On the Elasticity of Freedom


Girl jumping with rose petals in air

On the Elasticity of Freedom

Last week I spent five days on my own – in my house – just me – and the cats. So, I said to my highly-in-need-of-structure self, this is an opportunity. Throw off those shackles of your “to do” list, be free, do only what you feel like doing, when you feel like doing it, be spontaneous. You can do it!

Now I realize that, since I left the world of paid employment (without a backward glance I might add), I am nothing but free, as I regularly prepare lists and schedules of tasks, errands, and most importantly, writing goals. Write every day the experts say – seat-in-chair. And so, for the most part, I have done this – as my seat is currently in-chair at the Toyota dealership for my car’s annual state inspection. And even on those days that I don’t write, I’m thinking about writing, and/or feeling guilty about not writing.

So, all this is a much too lengthy introduction to my point. I gave myself permission to NOT write, NOT research, and NOT feel guilty about it.

Just how did I fill my time? Naps, a season four House of Cards Netflix binge, lots of foreign and independent films, all the while supine on the sofa, with cats stretched out on various parts of my body.

I admit that being without a schedule, without a list, made me a bit anxious. And, yes, I succumbed. I did write down those things I wanted to do, though I not assign a day, time, or priority code. I told myself that I just wanted those words on paper so that I wouldn’t forget anything. Yes, and I’m sticking to that story.

How free was I, you ask? Well, I even read library books as my fancy chose, throwing caution to the wind about their due dates. I spent time on the sun porch; I straightened closets and junk drawers, and then read some more.

It was a lovely interlude. And as long as I knew it was an interlude, that soon I would be free to resume my rhythm of life, with husband returned, with responsibilities, with meetings, and, yes, even dinners to prepare, that taste of freedom was delicious. But, like a rich Viennese torte, best savored in small amounts.

Another Sunday, http://www.cynthiastrauff.com


On Structure, Habits, Routines and Rituals


Every day since I left the world of paid employment, upon waking, I savor my freedom. Oh, the joy of having my hours to call my own, to choose how I want to spend my days, an ecstasy that makes even doing laundry a delight.

I’ve known, since I was a child, that I am a person who likes, okay, I’ll say it, loves structure, and over the past years, I’ve developed a rhythm, a cadence, mapping out a time to write, or at least a time to dither about not writing while finding what might be considered odious chores around the house, rather than “sit, stay” at my desk. I devotedly make up my to do lists– they provide me with a texture of security, of protection.

This week, while putting off returning to my novel-in-progress, I happened upon Mary Oliver’s Long Life: Essays and Other Writings, in which she considers habit and life’s rhythm, and how it sets a context for the daily-ness of our lives.

I give you her words, which say it better than mine ever could:

(with habits) “life’s fretfulness is transcended. The different and the novel are sweet, but regularity and repetition are also teachers. If you have no ceremony, no habits, which may be opulent or may be simple but are exact and rigorous and familiar, how can you reach toward the actuality of faith, or even a moral life, except vaguely? The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us. Our battles with our habits speak of dreams yet to become real. (the bold is mine)

… Most people take action by habit in small things more often than in important things, for it’s the simple matters that get done readily, while the more somber and interesting, taking more effort and being more complex, often must wait for another day. Thus, we could improve ourselves quite well by habit, by its judicious assistance, but it’s more likely that habits rule us.

And so, as I consider the habits that are my master, I ask you to consider those traditions that rule you. And not all bad, I’d say.

Another Sunday, http://www.cynthiastrauff.com