Wednesday, December 30, 2015

before i walk

Before I walk, I write my morning pages.

This is typically three pages of long hand, scrawled in the half light allowed by the single bulb over the kitchen sink. I usually sit cross-legged on the couch in the very outskirts of this light, my feet tucked under my thighs, pillow on my lap for a makeshift table, notebook on pillow, pen moving across paper. I don't write anything of consequence. It's true that I spend pages complaining. It's an airing of grievances. Anything at all. From the quality of my sleep, to the mysterious ache in my knees, to the list of things I need to accomplish today, with detours into self doubt and existentialism. I throw up my thoughts, letting them splatter and drip down the pages as I turn them.

Sometimes, the daily dump is all I have time for, especially if I've gotten a late start. Other times, I run out of things to say as I bore my own socks off with the tedium of the contents of my mind, and I run up against a huge wall of resistance, a big fat mental ugh. 

I don't want to put forth
   the effort it would take
     to drag my pen across the lines
       for the number of words I'd need use
         to tell myself all the stuff
           I already know.

I could stop here.

But if keep pressing against this wall, my my fist eventually cracks the glass (because it wasn't a wall but a window all along), and my pen suddenly has the space and energy to move faster. This is a shift into a different mode of writing. A step back from the window I've been pressing my eye against, and suddenly instead of just the fog from my own breath and a few twinkling lights on the other side, there's crisp, cold air and the whole world right in front of me. Lately, I've been using this broken-glass time to piece out bits of a story I'm working on. I'll walk my character down the stairs and into the basement. I'll describe the squeak of the stairs, the way his own weight threatens the stability of his knees, the feel of finality of the concrete under his feet when he first steps onto the basement floor.

But then it'll be time to close my notebook, and the dog will leap up as soon as he hears my pen click, and then it'll be the walk and then the breakfasts and getting ready and making lunches and the bus stop, and I swear my children try to use their voices like battering rams against my ear drums, and then they're gone for the day and I have my work to complete and so many chores and the 3-year-old at my elbow through it all.

There's something special about writing the morning pages, though, especially on days when I can cut through all that garbage floating at the surface. I like writing from this underwater place. It helps me remember that I am more than my to-do list. I am more than my body. I am more than my mind. Even if it's only for the space of ten notebook lines, five minutes of time, I am buoyed by the chance to connect to myself. My Self.