Saturday, 15 February 2014

My Reading & Writing Life

Many years ago I went through an extended period of unemployment. I spent this time stressing about not having a job and wishing that my life was different. I was incredibly unhappy and could only focus on what was missing in my life. I was envious of everyone around me who seemed to have it so easy as I lamented my lack of money and long days with nothing to fill them. I lived just a few minutes away from an amazing beach and beautiful park at this time, and although I used to go for walks there occasionally, I was too miserable to really enjoy them.

Fast forward to the day I got a full-time job and suddenly the leisurely life I had known came to an abrupt end. No more staying up late. No more lying in bed reading till lunchtime. No more strolling to the library and having a relaxed lunch before taking in a movie in an almost empty cinema. No more sitting in the sun just watching the world go by. Now my life was all about alarm clocks and trains and deadlines. Weekends were for doing all the chores that I didn't have time to do during the week and trying to repay the sleep debt caused by those early starts. My old life began to look a whole lot better and I truly started to regret that I hadn't savoured all that free time when I had the chance.

It's human nature to think the grass is always greener on the other side, but over the last two years life has given me another big chunk of free time that I've been determined to make the most of. Living in an isolated area where no one else wants to live is not much fun, but it's truly the only way to step out off the treadmill and free yourself from the shackles of a huge mortgage / rent. My partner earns enough for both of us and my paltry wage from 2 days work a week barely makes a ripple in our income pool. A few years ago when I was teaching high school I thought that my life was set in stone and that for the next 20+ years I would be too busy lesson planning and marking to do much else. Although it was my decision to leave teaching I have been very surprised by the direction my life has taken since.

My current situation would be much easier if I had a beach / cafĂ© / shopping centre / theatre / gym to turn to for entertainment and distraction. The nearest decent town is 100 kms away so on my days off I have to fill the hours all by myself. It would be easy to become despondent and feel like life was passing me by out here (which I do sometimes, I can't lie), but after my previous experiences I've made a big effort to ensure that none of this time is wasted. My reading used to be confined to a few pages before bed or some snatched moments on the train, but now I'm finally able to catch up on all the books I've been wanting to read for so long, while keeping on top of new releases.  Writing has been a godsend for me and helped to keep me sane since we moved here. I'm using this time to do an MA in Creative Writing, something I might not have worried about if I was working full-time.

I was prompted to write this entry when I read over  some of my old journals from that long, lonely stretch in my life. I dumped them in the garbage where they belong and made a promise to myself that I would never become that negative again. If I'd started writing back then instead of feeling sorry for myself then I'd be a much better writer than I am today. This current period in my life won't last forever and when it's over I will miss the solitude, the silence, the time to think and dream (and sleep in!).  I'm not going to waste any of it on pointless misery and regrets. I've come to understand that time is far more precious than money and that's why I'm very grateful for this period of freedom to step away from the daily grind and nurture my spirit a little.

What do you have to be grateful for?

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Writing Quote for 2014

Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist master, said, "We must continue to open in the face of tremendous opposition. No one is encouraging us to open and still we must peel away the layers of the heart." It is the same with this way of practice writing. We must continue to open and trust in our own voice and process. Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg