Monday, March 15, 2010

Simplification and the gift of patience

Ever since I (re)discovered a more creative side of myself, I have found that having time to create makes me feel balanced; a lack of it frustrates me. After days of frustration (as occurs, for example, when one of the children is home sick), I feel off-balance and grumpy. This inevitably leads to feelings of guilt that I am a horrible, selfish person, since I crave nothing more than a few moments to myself to do what I want to do.

This was my mental state a few days ago—after four days without a creative outlet—when I picked up Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I read the second chapter, "Channelled Whelk," and nearly burst into tears. She had put into words exactly what I was feeling.

Ms. Lindbergh felt pulled in multiple directions by responsibilities to her family, her household, and her social circles (the book was originally published in 1955—long before the days of twitter and facebook!). But what she craved more than anything was to be at peace with herself. And she went on to describe the importance of simplification in obtaining that peace.

She wrote of the many things she did not really need in her life, and of the innate difficulty in truly doing away with any of them. To raise a family and pursue a personal dream require, in many people's minds, a wide assortment of things, people, and methods of transport. Do you do away with the house and its assorted time-saving appliances? Do you cut out the social circles? Sell the car? How, exactly, does one simplify one's life? Clearly, there is no easy answer.

But the chapter had a wonderful calming effect on me. I took away from it the importance of being patient with oneself when not in a "state of grace" (or state of balance), and that is exactly what I need to give myself: the gift of patience. I want my creative efforts to move more quickly than they are, to become a larger part of my life, but her message soothed and comforted me, allowing me to be patient, to appreciate the small moments I had, even if they were not what I wanted.

I suppose I have taken a step in the right direction, now that I know what makes me feel off-balance... for many years I felt that way without knowing why. But now I have found the creative piece of the puzzle that restores my state of mind, and that is an incredibly important first step toward a state of "grace."

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