Returned: a life

The last day of March arrived with an overnight cold snap – ‘14 degrees, feels like 10’, the weather station reported. And with it came – my life.

By September 2022, my memoir had been edited, and the publishing process that followed was to challenge me in new and stressful ways. Even with a mentor, it was as if I’d plunged into a new job without the requisite skills or qualifications. Sometimes I’ve felt like a cube of ice being rattled and flipped in a cocktail shaker, melting a little, even concussed at times – then suddenly, forcibly ejected.

Perhaps everything felt so unfamiliar and chaotic because I’d let go of some of the anchoring practices that had held me during the pandemic. Preoccupied with addressing priorities and meeting milestones, I left myself vulnerable. With a major goal achieved, my memoir out in the world, I’ve felt emptied out.

Ken had been alert to this possibility, and asked me more than once: ‘What are you going to do when this is all over?’

I’d reply airily, ‘Oh, I’ll still have plenty to do, so much to catch up on. Don’t worry!’

But ‘plenty to do’ was not enough.

I can be pleased with my work – I am assured of that.

Satisfied readers include men and women who’ve drifted away from reading in recent years but finished my book easily.  Others who, if not for a partner reading it, would never have chosen an ‘inner journey’ book, especially one about ageing and disability. Or health and care workers, who’ve had their eyes opened by my first-person account of living with multiple sclerosis.

The format of micro-essays has proven an asset, not the disadvantage I’d feared. Some readers chose to steam through the book, others to read an essay a day – first thing in the morning stillness, or before sleep. They want time to absorb, reflect. The most gratifying thing for me is that at a time when we’re losing the capacity to focus, an engaging book with restful interior design and typography can help restore it.

There’s a hint for me – restore. Restore my focus. Focus on my inner life, the life of deliberation and mindfulness which has aided me in keeping firm my fragile hold.

One of the practices that had disappeared from my life was memorising poetry. My memory has had such a demanding workout over the past six months, it hasn’t needed extra exercise. I realise now how much I’ve missed the daily company of poetry.

As March eased towards its close and the morning dark nestled against my bedroom window, I drew David Wagoner’s poem Lost [1] from my ‘learned by heart’ collection. This was one of the first I’d memorised in 2020. It had been a teaching prompt in a poetry workshop I attended when living on the far north coast of NSW; I can relive instantly its visceral impact from all those years ago.

The poem opens with a command: Stand still.

In these two words, I find what I need to do.

And this chilly March morning, in the twelve lines of Wagoner’s poem, I find the sustenance that I’ve been neglecting to provide as nourishment for my inner life.

It occurs to me too, that I’ve not just become starved, emptied out. I’ve been in danger of becoming lost. But Wagoner reassures me in his concluding lines:

… Stand still. The forest knows

Where you are. You must let it find you.

Returned: a life »
Forest on Cluny Hill near the Findhorn Community, Scotland, 1990s

[1] The poem Lost by American poet, novelist and educator David Wagoner is widely available on the internet.

Share this post

2 Responses

  1. It’s so inspiring that you move so quickly from one major challenge to the next one Ruth. I was one of the ones who read your book in one sitting, such an enjoyable evening’s experience it was too, perfect for late summer somehow. I liked the format of the different “plot lines” mixed together, it did make it more readable and as you say, the interior layout is restful too. Reading just another page seemed more doable when there were fewer words on it.

    1. Vicki, I can just imagine you at home, that late summer evening. I am so glad it was a pleasurable experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *