A few mornings ago my eldest son called from his early morning football practice. He had dislocated his shoulder, could I pick him up? I carefully took him to the hospital, his twisted torso still covered in football pads and a jersey. It wasn’t yet 8am and the emergency ward was quiet. A nurse gave him a big dose of pain meds, while another cut off his jersey as he protected his dangling arm, his face the colour of the pale green hospital curtain. My face was worse. I was imagining Claire from Outlander, reaching under Jamie’s shoulder and lodging it back into place with brute force. But instead a physician arrived, sat on the bed beside him and gently massaged his shoulder until it slid back into place, all on its own. It’s a technique they use in New Zealand, he told me. It’s a gentler approach, more relaxed.
Relaxed. This word keeps coming up…
Elizabeth Gilbert stood on the stage last weekend, wearing an army green jumpsuit. I could see long underwear peering out from beneath her jumpsuit, stretching to her wrists and down to her ankles. She said she was freezing here in stormy Halifax, and was wearing everything in her suitcase, at once.
Liz, as she called herself, was in Halifax to conduct her workshop, Making Big Magic. I signed up months ago, thinking I was enrolling in a writing workshop. Her work spans several sections of the library, from Eat Pray Love (soul search-y memoir) to The Signature of All Things (scientific historical fiction) to Big Magic (discovering creativity) to City of Girls (fun feminist fiction).
I rolled the dice and ‘discovering creativity’ came up. I’m open to addressing my own fears, worries and insecurities in order to unleash my creativity. You all know I spent the summer unleashing. But I could go further; I was wearing the coziest big turtleneck sweater and had a fresh notebook open on my lap. I was ready for anything.
The key takeaway? Elizabeth Gilbert’s goal for herself and the women of the world is to… RELAX. We’re told to hustle. Be badass. Get it all done. Spin. Discover our passion, grow it, monetize it. Do it all! But there’s another way. Think of the lead mare, she said, the horse in the herd that’s calm, stable and wise. The one the rest of the herd turns to for food and safety. The one who knows when it’s time to run.
I scratched the following into my notebook –
who matters most?
what matters most?
draw a circle around those things. Protect that circle.
Protecting the circle is a daily challenge. When I’m in protection mode, there’s room for trips to the emergency. There’s room for trauma. I’m actively saying NO. The fridge is full, and writing flows. But it’s not always this way. I’ve been spinning, so today, right now, I’m starting again. A pot of pickle soup is on the stove, inspired by Jasmine’s recipe. Earlier today I washed a bunch of kale and put in away in a cotton bag in the fridge, ready for when I need it.
The words are flowing, and I’m feeling like a calm, relaxed mare.
And the pickle soup? It’s good, in a nourishing, briny, hearty kind of way. Elizabeth Gilbert could have used a bowl that night in Halifax- the kind of night you need long johns, but you’re still so glad you came.