My parents like to quote an old Spanish admonition, "No te ahoges en un vaso de agua." It means, "Don’t drown yourself in a glass of water." They usually shake their heads sadly in my direction when they say this. TEG calls it "the snowball effect" which instantly makes me imagine a Barbie doll dressed as a skier, tumbling down a hill gathering enough snow to become a larger and larger ball.
I just think that the word "and" has not always been kind to me.
It’s so easy to get swept up in the litany of "and", creating a haphazard pile of things to do as scary as my laundry baskets (I apologize for the fixation on laundry of late, but the piles are growing exponentially everyday. I think they are breeding in the night.) It’s not just household tasks either...there’s also the running commentary in the back of my mind, you know the one... "I need to be a good wife, AND a good mother AND an excellent laundress AND be kind of children and animals and the elderly AND shouldn’t I call home AND what about my writing AND did I make a mistake not going to graduate school AND..."
Before I know it, I’m splayed face down in the snow of my self-created avalanche while my mind gleefully exhausts itself hopping from fear to worry to doubt, landing just enough to disturb but not long enough to resolve anything and possibly remove it from the pile. Each "and" is a knife aimed at carving up my already-scattered attention, leaving me with a hollow sense of incompleteness.
"And" and my thoughts combined are like a forty-three car pile up on the LA freeway.
I can try another way.
When I was in college, I took a class on the poetry of John Milton. There were whispers from former students that this class included an infamous assignment--to write a paper on "Milton’s use of ‘and’ in Paradise Lost". I suspected this was just a joke to scare the first years. But...there it was on the syllabus the professor handed out on the first day of class.
I started to panic. How would I pull together an entire paper on Milton’s use of "and"? I’d have to drop the class or fail, and then I’d probably have to change majors and I didn’t want to do anything but English and...well, you get the idea. (Lesson #1 I should have learned then but didn’t: Try not to panic before you have any of the facts.)
When the time came to do the assignment, I pulled out my Milton tome and doggedly tried to examine what, if anything, was so special about "Milton’s use of ‘and’"--tried to keep an open mind.
I read slowly, with dawning delight. Milton’s "and" was no pileup of endless clauses. No, this was a deliberate invocation of graceful order, one "and" unfolding into another "and" in joyous profusion. A celebration of the glories of all of God’s creations. (Lesson #2 I should have learned: Professors tend to have a reason for their assignments.)
I haven’t thought about that class or that paper in years, until today. I’ve been wavering between the "either/or" of a divided self, struggling to compromise between my roles as wife, mother, daughter, wannabe writer. I wonder if I’ve set myself up in a situation where it is impossible to commit fully to any of them. I wonder if part of the reason I am so hesitant to start anything is this persistent fear of getting interrupted. Won’t it be worst to have a little taste of something only to have to stop? How can I make any progress towards anything?
TEG attended a Catholic high school in Bombay which took as its motto, "I choose all." Abundance, instead of scarcity. Gathering up all of scattered parts of my life and weaving them into wholeness. Life doesn’t always have to be like school, thoughts lost as the bell rings, moving efficiently into the next class. Ideas and selves can bleed from one area of life to another. In fact, it’s probably all much more interesting that way.
Like Milton, I can choose to use "And" as a translucent connection between all of the shifting, shimmering layers of me, learning that all of the many breaks and interruptions of my life can be a part of a dazzling abundance. Flow.
I choose all.
And alas, no progress on the totem/talisman (thanks Rachel!) front today, as our walk was cut short by a sleep deprived Madam. Just thinking about it brings up all sorts of interesting questions though. What does creativity look like to me? What types of images inspire me?
I’m curious to see what emerges.