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navigating rhythms

June 4, 2013

I came to bed this morning at 4:15. I first woke up at 8:55 (although I did fall back asleep until 10:30). That’s okay. Other nights, I go to bed at midnight, or 1 AM, or 11:30, and I wake up like clockwork at 9:40. That’s okay too.

My “midnight walk” “last night” occurred between 2:30 and 3:30 AM. I hadn’t taken one for a few days, so my mind was crowded with things that needed sorting, or musing about. Insights to uncover. Plus I needed to enjoy being outside. It was chilly, so the stars were very clear, and close. On the sidewalk, I passed by an earthworm, then a centipede. I smelled honeysuckle, blooming in profusion in the hedges.

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I write morning pages whenever (a) I remember, and (b) feel things bubbling up that need to be expressed. I last wrote them 2 days ago, and they ended up being five full pages long. Chock full of insights, ideas, avenues to pursue.

Like writing for my blog, though, while I can sometimes successfully go for stretches of writing & posting every consecutive day, when I don’t do that, my thoughts tend to be . . . deeper, richer, more unexpected and intriguing.

Which is why I stopped writing morning pages every day. And also why I (usually) wait for inspiration to write for this blog. (There are occasions where I cobble together something from an interesting week. Or I just want to write a silly poem. Stuff that is more ‘surface’, but still real and true and worthwhile.)

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A few nights ago, I was telling Spouse why I keep finding myself on Twitter for long periods of time. The next day, I realized the situation is actually quite a bit more complicated.

I had told him that it was a way to feel socially connected; it’s an alternative to reading another book, which is a very solitary activity. Those things are true.

There are many days, or nights, when I may be halfway through each of several books, scattered about the apartment. But at a given moment, I’m not in the mood for any of them. Yet I have no inspiration to create art. I don’t quite know what to do with myself. In those circumstances, I often end up on Twitter. But it’s not simple boredom.

I’m staying informed about all sorts of topics that are not just intriguing but important to me. I’m currently following (iirc) 4 people who, at least occasionally, post in Spanish: an architecture professor in Puerto Rico; a woman in Barcelona, Spain; someone who posts philosophical and literary quotes in Spanish; and someone in Catalonia, Spain. If I sit with my tabletop bilingual dictionary in my lap, I can puzzle through ~70% of the messages. Sometimes I don’t have to open the book at all — I sort of grasp the gist without deliberately (and laboriously) translating every individual word.

I’ve wanted to practice my Spanish skills for years now, but picking up a book and just plowing through it seemed too daunting. With Twitter’s 140-character limit, snippets are short. I can even respond (albeit usually in English), and that person might respond back to me. A book won’t do that.

Following strands of connections, I often find people who interest me even though there is no obvious reason why they would. But if their posts are engaging, I’ll follow them, and glimpse other ways of being.

I often say my best friends are books, which can be really good because I can’t hurt a book’s feelings. I don’t have to stay consistently in touch with a book. Most importantly of all, I can graze for information whenever and however I like.

But a book can’t respond to me. I can’t ask a book questions.

Yesterday, having finished Suzette Haden Elgin’s The Last Word on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense, I was on fire with a need to write to her to tell her how useful that book was in explaining things I’d always been puzzled by. I had somehow previously tracked her down in 2001. Received a lovely note back. I knew from Wikipedia she was still alive. But when I Googled her, I quickly found a blog post written by her husband, dated February 2012, that recounted how she had developed a fast-acting form of dementia. She rarely left their house; she was no longer interested in family or friends. She did read a lot, but she didn’t remember what she’d read.

So there wouldn’t be any lovely note back this time.

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Connected to my new way of truly loving and appreciating my own qualities (rather than grudgingly tolerating them, or worse), I’ve realized that the parts of my unconscious mind that aren’t taken up with keeping my body humming along are still doing very important things — things that will yield very useful information in due time — but those processes operate on their own schedule. How I experience those processes often feels, to my conscious mind, as if I’m spinning my wheels. Partly because I still have the internalized shame of feeling like I must be tangibly and evidently productive through all periods I’m awake.

When Spouse is home on weekends, by Sunday night, he has a laundry list of tasks he has accomplished. Of course there are always more lists. But he can point to real things in the world that he has done.

When Spouse comes home from work, he no longer usually asks me what I’ve been doing. Possibly because I usually answer, “thinking a lot”. Sometimes, “writing a blog post”. More occasionally, “working on an art project” or “writing a poem”. If it’s not too hot, “going for a walk”. Approximately weekly, “going to the library”. But that’s about it.

I’ve felt vaguely ashamed of how little I accomplish, tangibly. But now I realize I’ve been too hard on myself. For five years, I’ve been remaking my life, bottom-up. So there can’t be a plan. And there isn’t. I don’t know where I’m going, or how I will get there. I don’t even know what I’m trying to do. I have to do it first.

I’m creating a life that no one I know has ever led. So how tangible can the results of completely-unknown processes be?

And yet, if I somehow could know what to do, that would suck all the joy and fun right out of the whole thing. It’s not-knowing that adds chaos and serendipity, and makes “anything possible”. Knowing would diminish possibilities to things I already understand. Things that have already been imagined, probably by somebody else. Because I don’t imagine “from scratch”. I need seeds of things I’ve done. Without knowing what I was doing.

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I think now, in this period of what seems like (sort of) “fallow”, seismic shifts are happening far below my conscious awareness. Tectonic plates are realigning into unorthodox forms. Can a caterpillar truly imagine being a butterfly?

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