Lately when I sit down to write, I feel a compelling desire to ground myself. I write something that often begins like this: “It is 10:02 pm on Thursday night in Southern California. I am sitting at my desk, the house around me quiet…”
I wonder why there is such a need within me right now to describe my “right now.” Perhaps it is because so much of life feels chaotic, slippery, at the moment. Putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, is a way of pausing, documenting what is true in this particular moment. It forces me to notice what is unfolding within me, perhaps even more so than my external circumstances.
It feels so often with the speed of life that there are many mini-days within a day. Wake up to getting kids off to school. Work. Pick up kids and after school activities. Dinner and homework and bedtime. Writing, my own homework, bills, and other paperwork. Sleep. And do it all over again.
The routine of one mini-day after the next within a whole-day, and then repeat, sometimes seems like it leaves little room for surprise. There can be a robotic, rushed quality of getting from one thing to the next in order to check it off the list, despite our best efforts to do it differently.
I wanted to share a story with you about something that happened to me last night. My children went to bed around 9 pm. After they fell asleep, I completed some homework for a class I am taking for my Narrative Medicine program. I finished my assignment, caught up on some emails, and before I knew it, the clock was turning to 11:30 pm.
Recently, I had been writing my blog posts on Wednesday nights, and sharing them in a wonderful online writing group I have been participating in. Wednesday night was about to end, and I still hadn’t written or shared something in my group. Mind you, my Wednesday blog post writing was an entirely self imposed deadline.
But the deadline felt just like that. I was starting to feel some guilt and anxiety settling in around my shoulders. I could feel a familiar tightness in the left side of my neck, and my eyelids were droopy. I opened up my wordpress site and stared at the blank screen. I looked at the clock. I looked at my bed. And looked at the screen again.
“No,” I said out loud to myself. The word sounded tentative and echo-y in my darkened bedroom, but there it was. An unmistakeable “No,” in my own voice. I closed my laptop and climbed into bed.
I know it sounds dramatic, but what is the point of it all at the end of the day? My entire intention behind writing is to use words as a way to slow down, pay closer attention to the ordinary moments, and connect with each and every one of you in a way that feels meaningful and honest. To notice beauty in places and people and events that I wouldn’t otherwise notice. I write about being present and kind and tuned in.
If I sit down at 11:30 feeling stressed and exhausted, I am not sure it matters how profound or insightful my words are. What matters is the energy transmitted through them, from me, to you. I believe that, you my reader, would know, somewhere in your cells, that something about my heart and my words didn’t align. No matter how light or wise my post might be, you would feel that something was awry.
In that moment, what wasn’t written was more important than anything I could have created. It was an opportunity to depart from a long standing pattern of pushing through, of demanding perfection, of not listening to my body and the quieter voices that were seeking desperately to be heard. It was an opportunity to pay attention to what I truly wanted, which was to shut down and disconnect. It was an opportunity to honor my needs, which for me, is harder than it sounds.
In that moment, I didn’t want to write. I wanted to rest.
Indeed, it is a small example, a fraction of time and space that has come and gone. But I share it with you, because it is an example of how, in tiny micro-steps, we can do our best to make different choices than the ones that have guided us to wherever we are now.
We can speak up even if we have always been quiet. We can listen even if we have always spoken. We can ask even if we have never demanded. We can give even if we have always received.
Because it is all a practice of opening up to ourselves, over and over again, and listening, closely, to what feels true, and acting from that place.
Tonight, it is still late as I write this (10:29 pm), but now, the words want to be written. There is an ease within and energy to reflect and share. I can see the moon from where I sit, almost full, luminescent, hanging low, right outside my window. I can feel my breath and my feet on the floor. I can close my eyes and sense my inner landscape, where I truly am, right now.
This is tonight, and last night was last night. They are different. I am different. And that is okay.
With gratitude, Monisha