Mid December last year I was seeking new things to do in 2021, and signed up for A Year of Writing to Uncover the Authentic Self course with Rachel Astor via DailyOM. Lesson 1, in a nutshell, asks “Why take this journey?” “What are the roadblocks?” and invites “Let’s mine those experiences for insights and stories”.
While I was contemplating if it might supply blog material or not, I read the quote “By telling our stories, we have the chance to help someone else feel less alone.” from Melis Layek who contributed to The Guardian’s Dreams Interrupted series.
Let’s see how it goes on a lesson-by-lesson basis.
Writing Lesson 1: Why but why not?
Off the cuff answer. Day-to-day distractions. More or less in chronological order… Trips to town for provisions and errands. Pre-festive season. Trips to town for provisions, errands and medical appointments. Festive season. Houseguests. Husband’s knee replacement surgery. Trips to town for provisions, errands, medical appointments and mother-in-law activities. Also -at least minimal- maintenance of: husband; dog; food; household; garden; chooks; oh… and self.
Other answer. This is not my first Authentic Self journey. Over the years they’ve taken many forms. From the first innocuous stress management course during my early twenties where I became acquainted with the practice of consulting Near Future Self to ask “will this matter in one week-one month-one year?” to adventurous, collaborating over the years with: Wild Woman Self; Past Self; Solitary Self; Counsellor Self… who championed Child Self while she re-examined the past and those who inhabit it, and sits in on ten-yearly performance reviews with Distant Future Self. I’m aware of the boons, and of the drawbacks.
Practically. The habit of gestating an impulse or idea until the planets align, gut feels right and/or overabundance of caution disperses. Sentences form in the shower or during early morning snug repose but when pen meets paper or fingers the keyboard… pooff! the words disappear. However, a week ago I woke with this subliminal message…
The journey’s afoot.
The voice has arrived.
So mote it be.
I began writing.
Procrastination is a funny old thing. It takes many forms; some of legitimate origin, others merely convenient prevarication. The interim between commitment and commencement can manifest as thoughtful incubation or nagging self-doubt, and a tug-of-war between wishful thinking or resignation to the inevitability of hard yards achieved step-by-step.
Legitimately, [insert household-professional-family-personal tasks] require action. Sleep and sustenance need to be had… But when and how much? Also, why? And sometimes, why me? Day-to-day variously offers the stimuli of an atelier or the challenges of a steeplechase.
In the opening lines of his best-known book The Road Less Travelled, M. Scott Peck counsels “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
All well and good, until its collision with the practice of Philosophy’s well-examined writings around “know thyself” … Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Plato et al, ruminating “to know thyself is the beginning of wisdom” and “an unexamined life is not worth living” attributed to Socrates.
The convergence of “life is difficult” and “know thyself” make for uneasy travelling companions although for interesting journeys. Understandable therefore, a little hesitation and indulgence in what “ignorance is bliss” comforts remain, prior to commencing another.
Oh, hark back to that first youthful jaunt remarkable for its minimal baggage, forethought or preparation… the confidence of naiveite anticipating only a conquering quest. Not much ventured and a trusting thirst for more gained. Unwitting success.
Subsequently, Present Self set out expecting to navigate the familiar to reconnoitre with Past Self in its distant realm, unaware -at the time- of the unforgettable truth that much is not known but when sought out, insight travels with speed and at times unexpected force. Meritorious rewards are hard-won souvenirs of yesterdays, trinkets of understanding, treasures of knowledge, mementos of forgiveness and wisdom conferred by a comprehended landscape. Nevertheless, no sign of the grail: the map without which that which remains to be conquered remains unknown.
Bravery materialises necessarily, and for the Authentic Self voyager returns persistently despite everything. Unfamiliar may become familiar and acceptable but uncertainty once encountered cannot be disremembered.
Courage takes its time to grace each rendezvous with its presence. Understandably so. Encountered awareness engenders conversely greater dread of what may never be realised.
Does a great journey really exist without the voice of a storyteller to tell the tale? At last, we may proceed.
One lesson down, fifty-one to go.
If you’ve made it this far, well done, and thank you. As a reward… photos.