Saturday, July 21, 2018

Standing up to Live

Tallinn, Estonia, 3am

"How dare one sit down to write...when he has not yet stood up to live." Ralph Waldo Emerson

It was 3am in Tallinn, Estonia, and the white night was too mesmerizing for sleep. Couple that with the time difference in the States, or rather, my corner of the States, which had led to a flurry of text messages from abroad during the wee hours, and you had the perfect recipe for a sleepless night. Which could become a problem, because....

...I'm not a night owl. To the great annoyance of many who know me, I'm a early bird. Though I have my moments when I stay up past the bedtime of most nine-year-olds, truth is,  I like to go to sleep early and wake up early. There's a few reasons for art school, I worked several jobs and was generally exhausted by evening. If I didn't rise at dawn for a little time in the studio before heading to class or one of my jobs, I would't have any time in the studio. Rising early became, in my mind, interlinked with determination, dedication, success...

Fast forward a few years, and I'm parenting a young child solo, while working a full-time job and a couple of freelance jobs to make ends meet. I learned an entirely new definition of the word 'exhausted.'  Rising early then became, in my mind, interlinked with sanity, self-care, a window of time to myself, just to breath a little...

Now, the young child is a teenager and I've managed a balance between work, home, and all the other things I fit into my days. But the early bird in me is still going strong. Even during this 10-week vacation, I rise around dawn, no matter what time I go to sleep.

Morning coffee in the window of the Hotel Metropol, Tallinn, Estonia
I find myself apologizing for it a lot when I am in the company of others. It seems I'm always tip-toeing around, trying not to make any noise, wanting to be courteous, but tired of lying in bed wide awake, waiting on everyone else to stir about. But regardless of the motivations that set the pattern into habit years ago, rising early has just become part of who I am. And while habits can be broken, this isn't one I want to break.

This works for me.

"How dare one sit down to write...when he has not yet stood up to live," is one of my favorite quotes by Emerson. I found myself thinking about standing up to live this week, how I do it each day, and I've come to believe that rising early is simply one of my ways. It's not a big thing, but apologizing for how we stand up to live...well...that might be dangerous ground to tread. That might be a big thing.

Everything we do in the course of a day has the power to set plans into action. In preparation for pending life changes, I cleaned out some files this week, purging old papers, receipts, bills, letters. Opening space, clearing paths for the new. I also removed supplies for crafts I no longer do, purging a shelving unit and several storage bins, opening a lovely space, and freeing myself of the burden of creative guilt that came from looking at the unused supplies. Dreams change, after all. Sometimes standing up to live is a bold move; sometimes it's baby steps. Sometimes it's something as seemingly mundane as the ritual of pre-dawn coffee in a quiet house, an open book in the hands and a bouquet of flowers on the table.

Today, for the first time in a while, I sat down to write, thinking about how, each day, I stand up to live. I often say, I'm a work in progress - I think we all are. But however I choose stand up to live each day, one thing is for certain...

Morning kahvi (coffee) in a Moomin mug, Hytti, Finland
I like doing it early.

No apologies.


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