Living in the present

I have lived in this house for 2 1/2 years, but I still haven’t hung up my own pictures.

There are a number of reasons for this, not least of which is the fact that I married a 38-year-old bachelor whose classic rock fandom makes itself known through tastefully hung LP covers on most of the main floor walls.  But there are other reasons not so easily explained.  When I think over why I have been reluctant to take my pictures out of boxes for so long, I know that it has to do with my own reticence to look back on memories that weren’t always comfortable, as well as with resistance to being fully present in my current place.  Why?  I think because in a full decade of life post-college, I got burnt out on striving, travel, loneliness and heartbreak.  I made such a point of “being present” to all the details and ins and outs of my circumstances, holding every last thread of navel-gazed belly button lint up to a probing light, I fried some circuits.

But now, I am trying to resurrect some of those impulses (the fact this is happening during the lead-up to Easter is not lost on me).  I look back over the past five years of dating, marriage, a new home and a baby, and see that I did not always bring my whole self to the present moment. It was simply too demanding to stay open. So I hid. Left some boxes unopened.

Thankfully, I look back and see that I have, at least, been attentive to my inattentiveness (which is sort of the poet’s version of, “I believe Lord, help Thou my unbelief!”).  But now, it is time to hang up some pictures and invite myself back into my present place.  This is manifesting itself not only in a desire to rearrange furniture and print wedding photos, but also in taking time to write and stretch some linguistic muscles that are a little flabby.  I am telling myself that if I can be hospitable first to myself, making my physical home a place that echoes back to me, words will come.

This takes some effort.  Some intentionality and thought, the physical labor of knees scraped from moving desks and dusty hands that have dug through keepsakes.  But I believe there’s poetry to be found in these details, in what I hang on my walls, or what I freely discard. Poetry requires choosing the blue china bowl where a plastic one would suffice.

 

 

Ego and Engagement

Last night, I went to a reading and workshop given by Colorado Poet Laureate, David Mason, at the Longmont Library.  I’ve heard him speak twice now and have been impressed by his approachability and warmth.  Both times he began his talk by having the group responsively recite an old Mother Goose poem, which nicely demystifies poetry as a primary impulse, and creates a sense of camaraderie in the room.

I go to these kind of lectures and writing workshops as a tune-up, opportunities to think about the task of writing for a few minutes or hours, and maybe come home with enough of a spark in my belly to write something new.  Usually, I don’t say much at lectures, don’t want to tell my story or draw attention, but Mason said some things last night that encouraged me to raise my hand and interact, to share the hastily scribbled free-write that we all produced in the workshop.  He talked about the way that our Ego gets in the way of words making it on to the page.  Both the feeling of “wow, this is so great, I can’t believe I’m this awesome,” and the feeling of, “I’m terrible, who would want to listen to what I have to say?” are detrimental.  They prevent us from attending to the words themselves or steer us off track.

So I spoke up. Asked a few questions. Engaged.

Engaging with writing, with words, has been difficult for me in recent years.  In the age of Twitter and social media, it no longer seems permissible to go quietly along in my corner blogging away or writing without participating in a larger community of writers.  I do think this a good thing – it brings us closer to the original communal purposes of rhetoric and poetry. But it takes so much energy and time to be a good reader, a good commenter, an attentive follower, and it has been easier to just intake passively than join my voice to all the noise.

I’m realizing this is fear.  And ego.  At best, it’s cowardly. At worst, it’s neglecting my call, my way of being in the world and prayer itself. So, I’m going to try to be better at engaging, which is why this blog is here.