From the time I was five or six, I’ve carried with me a sensation of the fluid nature of time. Even as things were unfolding in my life, most of it I just wanted to freeze in order to be able to take a long look, to ponder the meanings of things, what someone said, what someone did. From time spent with others, such as my grandmother and great aunt, the latter usually only joining us for holiday suppers, to a birthday gathering, or even the first Thanksgiving when it was just me and my parents, to time spent alone, often outdoors. As a child, I would replay memories, especially the happy ones, in order to keep remembering them. I thought perhaps there would be a time when those memories, like food stored for a long winter, would be something I could turn to in a time of need. And I did turn to them frequently in my early teens.
But then an odd—to my young child’s way of thinking—thing happened: I grew faster and life sped up, or seemed to, and then it was all I could do to just manage the compression of time and daily activities that spread into weeks, months, years. Quite often, it felt as though everything were a race, a race to get something, go somewhere, do some big thing, be some big person. High school felt that way, college, too. I just wanted to be done with all of it, to enter “real life” (because, as everyone knows, the reality of students is not “real”…I’m saying this in utter jest, in case you believe that a student’s reality is not “real”).
After college, for about a year, I was fortunate to live in Petersburg, Russia, to have a modest income freelancing. But looking back on that time, reading through some of the letters I wrote when I lived there, I realize that the period was more meaningful as one of a handful of pauses in my life.
Of course, I can see this only in contrast to the time lived before and after…the frenetic pace on either side of the Petersburg period, when life was so much about getting and doing, so little about just being.
Even in the last long period of consistent work that I had, I always felt the need to do something, to busy myself, even when busying myself was not necessarily warranted.
In Petersburg, even though I spoke Russian well enough to get by, much of life was given over to maintenance—shopping for food, gathering food, cooking, cleaning, laundry—but also time spent with friends. It took longer there to get things done than it did here. Nowadays, I’d imagine the time it takes to get things done there is more in line with the time it takes to get things done here: there are probably more conveniences, more supermarkets—as opposed to the bread store, the meat store, the dairy store, the outdoor market at Ladozhkaya Metro Station where I used to buy fruit and vegetables.
That year reminded me of what it felt like to hit the pause button on life.
For some reason, though, this year, 2012, has felt different. Not like the year spent in Petersburg, but one with a lot of pauses, rewinds, and listening-backs.
“Preparatory” is the word that comes to mind, when I reach for something to describe the pulse of this year. Lately, the preparation has meant divesting myself of much that is old, much that I have carried with me for many years. It has meant going through cards, letters—sent, received, never sent—and feeling through a symphony of who I am.
All of life is about energy—energy bounded in matter (that includes we humans) as well as the energy of the places we live, the environments we create, the relationships we build with others or release or revise and compose all over again.
In this latest period of transformation, I have sought help from other practitioners—from Felicia Messina-D’Haiti, who uses feng shui and medicine wheel practices to help folks shift the energy of their homes and work spaces to support them in their endeavors. And from Beth Terrence, a good friend, who uses shamanic practices and meditation to help people shift energy on the etheric level.
I’ve not quite reached the end of the process. In fact, the latter processes, the ones that Beth deals with, one could say, will go on for as long as I’m here. I’ve been grateful to my partner. He doesn’t care for clutter and our house has been very cluttered lately between the drying of the elderberries and the sorting of boxes of papers, some of which are 30 or more years old.
Pauses—making time for memories, making time to assess where you’ve been, where you are—these are as important to a life well-lived as they are to the arts, whether music, drama, writing, even the visual arts. Without periodic pauses, life just becomes a lot of noise, white noise mostly. Conducive for sleeping perhaps, but not for being.