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…
Your letter to yourself really knocked me over. I was astounded at your insights when you wrote from the vantage point of imagining yourself as an older wiser woman with powerful understanding. I couldn’t help wondering where that came from at the time you wrote it. Do you think this wisdom was inside you all along, knowing what you needed to do and just not listening, possibly knowing and choosing not to listen? Or were you completely unaware that all that was there until you were asked to do that exercise and then somehow tapped into an open channel? It’s so remarkable to me that you were able to reflect all that back to yourself from your position of transition back then. You said that those words were “like a foreign language” to you then, but YOU spoke them! They came from somewhere in you. Part of you already knew the language. What part was that?
Thank you for pointing me to that extraordinary post. (The post Kate is referring to is: “Dreams Come True”)
Going back over my earlier morning pages yesterday I came to a place where I expressed confusion, and I think this marks a key moment because it shows me back on June 13th, less than a month after the teaching ended, feeling like I was being asked to push myself AGAINST what I thought I should be doing at the time. I think an important misconception arising from my Artist’s Way work began right there, where I was actually on the right track instinctively but took the guidelines in such a way that they led me to stray from what I needed to do. Here is what I wrote:
“Whenever I hear MF ask ‘How’s your writing going?’ I feel like I am cheating or something because I’m doing the Artist’s Way program but not ‘facing the page.’ Otherwise I did try yesterday, but all I came up with were some notes. I don’t know if this is okay, if I should feel like I’m making a start or if I should be pushing really hard every day to ‘show up at the page’ in some new way. When I began this recovery project I thought—expected that this would be my transition and the writing would come after, to some extent, though I thought inspiration, notes, and ideas would be part of this process. I wish I knew what to do. In the meantime I will continue what I’m doing.”
Pretty pathetic isn’t it! And three days before that I wrote:
“I’m struggling with feeling like I should be pushing myself to take that next step with what I am doing, but it feels very hard, like I should take these steps without putting too much pressure on myself.”
I guess I was listening to the wrong message in trying to understand what I thought I should do at that time, and all this set me up to move away from what I said—what Kate said—about rest being her only project. These are the words that I=SHE wrote to you and that you posted in the second conversation:
“Very soon I will need to take stock and figure out what comes after that raggedy old to-do list is no longer relevant and healing is the single most important task in front of me.”
I wrote that and somehow got off that track in trying to find my way to my new path.
Please know that I am not beating myself up over these missteps, if I may call them that; I am just noting them, marveling at them, and trying to understand them better, trying to understand how to listen better.
Finding that letter the day I wrote that post knocked me over too—to read it with the perspective of more years lived since its writing, was profound. I actually remember doing that assignment. Somehow it WAS like I was channeling a future me who knew what I needed if I was going to be happy. I DID disappear into a space I sometimes get when I’m painting—very powerful, mystical, spiritual. But, yes, I think the wisdom was in me all along, as I believe it is within you. Was it Jung who said we carry a collective consciousness in all of us, all the history of humankind, the knowing of everyone who has lived and is living? Perhaps it was from that deep human collective wisdom. But I also think the “spiritual lightening rod” that I carry but have shut down, mostly, serves me like this sometimes. I access it without even knowing I have and I’m connected to a different level of being. Perhaps that’s what happened that day. Perhaps that is the part of me that “knew” the language. It was VERY magical and I used to pull that letter out all the time to give myself hope and support.
I’m glad you have the morning pages to reflect your process back to you. You might consider having a talk with MF about your needs during this transition; that you feel what you are supposed to be doing right now is resting and healing and that this IS the writing—in the form it needs to take for now. You are fragile and any presumption of productiveness that is equated to putting words on a page is potentially harmful to you. MF loves you and he is meaning to be interested and supportive. But you and he need to get clear on what you’re doing during this time. It is not about how many pages you produce. You are preparing the “canvas” and there is no telling how long that will take. It took many years to take your voice from you. It may take a long time to get it back. But MF said it himself: this is about a writing LIFE. You are in the first MINUTES of that.
I am glad you’re not beating yourself up about this because that’s the opposite of what you need. You need love, patience, belief, rest, nurture, space, time, breath, peace, ease. You need to heal. Nothing else gets your attention right now. Period.
So, dear one, I trust you and Charlie are sitting in the shade enjoying a nice breeze with a lovely lavender mint iced tea in your hand. If this is NOT what you’re doing, I suggest you begin it now. 🙂 Writing this note to you is convincing me that, perhaps, the work can wait for me, too. Maybe the paintings want space and time to germinate in a heart that is not so driven and pressed. Maybe I am being asked to fill my creative reservoir with exploration, play and rest. You think?
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Love to you all,