A lot can happen in a couple of weeks, even for a woman whose pace of life is very slow and outwardly uneventful.
Since I last posted, I’ve changed my blood-thinning medication, thus freeing myself from dietary monitoring and restrictions. A tiny liberation with significant positive flow-on effects.
I’ve begun organising new glasses, so that reading and computer work will, I hope, be a little easier.
And — most significantly — I’ve experienced a major and exciting breakthrough in my writing life.
Being forced by circumstance to live a perpetually slow, measured, mindful life is a challenging lifestyle that comes with hidden gifts — if one has the patience, persistence and state of mind to allow them to manifest.
For triggering the breakthrough, I’m profoundly grateful to my communities of writers — the monthly workshops led by Joyce Kornblatt; and my writing group, fondly known as Monet.
The weekend before last, I had the rare pleasure of spending time with both. And by the end of that weekend, my inner life and my writing life had been transformed. Since this kind of personal growth is an organic process, it’s hard to pin down one specific catalyst for such deep change. But there was something Joyce said — about prioritising one’s writing — that shook my foundations and set me reflecting on ways I might better juggle domestic and health requirements with writing, given my severely limited energy resources. And then, my fellow-Moneters asked excellent, probing questions about the depth to which I am willing to go with my work on the memoir I’ve been writing for the past many months.
A wild, fierce storm swept through just as that discussion was taking place, blowing a flyscreen into the kitchen of our meeting room and sending us dashing to close doors and windows. My shamanic studies tell me storm energy is transformational energy. An extraordinary coincidence of timing? That’s not how I read it.
I spent a restless, soul-searching Sunday afternoon and evening exploring the issues of personal honesty, courage, imagination, craft and passion that are central to my writing life. Eventually, I arrived at the revelation that if my damaged brain is now capable of addressing the complex structural, content and plotting aspects of writing memoir, then perhaps it might also be capable, again, of working with these aspects of novel-writing.
Hallelujah! I didn’t need to think about which I’d prefer to be doing. My body and heart made it clear: novel-writing feeds my soul, and floods my energy system with an almost euphoric flow; writing memoir, while satisfying my urge to write something significant that might be useful, eventually, for those who read it, is a hard and painful slog.
It’s been more than two long years since the first stroke deprived me of the cognitive capacity to engage with novel-writing. During that time, I’ve undertaken daily brain training on the computer, as well as daily physical rehab. I’ve spent countless hours on the bed — reading good literature, resting, watching TV shows online, and crocheting. I’ve also had a second stroke, and moved into a retirement village. Through it all, I’ve maintained a practice of writing morning pages every day; explored the discipline and delights of writing haiku; blogged when energy and opportunity allowed; and slowly developed the memoir concept and manuscript from a collection of haiku to something much more ambitious and complex.
During those two long, slow and sometimes very difficult years, I’ve also learned a lot about myself. Working on memoir has helped me reflect on long-held beliefs and behavioural patterns, laid down in childhood, that have not always served me well. I’m gently exploring the idea that it’s okay to do whatever I want — whatever nourishes my soul — so long as it doesn’t harm anyone or anything else. That it’s okay to put myself first, rather than always prioritising others. Quite a breakthrough at 62!
In the aftermath of that wild storm 10 days ago the realisation has consolidated: that I am — possibly, probably — once again able to work on the novel that’s been sitting fallow, in completed draft form, for so long.
Excitement bubbles up in me as I type this. My dining table is covered in notebooks and sketchpads old and new that contain past work on character and plot development, as well as the promise of blank pages on which this work can be furthered.
It will take a long, long time and a lot of focus and dedication to produce a new version of the manuscript — I know that. Often, the necessities of daily life will use up all my scant energy.
But I’ve set aside the memoir and returned to the writing form I love — and it makes me feel as joyful and free as a little child.