Since the birth of the Gnome, there have been moments, hours, perhaps even days, when I’ve felt that my life is indeed perfect and complete, lacking nothing. All that remains to be done (all that there has ever been to do) is simply for me to give myself to the practice of my life: to take care of my family and teach myself to write the poems I have to write.
And, too, there is the rage. The rage of cleaning a blowout diaper instead of writing in my journal this morning. The rage of giving up the twenty minutes — just twenty minutes! — I had wanted for working on a poem, because the Critter did not nap this afternoon. The rage of what will I do if he’s done with napping. The rage of why the hell is the baby crying. The rage of my interruptibility, of needing just a bit of time to myself, of fearing that no time will ever be enough time. Fueling the rage is what I call The Panic of Never, which once upon a time would wake me at 4 a.m. and keep me awake until it was time to get up anyway. These days there are days it courses through me all day long, like blood.
I’m In No Hurry
“I’m in no hurry,” said one of my students toward the end of last term, and I seized on that statement as though it were the drug that might at last give me some relief. OK, with two very young children in my care, I certainly can’t be in any hurry. But what is the least I need to do each day in order to keep on making my way — as well as to dispel the dread that my dream of a book of poems is just a dream of never never never never never? Is just one draft enough? Is just one line enough? Is it enough if my only writing is for my journal or for the blog? Should I give up the blog?
The impulse to give up blogging actually comes up daily, and I never know whether it’s a shitbird thought or not. I’d certainly give up blogging if I thought I’d use the extra time on my poetry, but I don’t believe that I would. This tap is on, and I don’t think it would do me any good to stop the flow of words, even if they aren’t poetry.
Why Poetry, Then?
Why not just write articles and essays, since they apparently come relatively easily to me? This blog post, for example, was drafted (in longhand — if I had to write everything on the computer, I’d never write anything at all) while one child was at my breast and the other was playing at my feet, on my lap, on the bed, and etc. I can write prose while singing songs with the Critter; I cannot write poems in this way.
But the reason I can’t write poetry in a state of distraction is the very reason I can’t let it go. In poetry I’m trying to get at (or at least approach) and explore a reality beyond thought and explanation. The reality of Gate! Gate! Paragate! Parasamgate! Bodhi Svaha! The reality of what Pema Chödrön calls the “genuine heart of sadness.”
Perhaps I would not rage so much if I weren’t so envious (jealous?) of my husband. Yes, Brian is able to spend much less time in the studio than in years past, but he does have a room of his own, and he is often able to spend hours at a time there — I make sure of it, in fact. Maybe I wish he would do something similar for me — except that he actually does, making sure I get to class and to the temple and to sesshin and so on.
What I am really envious of is not so much his studio as his ease with paint, his commanding knowledge of contemporary art, his understanding of his own purposes and practice. All of these are gifts that he gave to himself. Whereas I have wasted much of my life trying to be good — a good daughter, good student, good employee — instead of risking myself to give myself what I need. Now that I’m a mother, ironically, at last I’m giving up on “good.”
Yes, I know the Gnome will not be two months old forever, that eventually the time will (most likely) come when I’ll have more time for myself. But the time for poetry can’t be later anymore. After all, now is the only time there is.
Do you experience The Panic of Never — or anything akin to it? If so, how do you cope with it, or even — bless you — dispel it?