The title of the chapter this exercise comes from is, "The Impossible Position: Managing Motherhood and Creativity."
It took me two years and a hard second pregnancy to hire a regular babysitter.
It took a major breakdown for me to use the time for writing.
There is always something else to do.
This exercise from Susan O'Doherty's book, Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued, has only one directive: take the time you would be using for something else (such as an exercise) and make some art. Do whatever you have to do to get someone to watch your kids. Pretend you're sick, whatever.
Then repeat as often as necessary.
Because I have learned to do what the exercise suggested, I wanted to take this idea a step further. I wanted to see what it would be like to live the whole cycle of a day totally around writing. I needed at least a full 24 hours.
My family and I took a short vacation to the beach condo of a friend. Matt and the kids stayed for two nights. I kicked them out the third morning, at a hair before 9.
Then I promptly applied my iPod and walked on the beach.
That day, the tide was out very far. The sky was clear and I could see the Olympic Mountains across the Sound. Fog sat on the horizon, just off the water. I was the only soul on the beach. I scrambled over piles of rocks. I walked on the trunks of fallen trees.
I sang to the seagulls, the sandy bluffs, the mountains, the fishing boat passing out into the Pacific. I felt divine and whole and free. Like my natural self.
Denise, my beloved yoga teacher, uses that term every now and then. Natural self. She lets us decide what it means. I try not to dwell on it too much. ("First thought, best thought," is another Denise mantra.) First thought says this is the real me, this freedom, this open heart.
Three years ago I would never have been able to feel this way walking on the beach. I could never just appreciate something for what it was. My head was too full of what I should be feeling. I was disappointed that I couldn’t get outside myself enough to feel the air, smell the drying seaweed, be happy that the mountains were out. I was burdened with thoughts about the person who was waiting for me back at the beach camp. And if someone were with me, I was burdened by trying not to annoy them, or hoping they were having a good time, or letting it be known that I was having a good time.
(Are there women who do not engage in this kind of behavior? I would like to meet one.)
Now...ah! The sky! The fishing boats! The dead crabs on the beach! I love it all!
After my walk, I spent the day eating, writing, cooking, and reading. I left my laptop and notebooks open on the table and went back to them whenever I needed to. I didn't have to divide my time the way I normally do. Like, now is writing time, now is kid care time, now is the time on Sprockets when we must dance.
It was the way I would always live if left to my own devices.
The following morning, I drank my coffee while watching a Presto log burn in the fireplace. Fog was so thick on the water, all I could see outside was white. I wrote some more. After awhile, I put my notebook down and looked around the place: I'd left shit lying around everywhere. It was still all there. I had to clean. I had to leave.
How could I possibly leave?