It’s All Still There, It’s Just Different

A friend e-mailed the other day to say, “It must be hard for you this week. You always throw a big party on your birthday and, this year, it’s going to be so quiet.” Indeed. It’s the little things that make you realize how much our lives have changed.

Take coffee, for example. In the past, my husband would head off to work and drink the free coffee there, while I stayed home and brewed a small pot perfect for my taste. Now that my husband is working from home, he’s been making the coffee because he gets up before me. I can’t tell you how many “discussions” we’ve had about what makes for an exemplary cup of coffee.

Pre-pandemic, after he left for work, and I had the house to myself, I’d head over to my favorite meditation spot. I had it all set up to fit my needs perfectly. But now that he’s working from home, I’ve had to move my meditation to our bedroom, and the chair there doesn’t suit me as well.

I still wander down to my basement office to try to work each day, but it’s harder to concentrate now. I hear him rifling through the pantry and wonder what he’s eating. I hear him chatting on the phone and wonder who he’s talking to. I see him pick up a book while he’s eating lunch and wonder where he’s at in the story.

We artists like to regard ourselves as out-of-the-box thinkers, even as rebels. Creatives are supposed to operate outside of schedules and routines, so it’s been a bit of a shock to realize how reliant I’d become on having my work day unfold in a certain way. On having my life unfold in a certain way.

If I’m honest, though, my drop in productivity and satisfaction can’t be blamed entirely on my loss of routine. That’s just an easy excuse. I haven’t really stopped meditating because my chair isn’t as comfortable, I stopped because in my current fog, I couldn’t hear my inner guidance. And it’s not that the coffee tastes all that different, it’s that it doesn’t taste the same as it did when I was excited about the day that stretched before me.

Once again, I realize it’s not about what lies outside us, it’s about what’s going on within. Routines, processes, methods, practices, we build those to support the things we care about. We construct them to make it easier or more efficient to do our best work. We engineer them to help us prioritize the things that really matter. As it turns out, a routine is easy to change, a mindset is not.

The fact is, what really matters hasn’t shifted for me. History matters. Art matters. Writing matters. Doing for others matters. Maybe the old methods don’t work right now. Maybe I need some new practices. Maybe it was time and I just didn’t want to admit it. Maybe its not the end of the world to start all over.

This morning, my husband got the coffee just right. And writing this post felt like tapping into inner guidance. And my birthday may be quieter, but it’s still filled with love. It’s all still there, it’s just . . . different.

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