For the past few hours I have experimented with my new email habit. I check once in the morning to tend it for 15 minutes. I check once at midday and spend up to an hour handling inquires and connections that serve my work. Personal stuff I handle as simply as possible and table it for later in the day. Otherwise, sitting at my computer, I work on work that is not email, which when you hop off the email carousel, is quite easy to identify. From the carousel everything else looks blurred. Hard to see the work for the email.
So far, so good.
I have had three hot cups of tea.
Leftovers for lunch.
A small bite of chocolate and a pause on the back porch to watch the light on the oak.
The music running downstairs in the kitchen, on Spotify, is on a station of women folk singers, who when they sing a certain set of notes makes me think my daughter Catherine is in the house and calling for me.
My ears are set to certain frequencies and even with the kids away at college, my radar scans the vicinity for calls to the mothership. This has been my purpose for so long.
What is my purpose today? It is the second week of Advent.
It is Monday, so it must be “work on grant application day.”
It is not Tuesday, which is “write uninterrupted for the morning hours day.”
Nor is it Wednesday, which is “prepare for teaching and do a little more grant and writing work day.”
It is also the period of time that regular readers here will recognize as Quest time. I am part of a growing group of business artists who pause during the end of the year to imagine our next year, and how what I desire might come in to form. This free program, run by Jeffrey Davis at Tracking Wonder, supplies thought-provoking prompts weekly, from professionals in a variety of fields, mostly centered around the place where business, artistry, wellness, and creative practice overlap. You can imagine why I like it. Plus, this being my fourth Quest, I have a sturdy group of colleagues who have become friends, who I can rely on for inspiration when my well runs low. Here are two of my past Quest posts, on Medium and here on this site.
My well is not low right now. It is dark and full. During Advent, my Dark Journal workshop keeps me attentive to the shadowed edges of my thinking, out where I leave stuff during the year, things I think I might return to when I have more time, deeper stuff that the busy months do not have space for.
I know. You are thinking, “It is the holiday season Suz! How do you figure on slowing down now, when the world is on overdrive?”
If I have learned anything in my active mothering years, it is to move in the opposite way of the fraying electric wire that is spinning out of control in your kitchen.
When your kids speed in to frenzy, remember the plumb bob. I get low and pendulous. I move out of the brightly lit rooms and pull my people close, our combined mass slowing the frenetic.
During Advent, my response to the commercial glare is to spend more time in solitude. (Remember my kids are in college.)
I take walks in the dark. I go to bed earlier. I do not go shopping unless I really want to. I mend. I sort files and toss stuff that I have not looked at in 7 years or more. I make myself ready for a fresh start in the New Year, which doubles as cleaning the house for our annual holiday party on Solstice. (Two! Two! Two goals in one!)
I also spend time, and this is a habit born in the Quest and one I highly recommend, looking over my journals from this past year to see what things I have kept steady attention on, what ideas I dropped, what threads of thought I would like to carry forward in to the new year. This looking and reflecting is cumbersome. My journals and day books on my lap seem like a waste of time, until I find small things that fed me. I recall how important a random airport meeting was, or a phrase that shaped my year, forgotten because I integrated it like the chocolate I just nibbled.
“Ceremony is made of the stuff in our hands, soaked sacred by our undivided attention.”
My purpose, in all my work, is to unmask creative fertility through daily practice. I am devoted to the stories of women, in particular mothers, because I recognize the paucity of real stories by real women. And I believe we are, each of us, our own best resource, which is so readily felt when daily creative practice becomes just that,
your own daily creative practice.
But more and more, I want to write my #MeToo post which would be book length. I also know that I am not ready to complete that writing. Instead, I talk to friends, people who witnessed what I witnessed, who were on the multiple scenes I was on, in which power played out in sexual predation over and over again. These conversations have reconnected me to some of my dearest long time friends. (BTW If you are triggered by the stories circulating in the media, I urge you to call your friends, talk to other people who have known you for a long time, who can offer you perspective and help you get grounded. I have spoken to many women whose personal stories are surfacing unexpectedly and daily, called to memory by what they read in the cluttered space of the news and social media. Just because you are not famous or your stories do not address famous people, I urge you to find a way to tell your story. If these stories are causing you sleeplessness or emotional turmoil that your regular life cannot handle, please talk to a mental health professional or call a rape crisis line in your area. They have resources to help with all that is coming forward.)
What helps me keep a steady eye on my purpose is my daily creative practice.
I know how we each can get wrecked by life, by memories coming forward, all that squelched story which has simmered on the way-back burner of your attention all of these years.
We get wrecked.
And we salvage through creative practice.
This is how we rise forth.
And this is how we tell the world, starting with our small selves that have hidden behind busy lives for so long, that we will not be stopped, ever again.
This post started out as a “what to do in the second week of Advent post.”
It still is.
Advent is about arrival.
Advent is about dwelling in this dark season with expectancy for what will rise forth in the coming year.
Advent is about stepping in to the darkness and tasting its velvet purr on your skin.
Advent is about trust that the steps you took through April blossoms and the berries of July have led you here, not haphazardly, but with purpose. Now you get to take stock.
My Advent Dark Journal process does not simply ease my way amidst the holiday hustle and bustle. It does not only shield me from the bright lights of commercialized celebrating.
I mean to immerse myself, and invite you to do the same, in the wealth of our solitude, to carve time, within the swift suck of hours doing, in which you can touch your own luminosity. These gifts of daily creative practice do not arrive without making yourself ready.
These gifts arrive with candlelight.
They arrive with a new path taken in familiar woods.
They arrive in the breath between stitches, a needle-tip length of silence.
And there, in that small space, a seed drops in to your heart.
Something from this big year drops in to the fertile soil of your being
and waits out the darkness, making ready for what is to come.