What strikes me the most when reading these old posts is that I was trying to do too much; working full time in a demanding job, swimming several times a week, writing, spiritual seeking/meditation etc, trying to keep in touch with friends and family, and enjoying and being present for the relationship of my life with the love of my life.
Yes, creative people need time alone. Yes, I had been used to solitude as a child and as a single parent with those lonely evenings and weekends. Yes it was an adjustment living with someone. But I think it would have been easier if I hadn’t been rushing around doing so much, if I had made some space and learned to prioritise the most important things and let go of the rest.
I still have those tendencies (to overdo the busy-ness), but I am more aware of them. Right now we are living and travelling together, and are with each other most of the time. I can write when my husband is there, and I don’t worry about doing much else.
The possibility of ease (first published August 2014)
When the going’s good I find it almost impossible to imagine feeling down, low in energy or less than totally happy and supremely grateful for my life. When things occasionally dip a little, I find it so hard to get out of and such a puzzle to work out how it happened. That’s because I am a thinker, an over thinker, and it is not easy to think yourself out of a slump. Easier to think yourself into more and more happiness, if one is already happy, like a snowball of prayer and gratitude and bliss… When actually down, thinking is not the answer. Waiting, or waiting with faith, is. After a few days it comes to me: what it is that’s the matter, what I did or didn’t do to get me to this place. Sometimes it’s PMT, sometimes I’m just tired. This time, it was neglecting my need to be alone sometimes.
I prayed for my house to be filled with Love and I realised, it’s me who can fill it, God gives me the support and motivation to do so, but it’s me who actually does it. When there’s any friction, it’s all the more noticeable because it’s such a happy house usually. On the other side of friction there is learning, closeness and new insights. But in the middle of friction is such confusion and muddy thinking that I couldn’t even write anything for a few weeks. Now, however, I am bursting, I had to take the morning off work just to write down all the thoughts that were pouring out of me and to organise all the little scraps of paper with notes and ideas on. But in the middle of friction, everything bad is magnified. It is easy to become irritated and irritable, even whilst wondering fearfully about what is actually happening, where all the bliss went…
One day after work I stopped at the supermarket and instead of rushing home I paused in the car park for five minutes. It was close to sunset and the sky was shot with yellow and gold, the clouds luminous at their edges. The air was cool and warm at the same time. I had bought myself a little tub of fresh olives and I leant against the car, eating them carefully so as not to spill any oil on myself, whilst looking at the big, open Norfolk sky and feeling the air on my skin.
I have just finished reading Whit by Iain Banks. It is about a religious cult that tries to operate in the spaces, to be creative in all that they do, in order to be closer to God. So they travel the most complicated or unusual way rather than just hopping on a train, because in those interstitial places, is where God is found.
In the supermarket car park that evening, I realised: Be Creative. It doesn’t have to be at home. I have Saturdays or Sundays most weeks to myself anyway, I also swim two or three times a week, I drive an hour each way to work five days a week, composing my thoughts, my writing. Sometimes I pull over and write things down in my notebook. I realise driving is not quite the same as being alone not having to do anything. Reading Iain Banks, I realised I’ve always enjoyed interstitial time. Like when I pull up at the pool and instead of going straight in I read for a while or just listen to something I’m enjoying on the radio. Or when I pull over and park up for a nap during a long journey (or let’s face it, not that long, it’s just me, creating a little pocket of space, although the talcum powder footprints on the passenger door hint at something more exciting than just curling up on the back seat and dozing to The Archers). Often it has revolved around food, especially ‘naughty’ food that I am happier not admitting to eating. Smokers do it with cigarettes, I suppose, that little bit of semi forbidden or secret time.
Sometimes I’m a bit slow when it comes to realising things about myself. In the middle of the friction time, I was chatting to a work colleague I hardly know, in a rare moment of sharing and we were both saying about how we struggle to get any time alone in the house, as our partners are usually home before us. She told me the story of how the other day she had hoped and looked forward to an hour and a half at home, but what with being delayed at work, a phone call from her mum, and new neighbours deciding to pop round and introduce themselves, this time dwindled as she counted it down in her head until she was left with just five minutes. I understood completely. I said, but I feel so bad, I so longed for my man to come to live with me and now he’s here I’m talking about wanting time on my own. She replied smartly, but you must do it, because otherwise you will get irritated.
But it still wasn’t until the olives in the car park a week or so later that I realised what had been the cause of my uncharacteristic irritation.
I will endeavour to make the most of the little spaces of time alone I get in the house, to use them for writing or reading or napping or whatever I want to, and appreciate them! But I must also accept that they are rarer and learn to be flexible and to create little pockets of alone time outside of the house: really feel it when I go swimming, for example. Go upstairs and nap or write even when I am not alone in the house. Create a pocket of independence and stillness whatever and wherever. It doesn’t take much. An afternoon alone in the house to write once a week. Ten minutes alone with a tub of olives and a pretty sky. And then I am back, full of love.