Somehow my September felt a bit fractured.
I am not completely settled in the apartment even though I have been here two months. I am mostly unpacked, but things don't work the way I want, and there is still tweaking to be done. The work on the house got started and then stopped, mostly my own fault, as I made a change that halted progress in the short-run but makes far more sense for the long run. That decision also made more work for me, project work, not creative work, and ate heavily into my time and energy. But progress has resumed. The foundation for the addition went in last week. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and framing will begin this week.
September felt fractured not because of extra work, but because I decided to break some habits, to say no to the part of myself that is happy to take on everyone else projects at the expense of my own dreams. I thought it would be easier than it has in fact proven to be. It seems that relinquishing structure, although necessary, proved difficult. After all, decades of career choices have honed those organizational and managerial skills. One would think that, a decade into "retirement" I would be ready to follow my dreams; instead I was blindsided by how entrenched this instinct has become, this urge to take on projects, any project, rather than trust my inner self. I didn't really retire, I just took on other projects: acting general contractor at the old house, supervising George's care, serving on church vestry. I am the kind of person that, when I say yes to something, say it whole-heartedly, who gives 110% to the task at hand, who will take on everything that is needed.
But there is a toll, and I have come to the point where the price is too high. In this last project I also got burned, and my heart was broken. I realize that much of that pain has stemmed from my own crumbling walls, my own inability to separate my own personal "church and state", or my inner life from my involvement in worldly things. I realize that the last decade (or more actually) has involved a lot of soul searching, a lot of forgiveness and reconciliation, a lot of inner growth. The time had come to say no, not to my own dreams, but to all the obstacles I place in front of achieving them. Tackling projects, solving problems, organizing things, although all good and easily justified, also prove to be a very effective technique for avoiding self-doubt about my own dreams. After all, I have had decades to practice those avoidance techniques, and all under socially accepted guises. I am good at organizing things. I am good at solving problems. I don't know if I am any good at creative stuff. In fact I might suck at creativity; all the decades of avoidance may have seriously atrophied those creative muscles. The thought of finding out is kind of terrifying. But I have placed myself on this particular ledge, and there is no other choice but to step into the precipice. It should come as no surprise that the process of letting go might engender fear, and perhaps even a casual flirtation with depression.
But here I am, still standing. A little worse for wear perhaps, still kind of a newbie at trusting my creative instincts, but I also accept that I cannot, at this point go back, to do so would be to give in to fear. "Fear is the mind killer" is the mantra in Frank Herbert's novel, Dune. What, after all, is there to lose? Myself? Well perhaps that is a greater prize than all worldly definitions of success the world can throw at any one of us..
I might not have gotten as much done in September as I had hoped, but that is just fine. I need to remind myself that life is not about accomplishments checked off in the great ledger book in the sky. I didn't blog much, but well, we all have days when we have fewer words than others. I also didn't read much and that was a bit more of a surprise. I wrote briefly about The Mars Room here, and Candide here. Midwinter of the Spirit is the second in the Merrily Watkins series, and if Merrily flounders a bit, and struggles with her own head vs heart issues, I am in no position to judge.
I did spend quite a bit of time knitting. I don't have anything to show yet, but knitting is the one activity I am perfectly content not to rush through. The act of knitting itself is enough, and eventually progress happens. I am nearly finished knitting a shawl to match the red sweater I blocked in September, which is still not completed, but more about that later. And I started a prayer shawl one day when I simply needed something different. This prayer shawls simple repetition is more mindless than the red, which is not difficult, but does require balancing two yarns. Together, the two shawls, one for me and one to give away, have kept me entertained and calm.
And here it is, October already. I made keema matar last night, a dish teeming with childhood memories. My mom made keema matar for us when we were children, although we knew it as missionary curry. Apparently we refused to eat it the first time she made it so the next time she told us the peas were Missionary heads and missionary curry was born. How I loved missionary curry. How I loved gobbling up those peas, pretending I was a cannibal and devouring those missionary heads in the savory meat sauce. I was not particularly fond of peas in any other guise. Of course there was also the spectacle of the thing itself at my mother's table, the rice, the curry, the bowls of condiments. But the spectacle is best for sharing; alone I took a simpler approach, equally delicious.
My approach to the curry has also evolved. My keema matar today no longer tastes quite like the memory of my mother's, although that was my initial goal. I also no longer need to reimagine the peas as missionary heads, although the memory does make me smile. Those warm memories are a good thing -- memories of family meals yes, but also memories of imagination and play, dreams of exotic places, and terrible things made safe and familiar, warm and nourishing.