All the school teachers I ever had taught me not to use ‘suddenly’ in creative writing. It is just too Iame apparently, too well worn to cause readers much surprise. But it really feels like a stonking great big SUDDENLY just plonked it’s ass down into our collective narrative. And as our lives enter this strange new reality (seriously are we in a Dan Brown novel?) I feel like my life and everything in it has slowed down and hushed.
Were it not for the coronavirus, in a few short days my family and I were to jet off on a grand overseas adventure. A trip of a lifetime, funded by the hard work of a lifetime (a gift from Elia’s Grandad, who died in 2018 at the age of 100). We were going to get to travel with our kids, while they were still kids. Show them some sights, introduce them to extended family. As the news of the virus steadily worsened over the last few weeks, our trip slowly slipped away. The New Zealand government has now closed the border, which has never happened before. We not going anywhere.
Our travel plans may or may not be completely in the toilet forever. What is certain though…actually there is nothing that is certain. There are no givens, no guarantees. And we all tend to forget this all the time. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious, having a dream, making plans. But spending more time in the dream-in-your-head than you do in the now, serves to posit your happiness, your calm, out there – in the future. The Land of the May-or-May-Not-Happen.
I’ve done this consistently, constantly all my life. Every day I’ve had a list of ‘Things I Must Achieve’, and would fling myself bodily into achieving that list, stressing the whole time about ‘what I’ve still got to do’, anxiously working to complete things before the end of the day and the dawn of a whole new list. Above the mundane list-to-to-list existence, I was also constantly striving towards something like losing weight, or getting a work promotion. I created hurdles I had to leap to get to a place where there was no suffering. I put a ton of conditions on feeling good. But somehow the feeling good part was always slightly out of reach. In my 20s I knew, deep down in my bones, that my main problem in life was that my thighs had always been a little on the chunky side. I never could really be arsed enough to deal to this problem, but one day I pulled finger and I set a goal – lose 12 kilos or so – and embarked on a plan to get there. After a while I’d successfully dieted and personal-trainered my way to my goal weight, the point at which the real, beautiful me was expected to emerge and all the plaudits would rain down and life-success would be mine! Needless to say being the goal weight didn’t come with a side of halleujahs, and doors opening. I was a bit smug that’s true. But not fulfilled. Not content. So I kept going, kept losing weight, kept expecting each new low to reveal my happiness, but all it did was introduce new problems.
If this all sounds very ANXIOUS, that’s what it feels like too. I was/am very open about it. “Hi, I’m an anxious person”. “Anxiety? Yes I know, I suffer from high anxiety, all the time.” But I have stopped claiming this. Anxiety is. But it is not part of me. It is a reaction to my mind’s chattering bid to control a billion potential problems.
My evolution has slowly begun. I used to exhaust myself resisting. Resisting what is. So instead of resisting, I have started to step aside. My mind is still on a mission to warn me of the things that are wrong, the hurts I should feel, and all the STUFF I need to do. When I hear these thoughts now, I let them go as soon as I notice them. I focus on what is happening now. I read a book to my daughter (rather than reading a book to my daughter while cataloging in my head all the things that I need to fix as soon as I finish reading the book). Everyday I wake at 4am or 5am, take a pill and try to go back to sleep, while my brain starts in on the reminders of all the things I should be concerned about. I used to call it the ‘4am FreakOut’. This still happens, but now I tell my mind, it’s okay these aren’t things we need to worry about now. This is fear, mind. It’s not real. This placates my mind and I always now have forgotten my mind’s concerns by morning.
This is not an attempt to ‘think positive’, or look on the bright side. Its not pretending that everything is okay. It’s about simply not judging the moment, and instead fully accepting that moment, and participating there. Don’t hold now to account for not meeting your expectations, and let go of as much as you can of the litany of stuff that needs to be present in the moment, in order that you can judge the moment acceptable.
I’m in mind-boot-camp. I’m trying to use my mind, not let it run the show. It does kinda sound like I’m a multitude in my head. I think this is pretty much true, and I’m okay with it.
The slow-down brought on by coronavirus (I’ve had to be at home with my kids) helps. There is no list of experiences I must accumulate to be happy. I need only accept and pay attention to now. And a state of not thinking, and not doing much is like opening a channel for creative expression (which is necessary for me to be a well Being). So there isn’t much to do, nowhere to go, we only have us and what is here. It is enough.
Consciousness forms poems need space, silence, a time in your life free of responsibilities, concerns, to-dos, et ceteras... book-ended with deep velvet stillness where nothing is needed, expected, required. who says when a poem is? poems are consciousness forms, arriving mysteriously when thought stops.