Well, I certainly haven't been writing here much, but I've been busy with book projects, the start of choir season, preparing for a wedding of dear young friends in Vermont this coming weekend, having guests and seeing friends as summer winds down into fall. Our weather has been pretty much gorgeous here in Montreal, still warm enough for t-shirts and sandals, so it doesn't really feel like fall yet except, of course, it is. The evidence is in the hint of color in the trees, a few fallen leaves, the markets overflowing with cabbages and cauliflower, apples and late berries, the last of the sweet corn, colored squashes, baskets of tomatoes, armfuls of basil. In the evenings I've been drawing, and as usual some sort of flowers or plants tend to make their way onto the page. In my community garden there's not much left in bloom except some beautiful Japanese wind anemones, which look so pretty with the magenta flowers of cosmos.
I just haven't had the kind of quiet time lately that's necessary for writing, and I'm not sure when it will open up, or what form it needs to take, but I feel an increasing need for that to happen. I'm considering what I want to do with Phoenicia in 2017, and with my own projects that have been on the back burner for too long. A recent birthday has also figured in this equation, reminding me that time does not hold still. I need to reassess priorities and make more room for the things I really want to do.
But what exactly are they? Why, I wonder, is it sometimes so hard to figure out what we really want, even when we have the freedom to make those choices? Why is it so difficult to balance our own needs with those of others, and with the many responsibilities and genuine joys in our lives that often compete with each other for attention?
I've always loved to cook, for instance, but I've noticed that when I stay at the studio until 5 or 6 and then go home to prepare a meal in a short amount of time, I don't enjoy it nearly as much and even resent it, because I haven't had any time to unwind or rest before starting yet another task. When I go home earlier, with some time perhaps to stop at the markets for special provisions, or sit down with a recipe book and try something new, it's a pleasure and I enjoy it. But, of course, that takes time away from the studio. And so it goes...There's no right answer, but when I feel that tightness that signals resentment and too-muchness, or I feel a longing because I've been away from something I love for too long, it's time to pay attention and make some changes.
Women, in particular, seem afflicted with this problem, as I've written here before, but I'm surprised that it persists so long in our lives. That means it's ingrained; I was taught by my mother that being selfish was just about the worst thing imaginable. Christian and Buddhist philosophies piled on top of that, and as a result no amount of feminism or rational intellectualism have ever managed to completely rid me of guilt when I choose myself over the needs of others. And I bet it's the same for many of you. Looking back from later adulthood, now, I do think that being kind is just about the most important thing, but not through sacrificing or suppressing one's own needs or happiness. I've been fortunate to have more freedom than most women to develop my own sense of self, and to have a partner who encouraged that, but the external and internal pressure to give away my time to others has always been enormous. On the other hand, there is a balance for me between solitary pursuits that may be personally rewarding, and being in relationship and community: I need other people, and I love other people, and genuinely want to be of use in the world. So the dance continues, and we adjust our steps...where do you find your own answers to these questions?