So, yesterday I didn’t sit to write an entry. I thought about it (had a ‘thunk’ about it if you are reading as much of Dr. Seuss as I am) and decided it wasn’t everyday writing that counted, but writing when I needed to and could manage it.
This is a major shift in my appreciation of my own capacity. I’m the girl who believes in ghost wings. Think of the physical sensations – itching, burning, presence, movement – that people who have lost limbs feel. Its the feeling associated with a phantom limb. I feel the same way about wings.
They are a metaphor. Having wings is like being able to fly, not just jump up and down as mere mortals can only do. It’s the equivalent to being able to do-everything-all-at-once-and-do-it-all-well-instantly, instead of being able to just do somethings sometimes and a few of those well and probably not instantly. Me. I believe I have these wings, these phantom limbs. I want to take each step like they exist.
Over the last decade, I’ve come to realise that this expectation is unrealistic. Friends raise their eyebrows at the fact that it took so long. Tells you something about my personality. Partly, it was doing a PhD that forced me to assess my true capacity rather than rely on impossible expectations to guide my plans and actions. I could only do so many things, and probably only one thing, well at a time.
During the PhD, I imagined myself in a meditation from 6pm to 6am. The goal of the meditation was to sit there, at that stop in my path, in quiet concentration from sunset to sunrise. To do anything else, go for tea with a friend at 7pm or watch an episode of Law and Order from 10pm to 11pm (till 12 if you get caught in those back-to-back episodes) or whatever, was to have to start again. One couldn’t make up the extra time after or get back to it after a break in between. There was only one meditation to do and only when it was over was it done. Everything else would have to wait. When 6am came, I could open my eyes and take the next step in any direction, knowing one can only go in one direction at a time.
This second metaphor describes how I learned focus and discipline, and that I had to make choices if I wanted to meet high standards. It’s how I came to know I’d have to make the most of each leap in the air, rather than flapping phantom wings, aiming to fly in all directions and ending in frustration and futility.
I also continue to learn the lesson of manageability from watching my mentors. Amongst the many women who have mentored me over the last decades, I’ve worked mostly closely with two amazing Trinidadian feminists, Rhoda Reddock and Pat Mohammed. I strongly believe both are super people who somehow build institutions, handle admin, teach students, participate in activism, produce reams of published work, and literally help invent a Caribbean feminist scholarship that didn’t exist before – and still have a life. I used to have no idea how they did it and I knew I couldn’t be like them.
But over time, I’ve seen when things fall through the cracks, when too much of everything takes a toll on health or human relations, when some things could have been better if fewer things were being done simultaneously and other things not at all. And, as mentors enable you to do, I want to learn from their life lessons too.
I spent most of yesterday almost single-handedly rearranging our bedroom – the one room where the whole three person family lives and sleeps. Zi is now climbing on everything and I wanted to create a space more safe for mountaineering, rolling, tumbling and beginning steps. Hours later, when I finished, there were two options. Write or sleep? I slept. This diary both gives me a welcoming space and the additional pressure of something else to do. So, I quieted my wings and waited to write today.