I did something I’ve actually never done before (unless it came after birthing a baby). I took 6 whole weeks off. Last March I had the sense that I needed to take a chunk of time off this summer to write and create space in my life. I bounced the idea around in my head for weeks but usually ran into guilt and an incredulous voice that said, “who do you think you are?” Luckily, I’ve learned over the years that when my intuition speaks, it’s typically best to ignore the internal naysayers.
So, I did it!
I started my break in Carmel, CA at a 5-day writing retreat run by Linda Siversten, aka Bookmama, a whiz in the publishing world who also happens to have a huge heart and the superpower of seeing the genius in your project. I joined 3 other writers in a 3 story home with views of the Pacific ocean. We read our work everyday to the group, and wrote, wrote, wrote. We also ate, ate, ate, as literally some of the best food I’ve ever tasted was prepared each day by a professional chef.
After my writing sojourn, I returned home and stayed committed to hours in front of my computer writing. As I’m nearing the end of my time off, I can see why my intuition was begging for a break all those months prior. Two big lessons appeared.
Lesson #1 is the power of space. Martha Postlewaite admonishes us in her beautiful poem to “create a clearing in the dense forest of your life.” My plate had once again become too full. Can you relate? The break created space in my day which created space in my head which created space in my heart which allowed me greater presence and a chance to ask the important questions. What do I care about? What really matters? What do I love?
Lesson #2 (closely related to lesson #1) is to let go. Letting go was a lesson that continued to tap my shoulder repeatedly in the last month. On the writing retreat, it looked like hitting the cut button for 72 pages of written word as I re-wrote, re-worked, and re-thought the entire manuscript. Painful to let go of words, paragraphs, and entire chapters that I’d spent hundreds of hours composing. And yet, my willingness to let go created a better manuscript. Isn’t this how it so often goes? We resist making the changes that inevitably improve our creative project, our home life, our work, our quality of life.
The lessons of space and letting go certainly won’t end when I return to work next week. I have a sneaking suspicion that these are some of the BIG lessons I’ve signed up for in this life. But Postlewaite says that when we clear the dense forest of our life and wait there patiently, “the song that is your life falls into your own cupped hands”. Ah yes…I’m starting to actually hear it.
Clearing by Martha Postlewaite
Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.