I have been reading Ernest Hemingway lately. He writes in "A Moveable Feast" that he would go to great lengths to think about writing only when he was actually sitting down with pen in hand. The rest of the time he'd allow his subconscious to do its work by distracting himself with social engagements and the books of other writers.
I understand the subconscious, or at least the theory of the subconscious. Oftentimes I wake today with the solution to yesterday's elusive idea, or emerge from a yoga practice with the clarity I had been missing all day. I've resisted this blank page all morning because I have two thoughts swimming around and I haven't been sure which one to explore. The result, of course, is that I have been mining the internet for articles to read, looking for complete distraction and hoping that while my back is turned one of the two ideas will emerge dominant.
During this year of The List I have also discovered that running and writing have been consciously and intrinsically linked. I'm fairly new (again) to them both as a disciplined practice, and The List has entwined them as both near-daily practices. During my solo runs I often turn my mind to a story that I am trying to work out. The thumping of my feet on the pavement somehow loosens my mind to ideas. Throughout the Odessa months I walked through Texas conversations while running my route here in Los Angeles. I'd write in the mornings, run at noon, and sometimes write again in afternoon or just let it go till the next day. For better or worse, about 2 months ago, just around the time Odessa was finished, I found a running buddy. This has helped immensely with my mileage increase, but now many of my weekday runs are spent in conversation instead of quiet contemplation.
So, the two thoughts that are swimming around in my mind today are Time and Running. Running, because I have already posted here about writing (and will surely continue to do so), and as I said, they are intrinsically linked. Time, because earlier this week I received this email from a friend:
I woke up in the middle of the night thinking this: you have a full-time job in addition to cooking, blogging, singing, teaching yoga, writing, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera? Where do you work full time and how do you do that, if you don't mind me asking.
While I slept and allowed my mind to soften into subconscious problem solving, my friend was losing shuteye over my schedule. And so here we have it, it looks like today I am writing about Time.
By the way, have you seen this poster?
This manifesto is on one of those magnets I see at Whole Foods or on a friend's refrigerator. Maybe it's on your refrigerator. Our fridge is a jumble of report cards and drawings, but if I were to find space for a reminder-type magnet, this might be the one I put up. I generally hate being told what to do, especially when it brings up that "no duh" reaction, but this is one of those calls-to-action that I love to read in the checkout line, partly as a reminder and partly as a positive reflection of my own life.
It's that line in the second section that really speaks to me.
If you don't have enough time, stop watching TV.
And the one before that, about the job and quitting.
With all due respect to my friends who work in the entertainment industry (I'm included in that group, actually), and with all recognition that there is some excellent programming out there, TV is useless. Unless you are an actor or some other creator-type who can learn from active TV-watching, it is a waste of time. Most of us tend to watch TV passively, so when I say it is a waste of time I mean it in the big sense - TIME. Our precious 70 years. Our 25,550-some-odd days as humans. The divine gift of life. The likely one chance we have to exercise our true nature as creators. The active choice of how to live. The act of being alive.
Who cares about life after death. Let's talk about life before death.
Now I must pay attention to one of my chatty inner voices. This one wants me to apologize:
I don't mean to insult you. What do I know? I get up on my blogosphere soapbox and think I have the answers, but perhaps I am just a different bird. This is the way I choose to live. We all have to make the right choices for ourselves, and truly I do not judge someone for watching a show. But then, you did lose sleep over my schedule last night, and you did ask the question...
It's just that until I left home for college, I watched way too much TV. By my senior year of high school I was already feeling the crunch of time and the regret of wasting my early years with something that distracted me from my real work. The work that my spirit longed to do. My soul path. My creative life. I don't know how to say it any other way, and I can't get more specific than that. It has less to do with specificity of project and more to do with intentional living. As I packed my bags for college I wondered how much better of a musician I would have been if not for the sitcom-squandered early years. Time is all we have, I knew that at 17. I left home with 2 duffels, a trunk, a new laptop, and my trusty clarinet. I never regretted leaving that old black and white set my folks had saved for me. My dad still doesn't get it, but all I can say to him is that I love my very full, but very creative, intentional life.
So, here were my thoughts as I answered my friend's email:
1) WHAT TELEVISION?: Everyday I look at the clock and know that I will spend 8 hours at my office day job, exchanging precious time for peace of mind. I run for an hour during lunch. At 6pm I will get in the car and either drive to teach yoga, and later do my own yoga practice, or just get right to a yoga or spin class. Afterwards would I rather sit in front of the TV, or read aloud to the girls, connect with Darby, work on songs, edit photos, tweak recipes, read Hemingway?
The weekends hold endless soul-filling activities, some of which I get to almost weekly like the farmers market, some of which happen only occasionally, like gardening or visiting the arboretum or hosting a party at our house. Would I rather watch a movie? Yes, about six or twelve times a year, I would, and I do, snuggled up with Darby on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn and a bottle of hot sauce.
Luckily all we have is a flat screen and a DVD player. Have I mentioned how Darby and I are perfectly suited for each other? It was almost seamless when we merged our homes.
2) FINANCIAL VERSUS CREATIVE NEEDS: Since my post-college days I've been trying to find the balance between my creative and financial needs. I've bounced between the walls of creative endeavors (with no income) to financial endeavors (with no creativity). During 2006, when I was a full-time touring musician, I realized how my peace of mind and dependability of income are related.
The salary from my day job is, shall I say, not a hellavulot. As it turns out, that's been somewhat of a blessing. It only meets my basic financial needs, but along with the company health insurance, that's a pretty good foundation. It meets my foundational needs -- financial well-being, physical health, food, and shelter. My other three careers - writing/performing music, teaching yoga, and personal chef/catering - are all creative and bump up my income enough to satisfy my cravings for buying gifts for the people I love, taking little holiday escapes with Darby, and good olive oil.
I don't have a lot of unscheduled free time. I prefer generosity, but for right now I parse out my time carefully. Big projects take longer. The relationship between creativity and financial satisfaction is a balance I am still trying to work out, but there's an energy lately that I dig. This period of my life is the first in which I truly feel both creatively fulfilled and financially stable. Eventually, as more of my income is derived from creative sources, I will be able to find more balance in my schedule.
3 ) WRITE LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER: I'm dedicated to writing for a couple of hours a few times a week, at least, which means getting as efficient as possible with my work. I've always been a morning person, and my best writing happens at 9am. My intention is to write Monday through Friday. Sometimes I can organize my day-job work to allow for some writing time, sometimes I cannot, but most importantly I strive to not allow the internet to become what TV used to be. Even on a day like today when I have been a bit scatterbrained, I consider a day spent writing, time well spent.
4) KEEPING THE VISION: when I feel exhausted and a bit overwhelmed, I try to keep my vision on an upcoming short getaway with Darby. It helps on the weeks that hold tons of cooking, teaching, and music gigs. They are all things I love to do, but when I'm a bit low on sleep and quality time with Darby, it helps to have Big Sur on the calendar.
5) WORK THAT BODY: I exercise at least once daily, often twice, with a 5 mile run during lunch and/or a spin class/yoga practice in the evening. The running thing is a direct result of The List, but even before that I always went for walks. On the weekends I usually just get a long run Saturday and a good yoga practice Sunday. Our bodies were meant to move, and being a writer/musician is sendentary work. Our minds work better when our bodies work well. Also, despite the time commitment, I find that in general I am more productive when I am getting regular exercise.
6) THE TOP: Darby. He's the pirate's booty. He's the treasure chest of gold. He's the top, he's the tower of Pisa, he's the smile on the Mona Lisa... I deconstructed my life with the tiny glimmer of hope that there was a relationship like this for me in this lifetime. There is. I have it. I know I've won the jackpot, and I do not take it for granted. Darby is the single most important priority in my life. He and I both know that essential to having a healthy relationship with each other is having a healthy relationship with ourselves. Together we support each other in finding and creating our individual visions of the lives we want as individuals and as a couple.
All that said, we have just booked a one-night getaway to the beach. Sure, the beach is only about 15 miles from our house, but we rented a little cottage in Venice Beach for one night next weekend. Completely unscheduled for one night and the two days on either side of it, we will lose track of time, soften our gaze, and breath a little deeper.
#57 -- spend a lazy day at the beach
Sometimes it only takes a 15 mile drive to get a world away.