But now I am taking a few steps back from being so critical. Maybe I am not too self-indulgent. Maybe this persistent sense of being dissatisfied and disjointed is just my inner self trying hard to be heard.
I have gone through long periods of time in my life where I have not taken the time to listen to my inner self. While that is advice I freely give to others, it is advice I have difficulty following myself. The truth is I am more careful and caring of my friends than of myself.
When advising friends to listen to their inner selves, I often send them the following paragraph from the novella I Heard the Owl Call My Name, which is a favorite of mine:
All day long, on his way back to Kingcome, because he was alone and receptive, the little questions, the observations he had pushed deep within him, began to rise slowly towards the door of the conscious mind which was almost ready to open, to receive them, and give them words...In front of the vicarage he anchored the boat and waded ashore. He trudged up the black sands to the path and stopped. From the dark spruce he heard an owl call—once, and again—and the questions that had been rising all day long reached the door of his mind and opened it.
I love that image of the observations and questions rising towards the door of the conscious mind and then a seemingly simple act, the call of the owl, being the catalyst to allow them to reach the door and open it.
(What is it about the act of opening a door?)
I haven’t wandered off to a quiet spot (preferably one by water) to let the observations and questions rise within me. I haven’t given myself the time or space in which to do that. Despite that, and perhaps because I have been so persistent in not granting myself the luxury of taking care of myself, those thoughts are rising to the surface all the same.
So, what do I want?
Writing time: blog, letters.
Feel as if I am on top of things: the house, the garden, the bills, cooking, food storage (canning and freezing).
Rekindle the connections with Warren beyond the dailies. We seem to have less and less time to dream or share things beyond the immediate day-to-day stuff that is always demanding our attention.
Go away for a day or two. Not a vacation (yet), but a break. Water would be nice. Away would be nicer. Somewhere that is not Delaware.
Brownbag lunch with Warren at the springs on campus.
Be somewhere where I am not expected or required to be my Delaware self with all the responsibilities and weight of the schedule and commitments.
More connections (personal) with my friends: coffee, walks, something.
Regularly swim and walk again (exercise).
Walk regularly with Warren again (relationship).
Read more poetry.
Not be Prufrock.
Watch more movies (I don’t mean go out to the movies, I mean watch more movies).
Watch more sunsets.
Those were all items I jotted down quickly, without thinking too hard and without censoring myself. (I haven’t rewritten the list for publication either, as I prepare this post.) So many of them are small things. Doable things. And so many keep pointing back to time and personal connections (with friends, with Warren).
So why am I not listening to myself and doing some of these?
I don’t know. Maybe it goes to back to my feeling that if I do the things I want to do, I am being self-indulgent. I think women more than men (but not exclusively) tend not to place enough value our wants and our needs. It is always easier to take care of others first. Maybe I don’t want the internal critic pointing her finger at me, accusing me of being selfish and thinking only of myself.
Or maybe I am afraid the list will become one more demand on my time, one more set of responsibilities and commitments I have to keep.
For awhile, lots of people were doing lists of “50 things you want to do before you die.” Then everyone talked abut their “bucket list.” Same idea, new name. Folks would meet and say “so, what’s on your bucket list?” or “Yep, I put that on my bucket list.” Some of those bucket lists are pretty staggering.
I have a “50 things” list on my computer, one I put together many, many years ago. I have not looked at it for a long time; I know I wrote it pre-cancer. Post cancer, I’m not sure it matters as much. I really am that different. Things that once seemed important to me have slid way down in priority.
The list I scrawled out is not a bucket list or a 50 things list. It’s a little list. It’s a “maybe could I just live a little more deliberately and not feel so harried and out of touch with my life?” list.
Time will tell.
As is so often the case when I am musing, Warren often brings me back to reality with one tug of the kite string. I shared the list with him last night and then commented this morning at breakfast that I was a little surprised that he didn’t say anything about it last night.
“I was thinking about it,” Warren replied. He then calmly ate his oatmeal while I explained the Prufrock entries on the list.
“Prufrock” is “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot, and is probably my all time favorite poem out of a long list of favorites. It was on my mind because Monday evening my friend Jacob and I had kept up a running repartee about Prufrock on Facebook after he had posted a video of Michael Gough reading it.
Warren, as we famously know, is not into poetry. I lost him somewhere in the breakfast discussion. He confirmed that later this morning when he wrote: As for Prufrock, I was thinking Proof Rock and wondering where it is.
Like I said, a good sharp tug on the kite string does wonders.
I have a list, a little list, in hand. I have Warren beside me.
Now if we can only find the time to go looking for Proof Rock.