A seven minute writing strategy to prime the pump and get the words flowing. No judgment. No worry about clarity of meaning. No concern for grammar, or spelling, or punctuation. No expectations. Just pure, unedited thought from pen to paper or fingers to keys.
Set a timer and go.
Who knows what words will emerge as from an invisible ink magically made clear. Who knows what I will learn? What’s on my mind. In my heart? What are my words waiting to tell me?
I used this strategy almost daily as an educator. What a mind-opener it is for children. (And adults too.) Pressure evaporates. An invitation to write imperfectly routinely releases the most beautiful thinking, the loveliest strands of thought, comprehension, and connection. There’s so much power in this little bit of freedom.
And only seven minutes. The timer trills and they beg for more time. Every single time.
Always end your writing waiting for more, I’d say.
Pen on notebook. Notebook under keys. Medication next to the sink, next to the soap I use to wash my face every night. (If I remember. Which I do. Now that my medication is alongside.) Moisturizer at home atop the dresser from which I pull my clothes every morning. A list of daily important-to-mes tucked nearby as I ready my face to greet the day. Just this morning, I dropped a single tissue on the stair landing so I’d remember to add tissues to the grocery list.
Whatever it takes. However to manage in this life full of never-ending and persistent distractions.
More than ever before, our home is organized, room by room, item by item, so each possession has a home, a place where I’ll know exactly where to find it time and again without a hunt and seek. Take it out. Put it back in the same place, over and over and over. And I’ve weeded our things. Fewer possessions to manage. If it doesn’t meet a purpose – function, beauty, meaning, memory – and won’t in the future, out it goes. I store like with like. I’ll find what’s needed where it’s most often used. Clear surfaces calm me, freeing my thought paths to help me remember whatever it is I almost forgot.
These days, I find hope – and comfort too – in the familiar, the known, and routine.
So, I set reminders. Reminders to do what’s good for me: a water glass next to the fridge. Reminders to meet responsibilities: a timecard left on my computer. Reminders for function: glasses on my book, lunchbox in front of the door, masks in the car. I own many too many notebooks – an organizational problem I’m helpless to overcome. Still, I love to list. And list. And list. There’s remembering in the writing.
I’ve even texted myself on occasions when I absolutely must remember to do something and don’t entirely trust myself to remember to do it. What about you? String on your finger? List on the fridge? Timer on the stove? My husband used an elastic band on his wrist. What’s sensible for me, might not be at all practical for someone else. I think I feel most successful when I find my own solutions.
If I’m to have any hope of managing all that’s on my mind and in my heart, strategies are necessary. If I’m ever to keep myself whole in an increasingly fractured world, I’ll need to remember – somewhere way down deep inside me – just what being whole feels like.
Whatever hard corners and angles I once wore, I now wear softer and rounder.
I move more slowly. Carefully. I am more likely than ever before to look before leaping.
Where once I wanted to be thin, I now want health, stability, flexibility and resilience.
I will admire my body. Honor it. Tend it. Feel for the wonder of it over the weight of it. The strength over the shape.
I will walk it, dress it comfortably, feed it well. I will listen carefully to my body, and respond as though I heard very clearly whatever it’s trying to say. I will rest when it’s weary. I will be faithful to its needs. Encourage its efforts. Lovingly accept its limitations. Kindly thank it for its service.
There’s hope in loving who I am. In accepting all I am now over whomsoever I will never be again.
If it sounds easy, it was not. Grief. Worry. Loss. Some sort of nondescript longing which comes and goes as an aspect of aging. I felt wistful. Wary. Proud. Driving in my car, windows wide open and I too open wide, singing along with the radio, wind in my hair. Up one side of emotion, down the other. I felt it all.
Some days, it’s easier to pretend I don’t feel what I feel. To push feelings away or replace them altogether. Shopping as panacea. Scrolling as anesthesia. But I’m learning I can care for myself in these times of strong feeling. I can allow myself the good grace to be exactly who I am. And feel.
Sit here, right here, I speak to myself.
Go ahead, cry. You need no reason or because.
Feel free to feel. You are a living, breathing, feeling human. So honor you. Care for you. Tend to you.
It’s a vulnerability I simply must allow myself.
Today, I am refreshed and ready. Hopeful and happy.
Begin again. And again, and again, and again. Begin again until I finish what I’ve started, until I feel what I wanted to feel, gain whatever it is I thought to gain. I’ll begin again until I’m — finally — who I’d hoped to be. Begin again as long as doing so matters to me. A promise I keep to myself. A belief in my own possibility.
A new beginning is its own kind of victory; its own small reward. There’s learning gained between the last start and today’s. I grant myself no guarantee, of course, but a new beginning is a new opportunity nonetheless. To learn what I’ve yet to learn.
Maybe after all of these beginnings, all the starts and stops, all the do-overs, I’ll discover that reaching a finish line was really never the purpose. All that learning. All that effort, enthusiasm. and growth along the way . . . in the end, perhaps that’s the whole point, really.
I’ll begin again because one step forward, no matter how tentative or tiny, is not standing still. All that moving forward counts toward the greater good of me, even if — maybe especially if — I take one step backwards.
Begin again. For the health of it. For the pride of it. The power of it. Begin again for the happiness and the hope of it. There’s hope to be found, after all, in any beginning.
Face to face in the mirror, I will cheer myself on. I will be patient with myself. I’ll be gentle, and loving, and kind. I’ll applaud my efforts. Forgive my missteps. I’ll show up for myself today.
I will not hurry. No rushing around for me. I will not slave for function over form. I will keep my heart rate at resting, returning to my breath as often as necessary. At the end of today’s living, what I want to remember most is how I felt – – not what I accomplished. I want to whisper gratitudes into my pillow tonight with nary a complaint on my lips. I sometimes daydream about a day to myself, but truth is, each day comes with a demand or two. Much better to live a come what may day, especially since life has a way of working itself out one way or another without much intervention from me. With a little faith, some hope, and a sparkle of fairy dust, I’ll find my way from the top of the day to the bottom by allowing myself to simply BE. Imagine a day – – a slow day – – because I decide it so. Imagine.
At the top of a morning, I notice the energy of possibility. Hope, wide awake and willing, greets the day face-forward. Counting on roadside petals, life loves me and I love it right back. How fairy-taled the deep green velvet of a moss-covered path. How gladly sunlight dances with daisies and trumpets daylilies. How fun to chick-a-dee-dee-dee with chickadees and honk with geese flying over the lake. How gently the fog lifts as the day warms. How delicate a thread of web stretches from flower to flower to flower, a tell-tale trail of one spider’s travels. I marvel at the intricacy of a gravel road, two miles into my day. And returning, notice now how I feel right this very minute, tip-tapping on keys. Happy.
An unusual activity for me, but I did a little math this morning.
In one year, time passes accordingly:
From one season, month, day, hour, or minute to the next, there are so many opportunities to learn. To explore. Experiment. Create. Build. Design. Discover.
Imagine all there is to see, do, conceive, or dream up in the time it takes the earth to travel its 92.96 million mile orbit around the sun.
Think about all I can learn from new moon to full moon. From Fall to Winter and Winter to Spring. What new challenges can I meet from sun up to down? Who will I become from this one hopeful year of my life to the next?
Let’s find out!
Having just turned 60, I’m aiming for 60 new experiences. Recipes. Destinations. Classes. Books. New friendships, new challenges, and goals. New knowledge. Questions answered. Dreams fulfilled.
Maybe 60 is my once upon a time. My someday when. One thing’s sure and certain, it’s my next hopeful year.
As of today, it’s been 604,800 seconds, 10,080 minutes, 168 hours, and 7 days since my birthday, so it’s time to get started. I’ll share along the way … and feel free to offer suggestions and ideas for me to try.
Growing is growing – especially if it’s growing older.
Turning sixty wasn’t as bad as the anticipation of turning sixty. Or maybe now that it finally came and went – my biggest birthday ever, I mean – maybe being sixty is not as bad as the anticipation of being sixty. A mere flip of the page on the calendar. Sunday to Monday. July 10th to the 11th. Fifty-nine to sixty.
Still the same me.
All those years, one added to the next, equal a living sum of who I am right now. Shy. Curious. Loyal. Sensitive. Sometimes weepy or worried. Strong, but anxious. Always hopeful.
Devoted to love in just about any form I find it.
Six decades of learning.
I suppose I thought I’d be wiser in the whys of the world. After all this time. All of my experiences. Relationships. Mistakes. Do-overs and never-agains. After mothering and daughtering. Sistering. Friending. I was a teacher. Still a wife, full to the tippity-top with love for my husband. Role after role, day in and year out.
Turns out, what I know best – now – is me.
It sounds strange to say, “I like me.” But I do. And I guess it took adding up all of those years to be able to say those words and mean them.