Yesterday found me in a very odd mood. Gone were my Byron Katie-like and Zen approaches to life; in their stead was the snippy, snappish, whining, nit-picky Jen I don’t particularly care for. Why was I cursing at the traffic lights, the copier, the printer, the Irish Times crossword puzzle that wouldn’t load? I caught a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror of Kat’s car, and didn’t like the vinegary look I saw there. What a sourpuss!
I began to look for the “shoulds” in my thinking, but it was not until I’d had a poor night’s sleep and a go at my Morning Pages that I was able to sort myself out. The Morning Pages (4 pages you write upon awakening, with no heed to grammar, spelling, or even sense) produced the heart of the blog you are reading now.
I thought at first my negativity was due to pain. I’ve been in a lot of it lately, and it has slowed me down considerably. There is always an attendant fear when this deep and prolonged discomfort strikes: survival. Will I be able to work? How will I live if I can’t work? That sort of thing.
I noticed the character of yesterday’s annoyances; they were, without exception, slowing me down. I realized I thought I had control over these inanimate objects! Silly me. I laughed out loud. But the questions persisted, and I realized I needed to dig deeper. The impediments to completing my teaching tasks (we begin a new session on Monday) had something to do with this, I reasoned.
The shoulds began pouring out on paper: I SHOULD have been more organized. I SHOULD have worked more over the holidays at tidying up my stuff. I SHOULD have gone into work and transferred all my documents — generated during hours and hours of work last session — from the hard drive before they wiped them away. SHOULD I have done these things? Honestly, as tired and exhausted and in pain as I was after last session’s 70-hour weeks, SHOULD I have? Should I have missed out on the many hours of enjoyment I had with Kat, Kevin, Cass, and crocheting? Could I even have done so? No, because I didn’t. How could I do other than what I did?
Is it possible that I may have accomplished more by doing less? Indeed, what is my definition of accomplishment? And even if I’d done all my cleaning out and saving and organizing of my materials doesn’t mean I was entitled to instant gratification from the inanimate objects I met yesterday. Just because I’m disabled…
Whoa…! I stopped writing and looked at that word, disabled. How about a better one: dis-labeled. Dissing myself, I might add. Okay, Jen. Take it slowly now. Epiphany on its way…
Just because I move more slowly doesn’t mean I’m a failure.
It just means I achieve success less rapidly? Hmmm… I mentally swirled that around in my brain, like tasting a wine. Needs a bit more. How about,
I am a fine wine, aging beautifully and mellowing in an oaken barrel, a barrel just for me…not a box…
“Ah! think outside the box!” I cried. “Nice one!” And then it came pouring out on paper:
I am not a box of wine hurriedly produced to satisfy cheaply and easily the palates of the poor (as opposed to poor palates, which are something else entirely). Many of my friends would prefer a lovely, aged bottle of fine wine, but they can’t afford it — yet.
My beauty has come over long years, from vines that grew in a difficult place. The weather was often dodgy. The Tender of the vines, my loving Vintner, guarded my growth tenderly. The grapes were so easily bruised, you see. So many times outside forces threatened Her fragile crop, yet She never gave up hope. Only Her hands did she use to pluck the grapes, her varietal hybrid of favorites. Only Her feet did she trust to trample them in the time-honored way. She knew that when this wine, eventually, would be ready to savor, it would be unlike any other. The Vintner was not sure She would even be around to taste it Herself, but that didn’t matter. She knew in Her heart it would be exquisite; adored, quite possibly, by those whose palates had been cultivated to appreciate this strange brew.
Her countless hours of vigil and care could not even be calculated into the price. Those who could afford it might not even be in the market for a product as yet untried. Selling it was not Her intention, at any rate; She would give it away freely to those who took the time to find it, and loved it as She did.
As I wrote this little parable, tears streamed down my face. That beautiful vine and wine is I. My rich and full life — motherhood, deep friendships, teaching vocation, love of music and writing — is but the distillation of my vineyard of experience. Perhaps I don’t have a romantic relationship because the wine that I am is not quite ready for consumption; it certainly won’t be available in stores. I am not on the shelf now, nor will I be.
To my surprise, I realized I am not destined to be a boxed wine after all, despite my current immobility and the chance obstructions caused by surrounding inanimate objects. I am still in the barrel, maybe in the final stages of fermentation. The oaken barrel might just about be ready to be tapped. The Vintner patiently waits for me to blend with my pain, for She knows I need that final step. It will remind me of the ingredients that went into my making; it will remind me to savor the process, not to focus on the end result.
I have no idea if anyone but the Vintner will appreciate what flows from barrel to glass when the time comes, but I can accept that. After all, I am the Vintner, too.
Cheers, my dear friends. Let us raise our glasses to ourselves. Celebrate the vintage that is you.