Since finishing my short story on Saturday, I’ve had a bit of a dry spell, writing wise. Since today is only Monday, I’m not going to complain. There were periods in my life where I went weeks or even months trying to drink out of a dry creative well.
When that happened, I would fret and pretty much torture myself over not writing. I’d tell myself I was a lamebrained loser who’s creative spark had been blown out for good. Or I’d pat myself on the back and say “well, of course you can’t write, you poor thing. You work fifty hours a week at a soul-sucking pace. Then you have to do laundry and scrub the toilet.” In other words, I’d beat myself up mentally, and then coddle myself and say I was sorry. That internal push-and-pull is what I imagine it would feel like to be in an abusive relationship, only I was both the abuser and the abused.
Since this weekend was Mother’s Day, I’ve been thinking about something my own Momma has been saying to me for years. It is a simple motto of sorts that she encouraged me to adopt.
“You have to learn to be ordinary in an extraordinary world.”
I have always struggled with that concept. To me ordinary meant, well … ordinary. And how sucky is that? I associated ordinary with things like spending 8 hours a day in an office, standing in line at the grocery store, getting gray hair and worrying about back fat. For the most part, I was right on the money. Those things are all ordinary.
But I was forgetting the other side – the part about living in an extraordinary world. My niece’s pure glee and freedom when she’s riding a horse. A perfect starlit night. Curling up on the couch with Lee and our big fat cat in a three-way snugglefest. That first sip of a good cup of coffee. The magical transformation spring weaves over a garden.
Yesterday, I was wondering to myself what I’ll write next. But it was Mother’s Day, so I put “what’s next” out of my mind altogether, and went to enjoy a meal with my family. We gathered at my grandparent’s house. Grandmom and Grandad are in their early 80’s. Grandad had a stroke years ago, and has been wheelchair-bound ever since. Over the last year or so, my grandmother’s mobility has declined to the point where she doesn’t get around so well either.
Just about every day, rain or shine, Grandad goes to the park in his motorized chair. My grandmother has been waiting for the slowly churning Medicare wheels to bring her own motorized chair into being. That finally happened Friday. After months of sitting in the same old recliner in her living room, staring at soap operas all day unless she was gearing herself up to make her way into the kitchen to throw together some dinner, she’s reclaiming a little of her own freedom.
On Mother’s Day, she got in her chair and motored herself into the backyard. She sat and looked around at her green lawn and watched her fat, snorting, drooling Boston terrier play with a ball. She ate a piece of cake and enjoyed a sunny afternoon breeze.
There is absolutely nothing obviously extraordinary about sunny afternoons or green lawns or fat Boston terriers. They are perfectly ordinary. But I’ll bet you don’t feel that way when you’ve spent months in the confines of your house because moving around is painful and difficult, and then all the sudden you CAN just pick up and go outside like anyone else.
I watched my grandmother get rejuvenated by the simple act of being out in the ordinary-made-extraordinary, and by getting there on her own.
It hit me as I watched her that sometimes, I need to do the same. I will get burned out as a writer. Life does have a lot of demands that pull you away from your words. Even if it didn’t, I imagine it is probably pretty normal to feel a little empty once you’ve poured out a story that has been occupying your brain. It takes a little time and living to fill that space back up.
I do feel extraordinary when I am in the midst of writing something good, and blah and drab and ordinary when I’m not. But I’m not going to be afraid of those downtimes anymore. I’m going to see them as times where I need to step outside my own head and stop pecking at the keyboard, and go fill myself up.
I need to go be ordinary in an extraordinary world. All those little everyday miracles don’t outshine you when you are ordinary. They help you recapture your own inner glow.