When Reframing is Not what you Need
I recently read one of those ubiquitous “helpful” quotations on Facebook that said something like “Instead of pining for a vacation, how about living a life you don’t have to escape from?” That one did not receive a “Like” button click from me. Yes, we should live each day enjoying this one wild and precious life. (Thank you, Mary Oliver). But sometimes escape is not just a way of getting away from it all. Sometimes it’s a going towards. Sometimes it’s a necessary means to an end. A moment on the front porch watching the hummingbirds, for example. A daydream at the sinkful of dishes. A conversation with a friend over lunch….with lots of laughter.
For me, all of these moments are amazing. And, but, however… what I’m needing is a little more than this. A few days of solitude. When my eyes tear up several times a day because it’s not happening, it’s a real need. I just want a few uninterrupted days, a retreat, so that I can create, make things up, get things down on paper as soon as they’re in my head. It’s been a really long time since I’ve done this. And in the past, it’s worked wonderfully, for me to find myself again, order my thoughts, figure out my heart. Banff Centre for the Arts, a small cabin on Salt Spring, a tiny cottage on the beach in Sooke, house-sitting gigs in my own city…. All have been perfect in the past. It doesn’t have to be far away or exotic to fit the bill.
This is the point, when I dare to state what I am missing, at which my inner New Age cognitive psychologist pipes up in a sing-song voice and says, “Remember how lucky you are.” In other words, trying to get me to reframe the situation. Yes, I have a good life. A fantastic one. I’ve got health, love, an outstanding family, a good job, shelter and a vibrant community of friends and colleagues—and a passion for writing. And I really am grateful for all of these blessings in my life. But it’s of no help at all when I’m advised, from without or within, to reframe my thinking about needing space. I need solitude, plain and simple, beyond a closed door in the house. My love for those around me hasn’t gone away. And it won’t. But all those blessings? They mean that I have less of that quiet than ever. Lucky, yes. Very. Busy, yes. Always.
The “missing” list for me is not a long one, not one filled with objects or emotional holes or fame and fortune. My list is very simple: time to write and a means to travel. Neither of these things can be satisfied by counting my blessings (or being reminded of the fact that I live an extremely privileged life, as a Canadian, in 2012). It’s like eating lettuce for a source of dietary fat—it’s not gonna happen.
What all of this will look like this summer is anyone’s guess. But I’m getting my calendar out right now. I’m marking my space—future space, sacred space—as a priority, in pen. If I don’t do it, no one else will. But let me tell you—those around me might suffer. Everyone is better off when a writer gets to write. Writers, you know exactly what I mean. Families of writers, I think you do, too.
The other little item on my list… a means to travel? As always, I’m working on it.