I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Contentment predominates

Komo Kulshan ("Great White Watcher")
The stage is set: it's dark outside, early on a Sunday morning, laptop at the ready and tea hot and inviting. Partner sleeping next to me, gentle sounds emanating from that direction, and a post waiting to be written. I woke once or twice during the night, as usual, and thought about what I would write. I'm beginning to feel the stirrings of the desire to take a new approach to this activity, wanting to use this time for true expression of my current state.

I want to be more expressive. More lyrical and allow the passion (or lack of it) to come through my words. You know that I like to write but sometimes all I seem to be doing is chronicling my current circumstances. And that's not what I want to do here; I really crave to allow myself more freedom to create a true reflection of my interior musings. I tend to box myself in through rigidity in my thought: what I've done before has created a groove and needs to be recognized as such, so as to lift myself up out of it.

In a couple of weeks, I and five other bloggers will gather on Vashon Island for our third annual retreat. This time, we have a theme as well as twice the time for us to be together. One blogger suggested that we use this experience as a writing workshop, and I realized that I'm very excited to learn some new techniques to allow myself to escape my writing constraints. When I first began writing here, it was easy to find a theme for each post, because it really was a chronicle of my life events, written with each life-defining event at the center. And then I got to the present day, and the posts have varied in quality as my own internal life has also wandered from contentment to grief to boredom. I used to return to my previous posts to find out where I've been, but lately they don't inspire me to return to them. Why is that, I wonder?

This past week has been a good one. I get out of bed with a smile on my face, looking forward to the day, to my friends, to find where my fellow bloggers have been and how they have decided to express themselves on their own pages. There is such a range: from humor and delightful pictures to pensive internal rumination. Just this morning a blogging friend has returned after a long absence to write obliquely of a difficult time she's been experiencing. She has moved from her previous home and has lost one of her beautiful cats to illness. She says nothing more about why she moved, just allowed me to feel her pain through the pictures of her lost companion. I felt myself open to her pain and sent her my heartfelt commiseration. It's the only thing I can offer her, and having been there myself I know how hard it is sometimes to hear that our pain is borne universally. We all suffer just because we're alive. But we also rejoice and are filled with joy at other times, and having each other to share the journey can help just the tiniest bit.

There is also a desire in me to break my self-imposed bonds of convention. I see in my travels through other blogs that when someone has the ability to touch my heart with their writing I am lifted up to meet them right where they are. There are others that simply record the moment, which is fine too. When I was writing for work, it was important to be neutral and without passion, and I still suffer from that constraint from time to time. It's easy to fall into the invisibility of impartiality.

But I feel! I love and cry and rejoice, all in a single day. A passionate heart beats within this breast, and I'm sure that my emotions play across my face for everyone to see. So why not write from my heart and not from my head? It's partly because then I allow myself to be vulnerable. When I place a mask across my face, I think I'm hiding all those feelings from the world. And before long, I'm hiding them from myself as well. Then when I wake in the morning, it's to a dreary existence, with no desire, no joy, no laughter to write about. That's the groove I want to escape: the safe place that hides my internal life from others. Why in the world would I want to live that way? There is really no safety in this world, so why not embrace the adventure?

When I would stand in the door of the airplane, with a few friends along for the ride, I'd feel passion all right. My heart would be beating hard, and I could feel the excitement of the coming freefall. I would touch my handles one more time to make sure they were where they were supposed to be, and then I'd climb outside the airplane, hanging onto the door as my friends positioned themselves in the door frame. My entire concentration was focused on watching for the signal to go. There was not even an iota of fear at that moment, because everything had to be just right and there was no room for anything else but the laser beam of focus. Everything else had dropped away. And then the signal! I let go, my eyes following the others out of the plane, flying my body on the air, watching as the formation below me took shape, looking for my spot and gently flying myself to the predetermined grip I was to take.

Oh, the exhilaration when it all went as planned! When I was able to do my part without error, when we flew together in harmony on the cushion of air as we plummeted toward the earth, making a formation with our bodies, the moment was sublime. And then when it was time to separate, all turning away from the center and pushing against the air to gain enough separation to safely deploy my parachute, oh the joy as I felt the sequence of the parachute opening above me, bringing me out of freefall and coming to rest under my beautiful canopy. Once I knew it was airworthy, I would find the landing area beneath me and fly my parachute to it, watching for the other canopies in the air with me. And then it was all smiles and joy as we celebrated a successful skydive. One where I was able to do my part and we grinned at one another as we gathered up our parachutes and went to pack up and do it all over again.

Now that I have stopped that activity, I can look back over the past quarter century and give thanks for all the memories, and all the experiences I have to look back on and hopefully to write about so they will be never forgotten. And there is so much more in my life to be thankful for, not just my memories, but all that is still to be explored and encountered in the future.
Me in front, Smart Guy behind
And now it has come: the time when I will go back and re-read this post, add to it and take out the redundancies, and hit "publish." Until we meet again, dear friends, be well and I hope you don't forget to be thankful for all that we share in this gorgeous life.


Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

A writing workshop! Great idea. I suspect you will all come away from it renewed and refreshed and ready to write form the heart!

Far Side of Fifty said...

Your gathering sounds like a great way to recharge! I enjoyed seeing the photo of you and Smart Guy in the air together...I know you don't mention him often...but say Hello to him for me:)

Barb said...

I found myself nodding reading your thoughts about the grooves you sometimes follow when you'd rather be tilling fresh soil. I also do this - both in life and in my writing and photography. It feels at once safer but also dull and lifeless. I am drawn to writers who can express their inner passions and doubts. Often, I hesitate because of my family. But, I have lately begun to think that it is only my life I'm exposing, so I should embrace and express what I feel. Your post has got me thinking, DJan. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, sometimes life becomes so mundane, doesn't it? At my age, I no longer make long range plans. I simply take each day as it comes, and try to extract as much joy from it as I can.

Linda Reeder said...

Thank you for the photo of you and your husband together in the air. I know you met through sky diving, and even though you have both put that activity behind you, he still is there to share your daily life.
I read Deb's post just before yours. You are both so reflective. I'm not at this point, I guess. While I am in a bit of a slump in my posting and writing, my mind is occupied with intellectual pursuits, like composing letters to the editor in my head or debating politicians or trying to decipher the situation with the Seattle teacher's strike or the next move of the legislature which is still in contempt of court with educational funding.
The one thing I miss from my "old life" as a teacher is the intellectual stimulation that comes for constant problem solving. My brain still enjoys that kind of activity.
but it is not really something I can post about.

Rian said...

DJan, I like your title of *Contentment Predominates*. I think that this is what this stage of our life ought to be. However, I am aware that this means different things to different people. "I want to be more expressive"... I read to mean "I want to be more..." Writing from your heart just like living from your heart seems more possible now when the span of life has shortened. Perhaps all that we've been holding back for self imposed reasons can now be expressed.

Have a wonderful time on Vashon Island! Send pics!

Red said...

Your posts are always interesting and contain some very deep reflections on life. I always come away having been made to think about things. I'm sure you feel like you've been in a rut. It is good to stop and think about where you're going. I like the idea of a writing workshop for bloggers.

Elephant's Child said...

It is early morning here, and I have just finished my first cup of tea.
Love this post. I suspect it speaks to, and about many of us.
I am sooooo looking forward to seeing what comes from your writing workshop, and bloggers meet-up.

Gigi said...

Wow...it seems it was just a few months ago that you last went to Vashon Island; time is certainly flying. The writer's workshop should be interesting and fun. Have a fabulous week, DJan.

Arkansas Patti said...

Like the idea of a writer's workshop. I am familiar with some of your members so it should be quite stimulating. I joined a writers club when I moved here and it was the most mentally stimulating thing I have done. I used to come home on fire. It disbanded a few years ago but will be starting up next month. Can't wait. Hope you all enjoy your meeting and can bounce ideas off each other.

Jackie said...

When you write, I feel....
And I thank you for that.

The Furry Gnome said...

Well good luck with finding a new more expressive side to your writing. I too have been struggling to think about doing aome more challenging writing.

Glenda Beall said...

Many of your posts have touched me, DJan, and those were from your heart, I'm sure. Showing our vulnerability is very hard for all of us, but a book by Brene Brown on this subject has led many people to realize that we all have a fear, wear a mask to hide our vulnerability. She found and I know from my own experience, that opening up, writing your true feelings, showing your pain in your words, as well as expressing your joy, connects with your readers in a lasting fashion.
I read a short story to a gathering of writers this weekend. Everyone loved it and one of them told me I should be submitting my work to magazines and journals instead of "wasting it on my blog." I told her more people read my words on my blog than would likely see my short story in a magazine or journal. I find myself writing more for my blog readers these days than for other publication.
I look forward to your future posts and I know you will have a great time with your workshop.

Rhapsody Phoenix said...

Give yourself permission and just do it without limitations and barriers.

Tabor said...

I think with this post it has become very clear to me why sky diving was your test of life.

Rita said...

I have always felt heart in your words. Your Sunday morning ruminations have always been thoughtful and honest. I say--go with it! Be fearless on land. ;)

Deb Shucka said...

One of the things I love best about you is your seeking out new challenges, and it sounds like you're really ready for a new one. Based on this post, I think you've got a direction to head in. Looking forward to exploring all of this with you very very soon!

Friko said...

This is a grand post! I am glad I got back just in time to read it.
To me you never ‘sound’ passionless or boring, everything you write is full of yourself, your joys, your feelings.

If you want to open up more still, good luck. I for one am looking forward to the DJan you say you haven’t shown us yet.