April: A Sense of Integrity

Not that I was enormously lacking in integrity before April – used car salesman I am not.

Used Car Salesman

This is more about recovering a true you-ness, something like what I mentioned in this post.

Synchronicitously, (is that a word? it is now) I keep encountering these two quotes from e.e. cummings of late:

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

e. e. cummings layout

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

This is in some measure related to the Christian teaching that your truest self – the one God sees when he looks at you – is who he created you to be, not who you have so far made of yourself.
This chapter, then, is about the recovery or even discovery of that truest self – not all in a rush, but slowly, peeling back the layers of damage, time and grime until the masterpiece beneath is revealed.

Painting damaged by fire

So, other than the Reading Deprivation, of which I fancy you have heard enough to last you a lifetime (it’s certainly going to last me) what did this chapter involve?

The first task was to imagine your ideal environment. Booooks… Then you were to find an image (or make one, if, unlike me, you have more artistic ability than a meerkat on bad acid) and put this in your writing area. Ditto for your favourite season.

So, my little writing nook (the product of an unofficial Artist’s Date with furniture-moving) is now embellished with a cosy hobbit kitchen and an autumnal canyon-scape.

Four Seasons by Alfons Mucha, circa 1895

Also a picture of my Censor, which I keep on the floor – got to keep that voice in its place!

Then I had to go back and forth in time. “Describe yourself at eighty.” Frankly, I have no idea where my life is going and I doubt it’ll go that far, but if I do make eighty I bet I’ll be one of those acute old ladies who says what she thinks you need to hear and doesn’t mind how excruciatingly embarrassed you are by it.

And then memories of being eight. Not much came to mind, and I was a little hazy as to the actual year (I might have been seven) but I remember having purple and green dragon slippers with pink mohawks, and wearing jammies the colour of lemon meringue pie.

And speaking of pie, there was another look at the life pie – as munted as ever, and definitely needing work in the area of work. World's Ugliest Pie
As Task 9 asked, “Look at one situation in your life that you feel you should change but haven’t yet. What is the payoff for you in staying stuck?”
Well, in this case, the payoff is pay. Man does not live on bread alone, but it certainly helps.

My Extended Artist’s Date plan (Task 7) starts with a morning going the rounds of the second hand clothing shops, moves on to a leisurely lunch followed by a walk on the beach and winds up curled on the couch with a hot chocolate and a classic movie.

(Poll: would you say that “Plan a small vacation for yourself… Get ready to execute it” means
a) plan it and then do it
b) plan it, and then await instructions to carry it out
c) plan it, and then prepare to shoot it at dawn?)

I also wrote an Artist’s Prayer (Task 6) which I shall likely soon share – and hopefully start remembering to use.

Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

The Wasteland

Not by T S Eliot – I refer to the reading deprivation of last week.

Barren Wasteland

I made it about 158 hours without reading anything (apart from my exceptions, as mentioned earlier). The mathematically acute among you (or those of you who have read this post or this one) will realise that this is ten hours short of a full week.

On The Seventh Day I Rested. (There’s good precedent for that, although history is silent on whether or not God was reading at the time.)

Putting my feet up after a two-mile hike up to the top of Stonewall Peak

You may also have noticed that this post is a few days subsequent to the actual end of the Wasteland – I’ve been making up for lost time, like a camel just back from the Sahara and stopping by the pub for a drink.

THIRSTY CAMEL

So, in the absence of any faintly humming enlightenment, what have I learned?

1) Reading is very, very important to me. Next time I need to go without something for a week, I think I will make it something easier, like talking, or food.
To whip out the ultimate cliche, reading to me is not a hobby, it’s a way of life. I may not eat sleep and breathe reading, but I can do most of those things reading. (Not so good at reading while I sleep – that’s when I do my talking.) I can cook while reading, and walk while reading (although the average standard of driving in New Zealand makes this a hazardous practice).

Reading While Walking

2) You can do lots of other things when you aren’t reading. Most of these are not perhaps as enjoyable as reading is, but there is a place for productivity. You may have noticed the increase in blog posts, for example.
Also under this heading: finishing off a project I started months ago. Six hours on ANZAC Day resulted in 6,002 words under the OTHER heading in my spreadsheet (minus those parts which were direct quotes – about a thousand words). It wasn’t quite what I had planned for my day, but on the plus side, I’ve already met my writing quota up to the middle of May.

3) I get grumpy when I can’t read. Withdrawal? Maybe. Reading is my mood-balancing mechanism. Commendations to the Caped Gooseberry for bravery and compassion in the face of danger. There may be a medal.

Medal Sholokhov

So thank you very much for the insight, Ms Cameron, but I don’t think I’ll be doing that again.