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6/18/09

Transitions -- and more


Today, I want to share an email letter I received from my sister Shelly
the 'baby' of the family and 18 years my junior, a college English teacher with 3 children: Esther, 7 and the twins, Ari and Noah, 3.

She writes: "In May, I had a conversation with two colleagues at school. We've worked together for nearly 10 years yet we've never talked about how hard it is to transition into summer.

One of the women said at the end of a semester, she has days in which she stays in pj's and watches daytime television. And then lies about it to her husband later because she is so ashamed about wasting the day. But I totally understand; it's like the brain is on high gear for the whole semester and then - BANG - suddenly everything is over - grades submitted, paperwork done - your time's your own: there's so much you want to do, focusing is hard, the to-do list in your head is overwhelming. My experience has been less dramatic than my two friends, neither of whom have children, but I definitely experience that sense of paralysis.

I think the kind of day you described in your email - reading on the beach, scrumptious lunch overlooking the water, a nap - that's the kind of day you should give yourself, every day, for a long time, spoil yourself rotten with leisure, think of yourself as not laid off or even retired, but on vacation, a vacation you took in the midst of a life/job transition.

Your new job might not pay as much as your previous job, at least not in money, but your new job is being an artist, the artist you always have been in a part time sense. Remember, artists work when creating but also when sitting on a beach contemplating the waves or reading a book that inspires, or playing with visiting nieces and nephews. The artist in you has waited all these years to come out, but give yourself a vacation before you "change" jobs.

Your organized, logical and rational brain has to give up some control, and that will take time. In the meantime, don't beat yourself up because you haven't done what you thought you would. The artist in you ain't going nowhere. She will wait for your vacation to end, for the anger to dissipate, for the leisure to lull you into a relaxed and open state. You will know when the time is right to start your "new job" and then you will find the balance that May Sarton had.

This summer I am doing some new things: tai chi, meditation, a core strengthening and balance class and I am simply terrible at them all, terrible. Women two decades older than me are as graceful and sleek as swans as they maneuver their bodies following the instructors' commands, but me, I am like a beached whale and worse there is a mirror so I get to see myself all uncoordinated and out of breath. But (and here's the important part) I am getting better, feeling my body in a new way, feeling stretched and strong and capable in a new way. It's been so long since I tried something new, I forgot that it takes time to become a master.

You will become a master, the master of your new life, but only after days of difficulty, anger, regret maybe, fear, frustration, lunch on the beach, naps in the, afternoon. I have no doubt that you will find your way, but don't beat yourself up; be gentle with yourself. You're going through an important life change and changes are never easy. Maybe the summer will be about being in the change and then, come September, your new life will start. Love, Shelly".

It is difficult to find words that describe the utter sense of relief I felt reading my sister's letter. Relief that she 'got it'. She understood this process and how difficult it is to let go of schedule and routine, the ritual of a professional life.

Just the evening before getting this insightful letter, I began perusing two books. One is, Everyday Serenity: Meditations for people who do too much. The essence of this little book of affirmations, quotations and exercises is "stopping". I expect this to be the book I awaken to daily .... on several levels, perhaps.

The other book is Connecting to Creativity by Bergmann and Colton, a small book about unlocking one's creative potential. Now it doesn't claim to have the ability to make its readers into fine artists. But it does focus on stages in the creative process to help the reader/seeker:
"... develop an inner knowing and an inner strength. ........ and will change forever the way you think about your own access to creativity and the role it can play in your life."
Here's to stopping.
Stopping to smell the roses.

Shelly took this picture at the Emily Dickenson
home in Amhert Massachusetts where we
attended a flower arranging seminar on
Victorian decorative style.

Note:
This is original work
created and uploaded
by PatStudio.
Please be kind.
Do not use without
permission.

4 comments:

Celeste Maia said...

Your sister Shellly has so much wisdom and is so amazing and intelligent! I loved her letter, everything she said spoke to me. The photo of you smelling the roses is great! Everybody should have a sister like Shelly, or better still, we should all be like Shelly. I am coming back and rereading this post and every time learn something.

Pat said...

I feel utterly blessed to have Shelly for a sister and friend. Because of the difference of 18 years, it wasn't until she was a college student/young adult that we truly connected. Yes, she did share some wonderfully wise words with me.

Hélène H said...

I found your blog through Acey's and I am glad I did.

Beautiful, moving post.

Pat said...

Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting on this post. I went over to your site and just love your work. And the photos are so bright and clear. I will be adding a link to your blog on my blog roll.

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