When I work with young people, I talk about integration–it’s not a Sarah tool, it’s a learning tool, but I think it’s often overlooked. But critical. How can you take the experience you’ve just had–good or bad–and integrate what you’ve learned into your life? For example:
I was [bad at math]. Then I [asked for help from my teacher and worked with a tutor]. Because of this I [got a higher grade on my test]. I feel [proud, confident and less tense in math class].
The next step: how do you keep those feelings you have right now?
I am in the last few days of my writing retreat. I woke up with the sun (which is NOT early, trust me), ate bread slathered in butter and jam, took a long walk through the “neighborhood” in the pouring rain, took a quick hot shower (quick because the hot water lasts about 5 minutes), ate an egg and cheese and fruit. Now I’m curled on my cushiony daybed with hot tea next to the fire. I feel peaceful and inspired, ready to crank out the last few pages to complete one project.
I was worn out and worried all the time. I worried about my finances, my students, my career, my weight, my family. I worried that I didn’t have enough time to write and time was slipping away from me. I decided I couldn’t do that anymore, so I let it go.
Mr. B and I have long talks about how to live more simply so we can slowly start to spend more time doing what soothes and inspires. We want to spend less time chasing the bus to commute to jobs to take care of the customer or push for the outcome to show that we are competent and worthy of our paycheck. That is incredibly hard to change, it’s the way we’ve been taught to operate. It’s the way our culture works–we spend so much time chasing someone else’s permission or approval to validate our own happiness. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
I’m cutting out the middle man.
The trick, of course, is that in making that decision, I am faced with figuring out just what it takes to make me happy. And, it seems to me, this is not a one time project, but constant reassessment and adjustment.
This trip was my exercise in just that. In some ways, it been as much about establishing what is essential and what I can let go as it is about the writing. Because letting go of something will make room for better writing.
Here’s what I think I need more of in my life:
- Silence. It’s okay if there’s no one talking or music playing.
- Bread. I’ve eaten nothing but bread and butter for the last 25 days. I do not feel bad, I feel healthier than I’ve ever felt. Screw this low carb bullshit.
- Butter. See above.
- Liquor. I’m not a liquor drinker, but there is liquor on/in/around every dish I’ve eaten outside my cottage, I swear. It’s time to bring that back, ’cause it’s totally worth it.
- Walks. Long ones.
- Listening. All the writing I planned to do went back burner because in listening to people talk, the stories came. We don’t listen, really listen, enough.
- Laughing. I miss my chats and laughs with my great old friends, my wild wine Wednesdays and League nights. You shouldn’t ever be too tired to have a bit of that.
- Brian. That probably goes without saying, but I feel like my other arm is missing. You know you’ve got it bad when you talk to him and he’s not even there (see #1).
Here’s what I could let go:
- Coffee. I know, it’s PNW sacrilege. My insides don’t feel like they are boiling when I’m not drinking six cups a day.
- Wine. Not totally, but maybe less. See above…less on the boiling insides and more on the fuzzy head.
- Make up. Totally overrated. Stop putting on mascara to go to the grocery store.
- Running. When running starts to feel obligatory (read; I should go for a run–the should meaning, I’ll get fat if I don’t or I have to because I’m training or because I might want to train for something soon) it’s not fun anymore.
- Leaving the house everyday. I’m pretty sure there is enough food in my house at any given time that I don’t ever NEED to go to the store. Just stay home.
- Planning–Mr. B is saying his hallelujahs right now. I’ll never be able to totally give it up, but my anxiety levels would drop considerably if I just decided each day what I wanted instead of days or weeks out.
- Meat–I’ve probably had meat twice a week since I’ve been here. I don’t have a big fridge, so nowhere to store it or leftovers, so I only eat it out. I haven’t missed it.
Some of this is tongue in cheek, but really, I think the moral of the story is that all the things I do because I feel like I should are just cluttering out the things I do because they make me so very happy. Less is more they say…