SLOWING DOWN

I’m amazed at how quickly I’ve become busy again after coming to a complete stop during the pandemonium of our enforced lockdowns with its fluctuating restrictions. I rather enjoyed the peace and solitude of isolation at first and find within the current process of ongoing recovery, I’ve gradually returned to doing the things I enjoy as activities trickle back into the public domain.  

Alas, alongside these, I have picked up additional tasks I don’t particularly want, such as taking on administrative tasks that no-one else is able, or wants, to do. I can do without these stressful distractions that take up my precious time and steal me away from my passion of writing. I seem to have put the relaxation and time-out techniques I learned in my period of incapacity to the bottom of my list of things to do to keep myself sane. In other words, I’m putting everyone else’s needs above my own and neglecting my health. I’ve become so busy that I hadn’t even noticed it happening. It kind of crept up on me and took me by surprise.

What a welcome relief then when I finally found my way back to practising regular meditation at the beginning of this month when I received September’s new format for Monday Meditations from ‘For the Writer’s Soul’.

‘The new format focuses on a monthly theme and is supplemented by “words to carry with you” and a task to practise the theme throughout the week. This helps to strengthen and discover the wisdom you hold within and more deeply support yourself on your writing journey.’ (Melanie at For the Writer’s Soul)

The theme for September was ‘A Change of Pace’. A timely reminder for my increasing busyness. As always, the meditation took me on a journey of imagination as the soothing voice led me into the unknown. I felt relaxed afterwards and immediately prompted to write something.

I started with the words to carry with me through the week as directed:

‘Life is filled with opportunities to slow down.’

I wrote the sentence slowly, deliberately using my best handwriting. I vowed to keep that careful pace to capture my inspiration instead of hurtling myself into a tirade of illegible scribble to type up neatly afterwards and create a piece of writing from it. It felt good to go slow. I was taken back to my schooldays when we practised our writing in exercise books with double-spaced lines so we could loop our letters up to the line above and down to the line below.

I love that my name begins with a ‘J’ because I can double-loop it.  It has such a smooth rhythm to it that it seems natural to join the remaining letters with ease and a looped ‘l’ in the middle for added style. It’s almost a shame to take my pen off the page to dot the ‘i’. My surname started with an ‘S’ then which is another great letter to initialise with its curly swirls – though I’m not sure I was meant to loop as fancy as I do now with my married ‘F’ surname. I sometimes hear the voice of my old school teacher, Miss Proctor, who was such a sweet old lady, telling me to slow down so I would remember not to loop the ‘hard’ letters, like ‘t’ and ‘d’.

I did find it difficult when we moved on to writing in ink (yes, the old inkwell and nibbed pen thing back in the day) as I am left-handed and my hand would smudge the letters as I wrote from left to right. To this day, I still slant my page so I can see what I’m writing as I go along it. Though I tend to stick to ball-points these days, I sometimes like a pencil to write my thoughts down quickly. I tend to write neater with pencil than anything else.

Now that I’ve written all this down, I am rushing through my mind, searching for the message I was hoping to convey by doing so. To remind myself, I write the words again in slow, deliberately looped strokes:

‘Life is filled with opportunities to slow down.’

Immediately, my mind it still again so I guess the message is in the magic of the activity and simply stopping to write those affirming words to allow the mind, body and soul to become calm. This confirms a belief I have always held that writing heals through the connection of the mind (imagination) to the pen (physical) to the words on the page (actual). Initially, it doesn’t matter what words we write as the healing is in the release of our stream of subconscious thoughts (soul) that can be read through at a later stage and edited into something beautiful.

I feel what I have shared here is unfinished somehow. Maybe the experience of slowing down and writing in looped letters has instilled a need in me to write something profound that hasn’t yet materialised. By way of apology, I would like to offer a poem by one of my favourite poets, Mary Oliver, from her collection Evidence published in 2009, that does just that.

I Want to Write Something so Simply

I want to write something so simply about love or about pain that even as you are reading you feel it and as you read you keep feeling it and though it be my story it will be common, though it be singular it will be known to you so that by the end you will think- no, you will realize- that it was all the while yourself arranging the words, that it was all the time words that you yourself, out of your own heart had been saying.

© Mary Oliver

All in all, September’s travelling has been a time of renewal for me through the deliberate act of slowing down within the crazy busyness, which has offered me the space to embrace many unexpected moments of poetic insight.

With love for the journey

Julie

September’s personal highlight: winning the first Shirley Waite Poetry Award Cup
at the Scarborough Writers’ Circle on 14th September in celebration of National
Poetry Day, judged and awarded by Felix Hodcroft,

(I was disappointed at being unable to use the original font I chose for the looped letter examples but it’s not supported by my site plan at the moment.)

Published by Julie Fairweather

After being warned never to speak of secrets, the noise of them clattered and crashed inside my head. I wandered through a wilderness of solitude for years, sifting through my silence, seeking a way to release the sickness within. I listened in that place many times and heard my unspoken thoughts groaning; deeper, deeper, deep into a world of unwritten words. Then, in an unexpected moment, I found You there, waiting to welcome me with love, without condition. You bled out the sins of the world and gave my silence a voice so I could tell others that it’s okay to share your secrets sometimes.

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