Somedays I wake up, look in the mirror, and don't recognize myself. Everything is the same: I can trace the contours of my face, nose, mouth, I see how comfortably my hair falls across my face and eyes, I even see how my body fits just right in the little familiar bathroom space. But something unnamable, something just underneath the surface is different.
That strange unsettling feeling defines my entire summer. Everything is normal on the surface, but there is something deeper that is not right, something that remains just beyond the reach of consciousness. This summer, like every summer, like every time I spend any extended period of time at home, I lose touch. I live in indifferent routine, moving from day to day, task to task mindlessly, accomplishing nothing.
I've written little all summer, and I think the reason is because writing requires long looking, attention to detail, stillness, thought, analysis, patience, work. Almost daily, I realize I am slipping, somehow losing parts of myself that I have worked so hard for years to maintain. When I was younger, there was something inside me that compelled me to make music, to write, to stargaze, to seek solitude and silence, to create--no matter what the circumstances. But I've realized this summer that the need to create is gone.
In a way, it's been freeing. I've been thinking about Hedda Gabler's obsession with Ejlert's "beautiful death," and I wonder if I have had an obsession with living a beautiful life, with creating beautiful things because somehow that beauty will transfer back to me. I am learning to let things be, to let myself be: a process approaching but never reaching product, in continual refinement, change, and growth.
At the same time, however, I feel blank, lost, somehow less than who I know myself to be. Spending more than a few minutes at the piano every few hours gets more difficult with each passing day. The moments when I lose myself in a book and find myself more invested in the lives of fictional characters than I am in my own life are few and far between.
My life is a constant state of transition, it seems. A continual give and take, a neverending loss of one thing and gain of another. But I think I'm okay with that--I've been reading Annie Dillard lately:
At a certain point you say to the woods, to the sea, to the mountains, the world, Now I am ready. Now I will stop and be wholly attentive. You empty yourself and wait, listening. After a time you hear it: there is nothing there. There is nothing but those things only, those created objects, discrete, growing or holding, or swaying, being rained on or raining, held, flooding or ebbing, standing, or spread. You feel the world’s word as a tension, a hum, an single chorused note everywhere the same. This is it: this hum is the silence.
We were put on earth to recognize God's work before we carry out His will, to receive before we give, to experience before we create, to see before we share, to be before we become. It is enough to be here, to rejoice in what is known and the mystery of what is not yet known, to see the beauty that dwells in all.