On being willing to move again: Creativity and Unfreezing
So, finally – after a year of not posting to my blog, I posted. Half a page. Nothing special. Just a door, an eye, a heart opening after a time of being closed.
Opening after a time of learning to trust.
“You just have to trust,” my mother told me, before she died. Before she finally let go let herself yield to the inevitable end of whatever this is that we are doing here.
She said it while I was standing in tree pose, with the sole of one foot pressing into the calf of the other leg. I was showing her what I could do now. All that was left was teaching my first yoga class.
“You just have to trust,” she said. Whatever this is. Just have to move forward be carried forward let life move you.
Let it happen. To you. Through you. In you. For you.
My mother had taught me many things in her long life.
But this one – this is the project we worked on together.
The pose. The paint. The pain. The pill. And that part of ourselves that pushed and prodded and punished anything that was less than perfection.
We had to learn to trust.
To let go and let whatever was here,
in us in her in me in this, be here.
In my mother’s studio there are thousands of typewritten pages. Onionskin, embedded with keystrokes from her black Underwood typewriter. When I conjure this image it comes on full sensory – the sound of the keys clacking, the alcohol smell of the inked ribbon turning, two sheets separated by carbon paper, a strange musk and oil scent that was half machine and half human.
And In the studio, piles of more recent work on dot matrix paper, the little holes still trimming the edges.
Last week, my sisters and I filled seven boxes with files from two drawers that we’d missed the last time around. Poems, novels, children’s books, memoir. I marked the boxes: “Writing”. Such a small word for what this is.
(Later, when the rest of her estate is released to us, we’ll receive stewardship of hundreds of paintings, sketches, monoprints…)
No writer’s block – just trying to keep up with the images, the stories asking to be told.
I learned this from her:
Everything shimmers. Everything asks to be noticed and named.
The world is alive.
Let it move through you.
I learned other things, too.
I learned that when it is all too much
when the flow wont stop flowing and it begins to feel less like magic and more like a demand
you can stop it.
You can freeze (as I did for a while- for two years after she died.) You can shut it out by shutting yourself in.
What I am learning now,
on my own
How to live.
First, I turned back to yoga.
I followed my teacher’s voice up the stairs to the studio. And when I couldn’t climb the stairs, I crawled up on my hands and knees.
Then, when I was afraid –
like that time we were working on the second chakra and I lay on the mat, tears streaming into my ears and that time when, deep in meditation, I realized that my finger was bleeding. A lot. Melting into the purple silk cushion and spreading, red and thick, across the polished wood floor –
I tried to quit.
I was afraid.
My body hurt.
I couldn’t do the poses.
But mostly, I was afraid that if I stayed, yoga would annihilate something I was clinging to. Something that, if I let it slide away, I might never be able to reclaim.
And Betsy said, Stay. Wait. See what happens. And I stayed.
Coming back to yoga shocked me. It yanked me. It pulled me open. Until, finally, deliberately and with great respect, I slowed yoga down.
I stopped competing with my younger, more flexible course mates. I started listening to my body as it listened to yoga. wordlessly, steadily yoga whispered my patterns to me – years of resistance and unwillingness, years of closing to what was opening to me.
Which brings me to my own creative work. My own shelf of notebooks, lining the wall of my office.
For as yoga moved me through the motions of flesh and bone, tears and snot, of blood all over the floor, I was able to reopen. To come back to life.
To let the flow move toward me and to let myself move into the work.
The more powerful the work, the harder (sometimes) it can be to stop fidgeting around. To stop the little “meaningless” movements of busyness and self-entertainment. To quiet all of that and sit inside of
To trust that even when I can’t see it or feel it – and even when I
freeze, shutting it out for a while – the work stays. The work trusts.
The work is willing
to silently sit with me.
I just have to trust.
to not be distracted by a text or a craving or that new Netflix Prime Hulu Sundance YouTube program everyone’s talking about.
I just have to trust.
and hold it inside me
all the way
to the desk;
have to trust
that my notebook is there, somewhere beneath this jumble of scarves, magazines and receipts;
And here is a pen.
and to trust that I still know how to hold it – and let it move.
In this image, the painting behind me is the portrait that my mother painted of me when I was ten or twelve. It hangs in my office, a reminder of how she saw me.