Taking Stalk vol. 2

The usher pointed her scanner at the bar code a second time. We saw the problem at the same time. The ticket I’d purchased was for the night before. I felt a moment of despair. I really wanted to attend the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s holiday concert. She pointed to the box office behind me. “They may be able to find you a seat.”

As I stood in line behind the chatty grandmother, I played through the possible scenarios. If there wasn’t a seat, well, I’d go home. It would be the worst-case scenario, but I’d be okay. Disappointed, but not crushed. Annoyed by my mistake, but self-compassionate. Maybe they’d have a single seat in an area that cost more than I’d paid. I’d be willing to pay the difference. I resisted the urge to tap my toe in impatience or to sigh deeply in frustration. I had time. Somehow, this would get sorted out.

She couldn’t find one in the same section. I assured her I didn’t care where I sat, I just really wanted to attend the concert. She smiled, said she’d found one, and printed out a new ticket.

My reaction to the ticket mishap is an excellent depiction of my current state. I am easier with myself than I used to be, and when I’m not so easy, I recognize it sooner than in the past and adjust.

I had high hopes for my writing life in 2023. Life got lifey, and I concentrated on living it rather than describing it. I filled three or four journals in a year’s time. I spilled a lot of invisible ink in my brain, but two things kept me from putting more words on paper or on a screen 1. Did I have anything to say that warranted sharing with readers? and 2. Much of what I would have written needed to remain unpublished. I didn’t fight those two forces. I let them be.

I pursued other creative expressions. I planted zinnias from seed and watched how last year’s crop of Mexican sunflowers mysteriously reseeded the other half of my garden. I picked up my needle and embroidery floss and made gifts for friends and family. I gathered all my Sharpie markers in one box and colored Christmas decorations. Each of these practices colored my life, nurtured my interior world, and served as forms of meditation.

Most of my days are solitary, but these days, I rarely feel alone. I have a partner who pours kindness, humor, and encouragement into my life. When my car broke down for the nth time, he listened to my weariness about managing numerous competing financial goals at once. It didn’t matter that he was on one side of the Atlantic Ocean, and I was on another. Together, we contemplated what the next right step would be. We think in terms of “us” now, and what a relief to feel my burdens halved—merely by the sharing of them.

For as long as I could remember, I have wanted to be of service and quote, change the world. In our social media drenched society, it is easy to feel like I’ve missed the mark if my followers are not in the thousands or millions. I began to think this was an inaccurate measure of my impact in the world, so I have recalibrated my expectations. I now focus energy on my circles of influence and what I can do at the local level. I know that the good we do makes ripples that spread wide and have the opportunity to reach people and circumstances we will never know. I post the titles I am reading, and am delighted when a friend mentions that they got a book recommendation from my post. I participate in diaper drives. I adopt an aging neighbor for Christmas.

I have also reprioritized interpersonal cycle breaking and parenting my sweet girl as my life’s most important work. Those efforts have required diligence, tenacity, courage, and energy that might have been placed elsewhere. I know this work is making a real difference, and for me, that it is enough.

I learned a new word today: potentiate—to increase the power, effect, or likelihood of something.  It’s used in pharmacology, but it applies to what I’ve learned this year. That non-writing creative pursuits nurture the writing, that love heals and inspires, and that seeing the whole world in terms of my neighborhood makes me most effective in doing my part to make it better.


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