a reader who was myself

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One of my favorite things in life is long, lazy mornings. I stay in pajamas and drink a large part of coffee. I read on- and offline. I write. I put off breakfast in favor of getting lost in my own world. I hide out in this space for 3-5 hours, and it’s delightful.

collage art carolee

But after going long stretches without this respite, I come to view it as a luxury.

That’s the wrong way to think of it, of course. In the world in which my weekly lazy morning is a luxury, it’s really easy to set it aside and defer to my partner, my kids, my friends, etc. It is easier to disappoint myself than to disappoint them, easier to internalize the conflict than to face the friction it creates in social, familial and intimate relationships.

But here’s the truth of it: claiming one morning a week (where I don’t have to interact with another human being and can stay in my head and follow my thoughts wherever they go) helps me feel like myself. And time to explore, celebrate and interrogate my inner life needs to be non-negotiable. I know this intellectually. A Room of Her Own and all that. I don’t need anyone’s permission to make time to write.

So why do I keep failing to give myself permission?

Why is this a lesson I keep repeating?

A large part of it is the difficulty of insisting (as already described). But just as often my argument against it is this: “What if I waste the time? What if I don’t accomplish anything?” My morning sessions aren’t always productive. I don’t always “make” something.

So, says monkey mind, why bother?

Enter the October 2019 appearance of Sharon Olds at the New York State Writers Institute. When introducing “Poem for the Breast” from Stag’s Leap, she said, “I really needed to confide in a reader who was, in a way, myself.”

That was the reminder I needed.

My coveted lazy mornings matter because they give me a chance to confide in myself. Ideally, I do so in a poem, but that’s not a requirement. It can also happen in a blog post or collage or, frankly, in … doing nothing at all.

Until just this moment, I’d forgotten about something Angie Estes, one of the mentors from my MFA program, shared with us. I’m paraphrasing, but she said, “It’s important to work every day. And sometimes, ‘working’ means staring out the window.”

It’s quite likely that I’ll have to re-learn this all over again at some point (see past pep talks), but I’m writing this post during one of those lazy mornings. Except that this lazy morning is a little bit special because it’s one in a series of lazy mornings that I have planned and protected ahead of time. I have been placing it at the top of the list every weekend and working other activities and commitments around it.

As Olds said, I need to confide in a reader who is myself. When I fail to do this, I have nothing to share with the world. And I’m not talking only about poems.

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