Moving in Spirals

I've always said that my life moves in spirals, but I've only recently come to recognize that I can be on more than one spiral concurrently; this isn't to say I feel that I'm living a double life, but there are multiple aspects of myself that I want to engage with and explore. It's taken me a long time to realize that life isn't all or nothing (hello, grit and growth mindset!), but I think my biggest point of struggle has been between what I believe makes me happy and what I believe is the best way I can be of service.

The spiral I'm paying the most attention to right now is what I've come to realize is my dharma, my purpose: teaching. I struggled for a long time with what I perceived as tension between bliss (ah, Joseph Campbell, how I adore you!) and dharma or duty; for a long time, I created a dichotomy between the two, placing my writing in the bliss basket and my teaching on the side of duty. But although that dichotomy doesn't seem to be as cut and dried as I once thought, I would not say that the two paths always lead to the same place. What I've come to realize is more circular than that. Bliss can lead to dharma, and dharma can lead to bliss, but they don't have to intersect, and I don't have to choose one or the other. I can walk a path of dharma and reach for bliss at the same time, but I can also recognize that my feet and my hands may not always work in unison. 

Truth time: It's been over a year since I finished drafting my thesis project for my master's...which means it's been over a year since I sat down to write fiction. I just didn't want to, and for a while I wondered if I'd told all the stories I needed to tell in my wildly productive six years of putting my writing at the top of my professional responsibilities. I was actually okay with that, if that was my reality...I still have plenty of drafts in the drawer that I think I'll come back to and clean up and release in the future, so even if I didn't write anything new, I could keep putting books into the world and hoping they found the right readers for a while. I shifted my focus, re-embraced my purpose and role as a teacher, and I bid my fictional focus a relatively fond and balanced farewell. I say that, but it was far less cut and dried than you might expect; I was writing and finishing my MA in Children's Literature at the same time as I began broadening my view of what it meant to teach, and of the kind of training I wanted and needed to become the teacher I dream of being. I was also shifting from short-term to long-term planning (goodbye, 20's, hello 30's!) and working hard to conceptualize not just happiness, but deep and steady contentment in my professional and personal spheres.

But today, I stepped away from my professional identity, took my laptop to a coffee shop on campus and sat down played with an idea...and got a thousand words down on a new story. Will I share it eventually? I have no idea. But I do know that my life moves in spirals, and it appears that I am back around the curve to the place where writing for the hell of it, just to see where the words take me, with no end goal in mind, is how I take care of myself on a gloomy, atmospheric Sunday.

I no longer consider myself a professional writer. In fact, I'd have been hard pressed to call myself any kind of writer for a year, other than teacher-centric nonfiction and research writing. But I'm figuring out that the bliss of fiction will always be there, and that, sometimes, the steady pull of dharma is as joyful as, well, bliss.


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