In the late 1990s I was introduced to a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It was born out of her workshops to help blocked writers, but it has become an inspiration to many kinds of artists. I highly recommend it for anyone who is frustrated with the creative within, whether you want to unleash the artist you know is in there but has been oppressed, or you’d like to explore the outrageous possibility that you could make a living out of your art (and even more outrageous, that you deserve such a thing), or if you just want more creativity in your life. One of the practices the course is built on is a thing Julia calls Morning Pages. Get a notebook, and as soon as you’ve crawled out of bed in the morning, write three pages longhand from off the top of your head, unedited, never to be critiqued and not to be looked back on for some period of time. For most people, the first week or so begins as so much gibberish, but for some, their Morning Pages have turned into books. I’ve been doing this exercise on and off since I first read The Artist’s Way, and this morning I had the urge to start it up again. The following is a slightly edited version of what I wrote:
Today is my daughter’s sixteenth birthday. There is so much I can say about that. The first thing that comes to mind is that I began the experiment of Morning Pages when she was three-and-a-half years old; therefore I’ve been writing morning pages on and off for over twelve years. It is odd to be in the place in life where twelve years has flown by as if it were three or four. I keep getting older — nothing I’ve done to try and stop the clock has worked yet — and I feel like I don’t know how to get old, like I’m unprepared, it has come so fast. As usual, I remind myself I’m not alone in this: It’s the universal experience. We all talk about the weather and how fast time flies because those are the things we have no control over. We are in awe. And maybe we are comforted in the camaraderie we have in this realization, even though banding together as a race does nothing, really, to increase our power against these forces.
I observe younger people in various phases of life, and I think, I was just there yesterday, experiencing the ups and downs of that stage, the undeniable power that comes with that particular period of youth as well as the disadvantage of still needing more valuable perspective, and then, We all have our moments, and those folks will be in this one I’m in before it seems they’ve batted their eyes.
It’s sobering how quickly moments race by in a blur when we’ve had to be, or more often, chosen to be distracted by stress, disappointment, loss, battles against others. If my kids have learned anything from Mama’s journey over the last decade it has been to cherish the time you’ve been given, to understand time in its context, not fear or fight it but revere it as it bulldozes by without mercy.
Several years ago when my daughter was still a “tween,” I had the privilege of hearing her say, “Mom, you were right, time really does go by faster the older you get.” Of course, hearing the first four words of that sentence is enough to satisfy any parent, but I also realize she has developed a keen sense of the passage of time, and I know she’s a kindred spirit in this journey.
This is the same child who observed while in fifth grade, “I just realized Chris Brown has been around a long time now, because I remember when his songs were first coming out when I was in third grade.”
Today I’ll text her at school at exactly 12:15, to give her an official Happy Birthday wish, because as most mothers tend to do, I have the time of her birth, down to the very minute, carved into stone in my memory.