"If only," I used to think, "if only I had more time, more money, more energy." As a young mother, there isn't a lot of opprotunity for unbroken things—like time, sleep, your body. Everything is intruded upon, demanded of you. You feel pecked to death by the incessant needs of your progeny. What little time I did have to create came in small, precious pockets where I was exhausted. It didn't feel like enough to do anything I wanted to do: to read, write, exercise, seek out another adult human for an actual honest-to-God conversation. It didn't feel like enough to make it worth the effort. So for years I made no effort. This was a huge mistake.
Without clear intention, the little pockets of time evaporated like dew in the morning sun.
I had to intend to create, to read, to write, to move. No matter how I felt. I needed to meet my edge consistently, every day, and not judge the progress.
I used to believe that the only way to really do something big and important was to go full-force, all in. Downing it all in great gulps, a big blaze of effort and unbroken concentration. Anything less wasn't worth the effort.
Now I know that taking things in small sips and swallows can lead to slow-burning raptures that last days and weeks.
I spent months reading a book, a single day working through a paragraph, sometimes just a sentence. At first, the slow drips frustrated me, I grew impatient. It took time for me to realize the secret joy of savoring the words I read and wrote slowly. They became stored not only in my mind, but in my heart. Like the drip lines in Noelle's garden, the slow, constant dripping saturated my life, till it became robust and useable. To borrow one of Noelle's favorite words: nourishing.
"If only" didn't get me where I needed to go. A retired friend once told me, "you know, I used to think that I'd get so much done once I retired. But I get up every morning at 5:30 and like that," she snapped her fingers, "it's gone. We all get the same 24 hours, it matters how you use it."
I am more responsible with the windows of solitude I have, I get right to work without hesitation. Jump right in. I know what my goals are. I stop when I must, put it down from my hands, but still carry it on, whatever it is, in my mind, in my heart. And I don't judge myself based on my progress. That I was present enough in the moment to begin and present enough to know it was time to stop, that's metric I use now. The high-achiever in me howls sometimes, that there should be more more more more. If only. That's greedy. As Teddy Roosevelt famously said, "do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
My whole entire life flows out in short staccato bursts, "hi, yes, I'd like to make an appointment please (Jojo, get down from there)." Nothing is arrived at in a straight, smooth line.
The words go deeper, stay with me longer. They create a positive feedback loop—I am more patient cooking dinner for the kids, I am more joyful during the slow drudgery of phonics lessons, I am more present when toilet training, because I know that I'm working on things that matter, holding in tension their constant demands and my own internal desires. This is balance. Everything is fully engaged. The words go deeper, stay with you longer. They create a positive feedback loop—I am more patient cooking dinner for the kids, I am more joyful during the slow drudgery of phonics lessons, I am more present when toilet training, because I know that I'm working on things that matter, holding in tension their constant demands and my own internal desires. This is balance. Everything is fully engaged. Intentionally exhausted. And it is glorious.