I sneak awake at 7am on a Saturday when the house is quiet. Within moments of me stepping out of my room, three cats manifest, hopeful that me being in the kitchen means they will get food. They’re not wrong. Then I find a corner, quiet, with no expectation, no other people to consider. I flip open my laptop and dodge my email to land here. I’ve stolen a quiet space in the middle of my over scheduled life. Just a week ago I was in Seattle taking five days of stolen time to pay attention to what it feels like when I step outside my usual patterns. I wanted to answer the question of what happens if my hours are uninterrupted. I’d hoped that the result would be work on my creative writing projects. Mostly what happened was that I slammed my way through the To Do lists that were portable. Using the space to push many of those tasks to completion because the guilt of not having them done was taking up space in my brain that I wanted to use for other things. I did return with significantly less burden of guilt around admin tasks, but also a newly polished sadness about not making progress on my creative work.
7:10 am another human is awake and walking around in the kitchen. Strange how different it feels to be the only one awake and to know that someone else is moving around. Their existence disturbs my reflections like ripples on a pond. But they don’t come find me and I am practicing not jumping to tend to the experience of others simply because I’m aware of their existence. I’ve claimed a space this morning for contemplation, in part because one of the things I noticed upon returning is how rarely I’m able to task swap at my own pace. My mind is more at rest when I can finish a thought and close it out then transition to the next thing. What happens far more often is that I am interrupted by someone who wants to talk, or a time sensitive errand, or a scheduled meeting. I jump to the new thing while holding the final tendrils of the prior thing in the back of my mind. When this pattern repeats (as it usually does on a daily basis) the back of my mind becomes a tangled and dangling mess of tendrils with no moment of completion.
I used part of today’s stolen moment to go peruse the blog posts I wrote while on last week’s trip. Sadly the very first of them is thematically very similar to this post. I’m writing about stolen moments. Again. It feels like a failure of planning that I have built a life I need to steal moments from just to give myself space to breathe. This existence is vastly different from those endless days of the early pandemic when deadlines were canceled and grief processing took up the largest portion of most people’s days. Yet I can trace the roots of my current over-scheduled life back to seeds that were planted back then. The uncertainty of the world at large creating urgency and a need to store up financial and creative stability against a future time when the whole world shifts unexpectedly. During the pandemic I watched the graphs and numbers trying to understand the scope and threat of what was happening. Now I read articles about legislation and the economy for the same reason. I develop my massive piles of administrative tasks because I believe they stave off helplessness and secure my position both professionally and financially.
Sometimes I am able to recognize that I will never be safe enough. That no amount of planning or saving will completely secure the future. And that if I spend all of my day in a frantic attempt to do so, I will have traded away my life for the illusion of control. Succeeding in finding toilet paper did not solve the pandemic, sending all the emails doesn’t change the economy. So at some point I need to declare a space that I’m allowed to occupy with things that use resources instead of conserving them. Because surely the point of having resources is for use.
7:40 am there are now multiple people moving through the house. None of them have found me yet. I picked my corner well this morning. If they want to seek me out, they’ll find me, but many of my people are verbal processors who start talking through their thoughts the minute they are sharing space. So when I need focus, I have to find a space where they have to decide to come find me.
I’m still pondering how to give myself uninterrupted hours and time to complete one thought before transitioning to the next. Ideally I will learn how to fold those gifts into my daily life instead of having to stick myself on a plane and fly to another state to accomplish it. I’m also sitting this morning with the very specific Imposter Syndrome of wanting to work on my non-fiction book that seeks to help people re-structure their lives around the creative work they want to do, while my daily life is so packed with tasks that I haven’t worked on the book in months. As I write that sentence and feel the truth of it, I also know that my organization this year around my priorities is exactly in alignment with the content of the book I’m writing. And that sometimes creating life stability, as I’m seeking to do this year, must come before creative flourishing.
7:50 am the first person came to find me, but it was Howard checking to make sure I’m okay because usually I’m still in bed at this hour. Also he’s volunteered to bring me breakfast, so that disturbance in my stream of thought is more a win than a loss.
And here, at the end of an hour of musing about stolen moments, emotional repercussions of pandemic, and being over-scheduled, I am finding thoughts about the books I want to write. Pondering whether I should write my creative advice to a more specific audience rather than diffusing the message of the book by trying to make it broadly applicable. I should probably acknowledge that everything I write comes from a suburban-dwelling, economically comfortable, white, college-educated perspective which shapes the advice I give and means that some of it will be impractical for other life conditions. Except I would like to be able to write a book that has something of use for almost everyone. I don’t want to only write for people who move through the world in the same ways that I do. But I can’t let anxiety about this or the specific imposter syndrome prevent me from putting words on the page. I can always fix them in response to feedback later. But words that aren’t written can’t be fixed.
8 am. Time to stop sorting thoughts and start getting things done. Perhaps some of those things will be writing words on my projects.