challenge, as you noted. I am working very hard at my Artist’s Way program, and I am finally seeing “things happen” as I begin week 5. I wrote some notes describing two epiphanies I had this past week, and these are attached in a word document. I am still dumbfounded by the suddenness of the revelations and the intensity of creative inspiration that came to me, the connections that came clear, the synchronicity that was so obvious, almost as if it were a dream and not real, like I had to pinch myself to make sure it was.
[Kate wrote an extensive note here, but it pertains to a writing project she is just beginning—a novel—so I won’t share her wonderful epiphanies. You’ll have to wait to read her book!]
All that said, I also realize that I am still very much in recovery, both physically and mentally, and that I am vulnerable. Thank you for saying that out loud so I can hear it. Being so wide open to all the good creative energy also brings a danger of being open to destructive energy out there, which—I think—is why, as I told you in my last message, I am so afraid of opening up the email and voicemail from my job, which I badly need to do in order to be done with it once and for all. I am concerned about letting that in, even for the one day I need to spend finishing up my tasks and tying up all the remaining loose ends before my contract is officially over at the end of the month. So this is a dilemma for me. You are so right that I need to heal and I can’t forget that. But this part is problematic and I have to find a way to say—so my soul hears it—”this isn’t me” and just do what I have to do.
More good news: Saturday I went on my first tracking day with my wildlife tracking group in two years! It has been that long since I went out with them on a reconnaissance excursion. It felt fantastic to see them and to be back in the woods exploring and scouting out transects. We had a great time, but it was exhausting for me, and that caught me by surprise. My incomplete healing process was made clear to me when I got home and crashed out cold on the couch at 3:30. It still felt very good. It was an act of healing.
Meanwhile, I continue to make good progress on my work and my preparation for the writing that I have to do. I have been religious about my morning pages and find them extremely helpful. All the big things that happened this week are surely a result of that work. I have waves of fear about the hugeness of it all, of all that is ahead of me, but that is balanced out by the waves of inspiration and satisfaction that I feel for the first time. The confidence is growing, and with affirmations like those of the past week, I know I can keep moving forward and meet the opportunities, turning them into gifts to be returned in kind through art.
To be continued…
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Love to you all,