2022 is shaping up to be an eerie replay of 2021. Disruptions, cancellations and a feeling that things are on hold again pervade. When I go into the supermarket, black masks, the Darth Vader kind if you follow the advice and ditch the cloth mask for the N95, cover smiles.
Unfortunately, I felt I had no choice but to cancel our January read around of Women’s Writing Circle. After so long, we had finally broken the isolation—as one writer put it, “It’s almost a miracle” —meeting around a lighted candle in the library after more than a year. Although January is the month when the women are most invested and eager to make writing a daily routine, we again rely on our own fortitude and discipline, rather than community, to make that happen. My hope is that we return to the Circle by early spring. But for now …
Maybe, it’s time to simplify, to create, something psychologists agree is a way to reduce anxiety. As Franz Kafka said, “You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
Whether writing, listening to music, taking a walk, painting a watercolor, or simply imagining a new place, a new way of living, creativity reduces anxiety.
My friend said to me the other day when he called from the Midwest, “This is a dangerous country to live in. Too many people don’t care how their actions affect others.” There’s something to be said for sitting still, waiting this out, he said. We shared stories. A vaccinated friend who had tested positive, jumped on a plane anyway because testing isn’t required on domestic flights … and he had no patience to rent a car and drive the 800 miles home.
Margaret Atwood said, one word after another and another is POWER. A writer takes a real-life event and recreates through imagination a memory, a new take on a relationship, a moment of being that crystallizes into truth.
A story invokes another story and another, but patience is necessary. Brenda Ueland said, “If you write, good ideas must come welling up into you so that you have something to write. If good ideas do not come at once, or for a long time, do not be troubled at all. Wait for them. Put down the ideas no matter how insignificant they are. But do not feel, anymore, guilty about idleness and solitude.”
As a person who often bought into that worn mantra ‘Make each day count’, whether through writing, completing a home improvement project, going to work, raising children, I find pleasure in a drive past fields reflecting winter’s luminous turquoise and gold palette. Although I’ve made the same drive hundreds of times, I move a little slower now, take more notice. At the gym last week, a woman felt I wasn’t moving quickly enough as we put away our weights. “Move it, Susan,” she said. Over the last two years I’ve learned the value of slowing down. I said this to her. She shrugged and rolled her eyes. Everyone moves at their own pace. For me, a page well crafted, a flock of geese, a conversation with a friend, a workout at the gym is enough. I feel the anxiety fall away. What could be simpler than that?