I had a wise yoga teacher once. She observed me watching other people, and she said, "Quit comparing yourself to other people. It won't help." Some months, I'm better at not comparing myself to others, but other months, I'm a real disaster. I never compare myself and feel superior. No, I'm that person who looks at others and sees all the ways I'm lacking.
I do the same thing when I compare myself to my self at earlier points of my life. Even when I'm meeting my goals, there's always some part of my brain that remembers earlier times, when my life circumstances were different, and my accomplishments were different. So, even though I'm successful at getting out most days, taking a walk or a run of 2-4 miles, my inner critic is reminding me that once upon a time, I could complete a triathlon. Of course, in those days I was a graduate student, poor in money, but rich in time and resources (ah, the pool at the University of South Carolina--how I miss that!).
Likewise, now, I'm doing a pretty good job of writing something every day and sending out my work. But my brain remembers an earlier time, when I wrote more and mailed more. Of course, my employment situation was different then.
Now, I have a job that demands a lot of my time. I'm trying to think of my job as my toddler. I love it, even when it exhausts me. It demands a lot, but it gives me rewards. And when I have a down period at work (my toddler of a job napping!), I try to be prepared to use that time to my poetry self's advantage.
Some weeks are full of meetings and observations and surveys. I don't write as much or send my writing work into the world (except in the form of blog entries). I scarcely have time to read. But some weeks aren't as hectic, and I have time to think, to write, to assemble manuscripts, and to send out poems to journals.
If I had a literal toddler, I'd be looking forward to the time when that child headed off to first grade, and I had more time to write. Here's where the metaphor breaks down. I don't foresee my job ever becoming a first grader. I imagine it will always retain its cyclical nature.
Here's where I need to return to my lessons from yoga class. I need to focus on the present. What can I do now to further my writing goals? Some weeks, that won't be much. But some weeks, I can get a lot done.
And when my poetry self whines about all we're not getting done, I take a hard look at the facts. Since shifting to my 40+ hours a week job in administration, I've actually gotten a lot more done than I had done in the last few years leading up to that promotion. I've sent more work out, I've written more poems (well, some weeks), and I've thought about manuscripts in a new way. I've started two blogs, which I'm keeping, and enjoying immensely, on a regular basis.
I think I accomplish more precisely because I have less free time. When I worked at a community college in South Carolina, I was never one of those lucky people who could afford to take summers off. When my writer colleagues returned from their summers of leisure, and we compared writing progress, I had always written more.
If you have a broad vista of time, there's no pressure to get things done. If you know that your toddler of a job will awaken soon, and be demanding and petulant, you don't waste the naptimes of your toddler.
Poems in Blue Lyra Review
3 months ago