Carving Out Time for Personal Pursuits That Bring Contentment

It is the soulís duty to be loyal to its own desires. It must abandon itself to its master passion.

After putting down her pen, novelist Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings cooked up plots as she baked pies. Isak Dinesen arranged flowers. Katharine Hepburn whiled away the long stretches on movie sets by knitting. Queen Victoria filled dozens of sketchbooks with charming watercolors of her children that reveal a glimpse of the real woman who delighted in holding a brush when not ruling an empire.

"We are traditionally rather proud of ourselves for having slipped creative work in there between the domestic chores and obligations," writer Toni Morrison has observed. "Iím not sure we deserve such big A-pluses for that."

But the house calls to us. The children call to us. The work calls to us. When, then, does the painting or the poem call to us?

Probably every day. But weíre too busy listening to everybody else instead of to our authentic selves. Maybe itís because weíve convinced ourselves that we really donít have the time for personal pursuits that bring us contentment if they take longer than fifteen minutes. Perhaps we donít hear the whispers of authentic longing because we donít want to hear. If we hear, we might have to acknowledge, even respond. Weíre afraid to hear the promptings of the woman who wants to learn how to draw, dance, raise orchids, re-upholster a chair, cook Szechuan. We might have to take a class or buy a book, a pad and pencils, a leotard, a plant, a fabric, or hoisin sauce. No time to be passionate, we have to be practical. Essential, uncompromised longings will have to wait until thereís more time: when the children are back in school, when Momís feeling better, when things let up at the office.

How about an answer we havenít heard before? How about, "My authentic passions will have to wait until Iím ready to admit that pursuing them is essential for my happiness?" How about, "I havenít learned yet how to put myself on the list of priorities?" notice I didnít suggest putting yourself first; I just want to get you on the list.

The Victorian writer Mary Ann Evans knew how to be practical about her passion for writing. She assumed a manís pen name, George Eliot, so that her novels Middlemarch, Silas Marner, and The Mill on the Floss would be published in an age that discounted the authentic longings of women. This is what she says about master passions: "It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good and we must hunger after them."

Space and time to nurture our creativity may be one of our authentic hungers. Perhaps we think that only food, drink, work, sex, shopping, or pills can reduce the gnawing to a dull throb. But maybe if we took an hour a day to paint, to plot, or to throw pots we wouldnít be in pain Ė physical or psychic.

Just maybe.

-Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance Ė A Daybook of Comfort and Joy © 1995

I am pleased to announce that this issue is the first to be part of the new look for this page. Thank you all for your support and encouragement in this effort. I hope you like the look of the page, and that you will come here often, and dig through the back issues as I convert and post them.

Now that we have made our house a haven in a hectic world, now that we have learned to regenerate ourselves by sitting quietly or working in the garden, now that we have exercized our intuition, it is time to open up to our creativity.

But, you say, I haven't a creative bone in my body! Nonsense! You must have heard that most of mankind only uses 10% of the brain they were given. Somewhere, in that other 8-10% that we consciously can access - or in the 80% that runs on autopilot - somewhere in all that gray matter is a place where your imagination runs free. Where you dream of the things that you would like to be able to do if only... Set about doing them.

I have spoken of the job of rebuilding myself, taking each brick and examining it to see if it was worth keeping, tossing it if it wasn't, and looking for things to add into my life that would be good and wholesome. It was tough to let some of the old things go. I knew they were only slowing me down, but I was really attached to some of those old attributes and habits! So in that sometimes painful process, I ended up with a few holes in my life, and I needed something to fill those holes back in. I had ideas like buying a musical instrument (a baritone horn!), taking up square dancing or ballroom dancing, singing with a barbershop quartet, and much more. I haven't fulfilled all those wishes, and I still have a few holes, but on the other hand I have accomplished some of the things I wanted to do, and all it took was determining what it was I wanted to do, and setting aside time to do it. It sounds simple, but it certainly is not.