Refilling a fountain pen in some haste the other day, I got a smudge of ink on the back of my hand which I didn’t notice until later. By then the ink had crept into the faint lines on my skin. Ordinarily invisible, the lines were thrown in sharp focus, the ink creating a tracery like a spiderweb or rivers on a map.
The bracelet is of amethyst, lapis lazuli, and sodalite beads; in the background is a Christmas quilt I made some years ago.
Life experiences are like that – they shape and define us, and influence our decisions and actions, because they become embedded in our psyche. For instance, in the face of too much pain and rejection over the years, the initial reaction for some may be sulky withdrawal or acting out. Others prefer to say goodbye, let go, and look forward to what comes next. Because there is usually more than one way to approach a problem, the question to ask is, what tack is more productive? More constructive? More likely to lead to situations of happiness and contentment?
The ink on my skin looked like a stain. What kind of experiences have made that sort of mark on us? Do these mind stains have negative or positive effects on our behavior and attitudes?
It will soon be 2011, a new year and the beginning of a new decade – an auspicious time to make a fresh start. I considered my life so far and the options I have for future directions, and realized that I am trapped by constructs of my own making: expectations, desires, and illusions which had crept like ink into the crevices of my soul.
I was the one holding myself back.
Once I understood this, I resolved to let loose of the mental moorings that tie me down. To be untethered, I must set myself free to breathe and create and live.
Some of the things on my “to do” list for 2011:
1. I will no longer “hold back what is owed to the work.” (See poem by Marge Piercy below.) My life informs my art. My experiences are the raw material from which I create. My stories are born from the narratives of my life. My life is filled with people, places, and happenings. And some of it or all of it will find its way into the stories and essays that I write and the photographs I take. I will give to the work what is owed to the work. Having made this decision, I can now finish for publication my uncompleted pieces and start new ones that I’ve been longing to write.
2. Write a blog post everyday.
3. Do more walking. Walking is underrated and running is getting the hype, but people who have been mostly sedentary will have an easier time sticking to an exercise routine if they choose a low-impact activity. Now where are my training shoes…? Gaah, I don’t think I even have socks anymore.
4. Let go of the people and activities in my life that bring stress, and embrace those bringing calm and joy. This includes actually burning the scented Yankee Candles and incense sticks I’ve collected through the years.
6. Listen to more music. It will me take years to comprehend the oeuvres of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, not to mention The Beatles.
7. Sort my books and give away those I don’t wish to keep. What I usually do is pack books in balikbayan boxes and leave them anonymously on the doorstep of the Sta. Ana, Manila public library.
Like ink on skin, kept resolutions will be embedded within us, further filling out our drawing of ourselves, as we are the artists of our lives and it is up to us to create the rendition as we wish.
Happy New Year and New Decade, everyone!