Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Eggnog and Yoga to the Writer's Rescue

Tumbling through the front door, we cast a school backpack on a piano bench, kick shoes in wide-flung directions, shed bulky coats and drop car keys with a clatter on the kitchen counter.

I grab stemware from a cupboard, open the refrigerator and spy what I desire -- a carton of eggnog -- and fill the glass with the sweet and cold liquid, topping it with a shake of nutmeg.

"Ahhhhhhhhhh," I sigh, staring out of the window at a winter blue sky, breathing deeply and savoring the seasonal drink.

Lately I have been steeping myself in these moments -- stolen snatches of peace and calm in the midst of chaos.

If you're a writer who works at home -- and if you also happen to be a single mom -- you already know that December brings with it too many distractions and interruptions. Time cannot be a wasted commodity, and each workday must be meticulously planned so that deadlines can be met while at the same time a child is provided for and Christmas gifts are sought.

However, this December is even more frenetic for me, because although I normally am signing with creativity and brimming with holiday enthusiasm .... I am zapped of all energy.

Two months ago I hit a very unexpected health crisis event. Although I have fully recovered and am back to my normal workload, my Muse has not caught up with the rest of me. While I charge ahead with bill-paying writing assignments and juggle "mommy duties," my desire for imaginative composition has been non-existent.

I feel flat, one-dimensional, boring, robotic.

If I were to follow my own advice, to pull out of this funk I would tell myself to suck it up and write what I love to write. In the past, this strategy has worked well and has fueled me enough to not only complete my magazine assignments, but also infuse my creativity.

But even now, I can't kick myself to the curb in that manner. I've been resigned and, quite frankly, have felt nothing short of pillaged.

That is until today.

Today, in a last-minute decision, I grabbed the latest edition of Yoga Journal magazine from my bedside as I raced to pick up my child from school. I figured I'd read it in the parking lot while I waited.

To the backdrop of British trumpeter Alison Balsom on my car CD player, I thumbed through each page .... and slowly started breathing again.

And I suddenly realized an important practice I had been overlooking since that harrowing hospitalization event -- that of self-care. Within 36 hours of my hospital release, I was writing and completing magazine assignments. I only stopped working long enough for the after effects of the surgical anesthesia to wear off, and I was right back to it.

What I have found is that in my yoga practice, I have had to force myself to slow down, even if it's just for an hour-and-a-half at my gym three times a week. I recently picked up a subscription to Yoga Journal, not because I wanted to write for this publication, but because I needed it. The articles are a balm for me. They don't only touch on yoga asanas (poses), but also cover everything from human compassion, to healthy eating, to finding your bliss.

As writers, and especially as American writers with our Puritanical mindsets, we have a tendency to convince ourselves that if we're reading it, we'd better be writing it, too.

But I've decided lately that sometimes it's really just fine to soak in the art of others and allow the words of others to strengthen us, solidify our thinking, firm up our sensibilities.

If you've hit a wall like I have recently, consider gravitating to something you love. It doesn't have to be something you read. But I have found that in my pursuit of yoga as an exercise and now as a mindset, focusing on this particular subject gives me a great deal of joy and satisfaction. Clouding that with the obligation to write about it would conversely take away from the purpose of appreciating it.

After my child exited the school and we rolled through the countryside of Kentucky's horse farms, I suddenly started noticing my surroundings, things I'd hypnotically ignored on the way in: the beauty of the animals in the fields, the sweeping arc of birds in flight, the purity of the sky's hue.

And as I stepped back into my home and cast off the trappings of a busy life -- school backpack and all -- I gingerly laid the magazine on the kitchen counter and thoroughly enjoyed that cold glass of eggnog. I sank in to the beauty of the afternoon and whispered a prayer of thanks for health, for my child, for my blessings.

"Writer's Block" is a phrase we kick around -- usually with a curse under our breath -- but I'd encourage you that next time you hit the wall like I have, dig deep to think about what you love. Then enjoy what you love. Really enjoy it.

Because it's only when we shun the obligation in favor of the joy that the real writing begins again.

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