Today is my last full day on American soil until October 21st. I’ll be in the UK to teach at a few conferences, then to France to conduct a week-long retreat and then to Paris to meet my long-lost husband.
One of my writers, hip to my manic ways, admonished me not to work too hard on the trip. Until she said this, I hadn’t been aware of the engine of purpose revving under my hood. It thrummed with ambitious plans to teach brilliantly, document vividly, blog, finish my play, read a stack of books, have revelatory dreams and earthshaking epiphanies, generate fresh ideas for new writing exercises, see everything on the beaten path and then see everything off the beaten path, people watch, shop, awaken my senses, run and do yoga every day, visit friends, make new friends, network and then have the perfect two-and-a-half-years-deferred honeymoon ever in Paris. I think that’s everything… Oh, and expand my palette without expanding my fanny.
I was raised by hard working people. Blue collar, scrappy, make-do survivors. They taught me that hard work led to redemption. It was never intimated that it led to success or wealth, mind you. Success and wealth were suspect for some reason that I’m still figuring out.
As a result, I can put in the long hours, keep on ticking. I can burn my candle end to end and back again. Working hard is easy. And as a creative person in an economy that’s reluctant to shell out for the soul-lifting art that keeps humanity on this side of the zombie apocalypse, I am compelled to burn my candle at any available end, just to hedge my bets.
Unfortunately, a steady diet of hard work can make us, well…. Hard. Muscles turn ropey, bones bear down on each other and the body hardens up. For creative people, hardening is no bueno. You don’t want the world bouncing off your shell. Maintaining a level of soft receptivity is ideal even as we put in our time at the keyboard, easel, wheel or barre.
So, what to do? Well, rather than unpending my world order with a mandate to “chill,” I’m hereby inventing the practice of Working Soft™.
To work soft is to notice and then to notice what you notice, to feel, to dream, to process, to steep in the senses, to drift on the tide of curiosity, to check in with the heart.
So, before I get on the plane, I’ll soften up. Like a sponge. No, like a wave. No, like a jellyfish. Riding the current, letting the light pour through me, colors flying out behind, everything filter through, absorbing only what nourishes me, swooshing out the rest. Is that what a jellyfish does? See there I go. I will begin my soft work by NOT Googling “jellyfish biology.”
For the next 30 days, I may or may not make any blogging noises. I might not return emails in a timely manner and when I do, I might do so irreverently. I might write or I might just muse. If I write, I might only write on gum wrappers and café receipts. I probably won’t check in with Facebook. It’s hard to know what will happen in jellyfish mode, but I’m curious.