A prosaic question to lead toward how we find the joy in life.
Obligations use time. Family, work, eating, sleeping, socialising. Keeping house, gardening, shopping, walking the dog. Obligations and the time they take.
All these obligatory things take time away from writing. Apparently, I should be able to write a book a month. Maybe I could if there was nothing else in my life. Maybe I could if they were short stories (which I’ve done for most months over the last year, and submitted). Maybe I could if I wanted to burn out in a spectacular moment and lose everything that wasn’t writing related.
I’m not going to ‘should’ myself. It’s a lesson learned early in my role as foster carer.
Let me tell you a story, a real story, only slightly ruffled around the edges to keep the innocent from harm (that may even be me).
Once upon a time, a long time ago when the world was young and I was, too, I had time and energy to do everything. Or I thought I did, or could, or should.
As a foster carer, I thought I should be in charge, manage my time and theirs, my life and theirs, my purpose and theirs.
A bit wrong-headed. I should’d myself out of a real life.
The eldest foster pestered me to let go of the reins, to take time to open the gate and wander free of the self-imposed encumbrances (yes, he used that word) and weights of an invisible and unnecessary obligation.
Why not trust him with a bit of the load, let him learn and demonstrate his value to the world? To me? To himself?
Life lessons are hard, and sometimes we break under the strain of expectations, either self-imposed or brought to bear by others, by age, by the things we have no control over.
When I was younger, I could work three jobs, drive long distances every day, walk the dog in the dark when everyone else was asleep. Maybe the breakdown wouldn’t arrive if I didn’t ignore his lesson. Lesson? Oh, it’s about what was possible and what was beneficial despite handing over responsibility to an unknown potential result. But his words woke a flicker of lightness. Carrying the load alone doesn’t bring joy, or even pleasure. Not to me, or to him. Enabling him to share the load brought him joy – and it was easy for me to see when it may have been too much. Because I was outside it.
This is where I’m standing now. I dream of doing the things I used to do, that I was capable of doing when I was fit and young and driven and indestructible (not that long ago in my mind).
My writing has suffered because I thought I should be able to do this, and that, and everything else. But as age is inevitable, and the body’s response to overload becomes more painful, I need his lesson again.
Stop, smell the rain, do things at a pace I’m capable of sustaining.
To return to the joy of creating stories rather than the expectation that I should be more than I’m capable of sustaining in all forms of mind, body, and soul.
Stop trying to do everything, be everything, or even to be like others. It’s time to be just me.
That’s where I am. Still creating, not quickly, and there may not be a story published by me this year, but there are pots on the stove, and veg growing in the garden.
What do you do in your life that brings you joy?