Like old ink, the vestiges of the old often linger, ignored, in our lives, until we can’t ignore the signs anymore.
I was cleaning out my fountain pen of the recently used bright red ink, when I noticed the water turning dark. Surprised, I pumped the little squeeze tube a few more times and then the water turned green. It took me a long time to clean my fountain pen and I was stunned by the amount of residue I had.
I’d changed the ink in my fountain pen from dark green to bright red about a fortnight ago after what I’d then considered a thorough cleaning. For a whole fortnight, my red ink looked rather murky but I never stopped to consider why.
I had a novel to write; a deadline to meet. Even after 14th March, when I started understanding the scope of the problem we faced, I kept up my writing; even as I faltered to keep my usual pace.
On most days though, I stuck to my 20 Mile March, a concept from Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen, about making steady progress irrespective of the difficulties one faces.
And I did make steady progress, even as India went into lockdown and I found grocery stores empty with the attendant food shortages. My writing routine was shattered and I worried constantly about getting food, even after the government took measures to ensure food accessibility.
Did I write every week in March? Yes, but I wasn’t hitting my word count goals and ended up not meeting my goal of finishing the entire draft.
No problem, I assured myself and went to work, finishing Act III in the first two weeks of April. And then I couldn’t do it anymore…
I was just forcing it in the last chapter and I just didn’t feel up to writing the Epilogue. I moved my deadline. I just had to edit Act I now and then I’d be done.
I probably just had some residue in me, much like my fountain pen… I would take the week off from writing, rest and give my creative well a chance to fill up again.
Last Monday, I started writing morning pages, as a way of getting unstuck. Neither I, nor Julia Cameron (who came up with the practice of Morning Pages in the The Artist’s Way) consider morning pages to be ‘writing’ in the serious sense. It’s just a way of dumping emotions and thoughts on paper.
Here’s a list of everything that came up for me or has been swirling around in my head since March-
- Whether I and my loved ones will be alright.
- The stress of staying at home with loved ones, particularly since it’s not how it’s supposed to be.
- I should be productive. It’s the perfect opportunity — I can’t do anything else anyway. And yet that’s not the case. It’s the perfect time to de-clutter paper, chase matters that I’ve let slide for months or years and KonMari parts of my room and house, but I can’t come up with the motivation to tackle such a humongous project.
- The isolation isn’t just physical but emotional. We can’t engage in the usual acts of love.
- The forced introspection. I’m an introvert and need time alone, but this is hard. Social distancing is crucial and I’d started practicing it before we went into lockdown but it’s driving me crazy. I’ve always hated restrictions on my freedom.
- I’m craving retail therapy. I’ve started dreaming of cookware, appliances and other things I’ll buy. I’m suddenly determined to get everything I’d put off for later. Life, it seems to me, is too short to only have a few fountain pen inks. I should experiment more and write lovely letters (which I’m not currently writing).
- I try not to think about the economic uncertainty and then it hits me hard on some days. The new world will be very different from the one we’re used to. Will I flounder or thrive, after having overcome my knee-jerk reactions to things? Only time will tell.
I wasn’t even reading much, even though I consider fiction reading, a part of self-care. Just the plan of spending the week resting, after admitting these things to myself has been a blessing. I actually finished a book last week and am still reading Jane Eyre, Anne of Green Gables and Essentialism.
For a lot of us, this event has had the effect of stripping away of the inessential. Even if I’d tried, I couldn’t have divined a more perfect time to read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. It’s a book I have to chew on, and I finally got started.
The greatest balm to my soul, however, has been Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Audible has made children’s books free to listen at stories.audible.com and I thought I’d give the book a try; a lot of people quote it as being a childhood favourite.
The narration is excellent and wait till you get to the part where Anne talks. The child is so full of wonder and a firm desire to imagine a more glorious world than the one an orphan like her is in, that it’s the perfect balm for the soul.
There is scope for imagination here.
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
I think the book moved me, I’m still on chapter 4, because it reminded me a little of myself and how children are apt to imagine away disagreeable things. I don’t think we should be imagining away our current reality but setting it aside for a few hours to dream with Anne is quite healing.
Having taken the time, maybe my heart and mind are clearing as well, just like my fountain pen. That said, this week is still a bit sluggish and I think it’s a little like peeling an onion. We may think we’ve gotten rid of the old but after a while, we’ll see a new layer to peel away.
Wherever you are right now, I want you to remember that you are not alone in this. Take care and stay safe and let me know how you’re practicing self-care in this difficult time.
Lots of love,