I can’t remember the last time I had moments of doing nothing. Moments in which to think, let my thoughts meander, or not think at all. Moments to just sit. Maybe stare out the window, or really study the pattern in my slate gray carpet. Lie on my back and contemplate my ceiling. I used to have an abundance of these moments. Once, in high school, my best friend Courtenay and I stared at her ceiling for so long that we identified a certain bump in the popcorn ceiling. He became comforting to us, recognizable, a witness to our hours passed discussing our hair, and our future selves, and what the lyrics to some Smiths song really meant. We colored him pink and called him Maurice. These moments are a burden to the young; we called it boredom. We had no idea they were such a luxury.
I have stolen moments now, moments of quiet or solitude. They are rare, but I get them. Most often they are planned, and they are structured. I think, I have an hour. I can read a book, take a nap, try to write something. I can organize my photos, start O’s baby book, start a journal for new baby. Rarely do I think, I can do nothing. I don’t have time for nothing.
Someone recently led me to read Robert Frost’s poem, “The Master Speed” (thank you Lindsey!). In that way that either the universe is sending you a message, or in that way that if you think of yellow cars then suddenly you will see yellow cars everywhere, I am being bombarded by words about stillness, holding steady, and standing still. My resolutions for 2012 have not to do with achieving goals, but relinquishing them. Not with crossing a finish line, but in recognizing the bends in the road and the trees that dapple sunlight in front of me. In allowing my son to stop and bend down, to study ants or acorns or leaves as he does. Not in hurrying him along.
This is hard. I have so little time that I want to make the most of it, feel as if I did something every day, not just get up, shower, go to work, put kid to bed, eat dinner, watch TV, the end. I want something in there that is mine. But savoring stillness, quietness, is something that is mine. It just isn’t quantifiable.
I was thinking in the shower this morning about moments, and how we romanticize them. Whether it’s your first kiss, or high school graduation, or a proposal, or the moment in the delivery room when you first come face to face with your child, we think about them, we plan them out, we plot how and when and why they will be perfect. And they often are not even close to perfect. My first kiss was awkward, shoved in a closet by friends, both wearing braces. Graduation floated past me, I felt like an imposter in a big white dress and hat. College graduation I was so hung over I didn’t take any of it in. The moment I met my son was not the beautiful, joyous moment I was promised. I felt robbed, or worse, abnormal.
What I do remember is slow dancing with my first boyfriend in my backyard on a hot summer night to a George Michael song. He smelled like Drakkar Noir and I remember thinking I’d love him forever. High school graduation is a blur, but when I hear “Jane Says”, I can close my eyes and see me and my best friend Janie, about to go off to college but spending summer nights with nothing to do. We drove around in her gold Impala, our sweaty thighs in jean shorts stuck to the vinyl seats, the windows rolled down, my feet on the dash board. We found seemingly abandoned streets with huge dips and she sped up so that we were almost airborne. I can still feel the wind in our hair and the pounding drums of Welcome to the Jungle racing through our blood. College graduation I remember sitting on the warm steps of Commons in my short white dress, the strappy white high-heeled sandals I bought during dinner with my parents on 3rd Street Promenade, eating Sun Chips and drinking Dr. Pepper. It is probably the last time I sat on the steps of the Commons.
You know those moments when the universe seems to shift just a little bit to the left, and all of a sudden the thing you were looking at becomes suddenly clearer and more vibrant and just more? And everything that you see, smell, touch, taste and hear in that moment is perfectly aligned and so so beautiful that you hold your breath and think, if I can just sit still long enough, I might learn the secret of the universe? They are rare, these moments, and you can’t create them or force them. They don’t happen at predetermined dates. They happen when you least expect them.
“The Master Speed” sounds like it’s going to be about mastering speed, going fast, faster even. But it’s not, it’s about sitting in the stillness. Speed isn’t just how fast you go; it’s also how slow you can go.
What I’m figuring out is that it takes practice. That even though it isn’t easy or natural for me, that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. Like most things that have become high on my priority list, it is hard work. But the payoff, like motherhood and writing, takes my breath away. Every time I remind myself to stop, every time I take notice of something I usually pass right over, is a tiny victory.
The Master Speed
By Robert Frost
No speed of wind or water rushing by
But you have a speed far greater. You can climb
Back up a stream of radiance to the sky,
And back through history up the stream of time.
And you were given this swiftness, not for haste
Nor chiefly that you may go where you will.
But in the rush of everything to waste,
That you may have the power of standing still—
Off any still or moving thing you say.
Two such as you with a master speed
Cannot be parted nor be swept away
From one another once you are agreed
That life is only life forevermore
Together wing to wing and oar to oar.
Interested in “just write”? Head over to The Extraordinary Ordinary and check it out.