big thoughts: little steps

In June, I wrote about waking up early to ensure time for creative work, in addition to however many hours I could fit in during the day. I continued this pace until late July when I took two weeks off and very intentionally gave into summer–amusement parks, beaches, cold sweet treats, board games, movies, visits with friends, and snacks for dinner.

It was great! I did not, however, anticipate that it would take me more than two additional weeks to get back to creative work. I fit it in here and there, but not consistently until my third week back from vacation. I found this discouraging and was rather mad at myself, but I tried to be patient and keep wending my way back to early mornings and fitting my work into the weekly schedule.

I’m still not fully there, but two interesting things happened during this “off” time.

Not a sea star, but so cool to see the reclusive octopus!

First, while at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, I had a moment with some sea stars. They held to their rocks in a small exhibit, but their colors–orange sherbet, lavender, and mint green–silenced everything around me for a few powerful seconds as I felt a deep, clear longing to draw. Even if I’d had a sketchbook with me, I’m not sure I would have used it. What I loved was the definite feeling of longing. I missed doing art. I missed my mornings with pens and paper. I couldn’t wait to get back, even as I happily engaged with one more week of vacation. It felt great to know I missed art.

The other interesting thing is that I had time to think and daydream but no time to act. So, I was forced to sit with some ideas. And in that sitting time, they had a chance to grow, uninhibited by my insecurity, or a discouraging first attempt, or getting shrunken to a bullet point on my to-do list. Most of these thoughts dissolved back into my brain’s ether. But one stayed. I found it fun to think about, surprised myself by talking to a few people about it, and then, in the last few weeks, taking baby steps toward its fruition, accepting its slow pace but excited about its arrival.

It’s still too unformed to share…in fact, I’m realizing as I type this that I’m in the gray, unformed space of a few things right now. I can’t yet explain my idea to you, I have a few projects not yet ready to show you, some writing accepted by magazines but not yet on the page or in pixels to share. Technically, I’m being productive, but because I have nothing to show you, I feel unproductive.

That bright spot is a sun beam that landed on my desk right after I squeezed in 10 minutes of work. It felt like a sign telling me “good job!”

Even in other parts of my life I’m in this gray area…like with running, I’m slowly getting back to it after some injuries and physical therapy (Yay physical therapy! It hurts! It’s hard! It works!!) Just one gentle mile every other day or so. Baby steps.

But one day, on my walk home from a run, a tall woman with a thick, long ponytail jogged toward me wearing a t-shirt that said, “Oregon Dad.” I don’t know if she wore the t-shirt ironically–there’s no way she was old enough to be a parent of a college student, no matter how she might describe her gender–but I assumed she’d borrowed it to go for a jog.

It wasn’t branded or sweat-wicking or any other fancy thing we might think we need to run “right,” to look “good.” It was a blocky, bold-colored, cotton t-shirt that got her out the door to do her run. Her long, graceful stride and incongruous t-shirt sparked an epiphany in me: The beautiful path is one of acceptance. Acceptance of your home, your body, your situation, your current moment. And then, dressing that, attending that, as appreciatively as possible.

For the next few weeks, I’m going to hold onto this idea of accepting my life as it is, then attending to it as appreciatively as possible. The focus on appreciating transforms the simplest things–an old t-shirt, a haphazard stack of library books, a bowl of tomatoes from my neighbor–into beauty and gratitude and a reminder of well-being.

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