“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” – Maya Angelou
I’m very grateful to those of you who are following along on this journey with me. To catch up the new people, last year I left a rather hectic job – and way of life – to return to my creative roots and try my hand at being a writer.
So far, so good. Since late July, I have been living in a small town in Western Victoria, where I have managed to punch out the first draft of a book. Rough, bedraggled and wanting as it is, it’s a book and I can live well knowing that I made great progress toward the task that I came here to do.
But I’ll be honest with you and say that, now the first draft is done, I’m stuck. I’m confused. I’m not sure what’s next in my creative life. It may seem simple – just finish the book, right? But I’m not sure that I can. Every time I sit down with it, I struggle, and all of my intuition tells me to put it aside, to just leave it alone for a while.
So this weekend I am packing up my belongings and moving home. There will be tears, I promise you, as I say goodbye to this funny little rural town that I’ve inhabited for the past few months. I may not miss the trucks that barrel through at all hours of the night and day, but I will miss the views.
I’ve been living in a second-floor apartment, above an old bank, in the main street of the town. I can see the breadth of the town from here, watching the comings and goings of the locals and the truckies as they do their day-to-day, ferrying animals and hay and logs from the pine forests to and fro. The occasional baying of cows or bleating of sheep reminds me to look up from my screen and pay attention to that world just outside my window.
And there, at the back of the town, is that green, treeless, almost bald mountain called Shadwell that has been steadfast and true among all my creative meanderings.
Then there’s the bird and her family who live with me. They’ve made their home in an odd bit of space in the outer wall of the lounge room, above the air conditioner, sheltered from the weather. I can’t see them, I can only hear them, and of course imagine them – the mother plump and grey like a pigeon, although I’ve never heard her coo.
My landlord would like to dispose of her and her hatchlings but I begged him to leave them be. They are my company, my cheerful friends. Perhaps making an awful mess of the top of the air conditioner but otherwise harmless. A reminder that I’m not alone.
I think about her sometimes – ridiculous I know, but this is what happens when one enters into a long period of solitude, you start attributing thoughts and feelings to birds. It’s true. I just wonder what she does all day. She seems to just sit and tweet intermittently, like some of those people on Twitter, occasionally scratching about a little. But what else does she do? She must fend for her family. She must find food for them to eat. But other than that, does she just sit there and be?
This line of thinking leads me to the premise that I might not be the sum of the things that I do, that I’ve done, that I’m doing. Earlier in my creative journey, I would flippantly say: “I want to be a human being, not a human doing” – but I didn’t know how to live that phrase at all. I’ve always been striving after something, for who would I be if I wasn’t?
And so I come to a crossroads.
I can’t wait to go home. I miss my friends and my family. I am looking forward to getting my life back, to embracing the comforts of home. But I can’t find my purpose. I dropped it somewhere when I finished that first draft of the book. What I’ve found instead is that there is no need for striving now. There’s no need to achieve a certain thing within a certain period of time. There’s just the promise of something unfolding, in its own time, in the months that lay before me.
Perhaps purpose isn’t one set thing. Perhaps it comes and goes, like desire or motivation. Perhaps you stumble upon it sometimes, most likely when you’re not looking. And for this reason, it feels like there might be a pathway to bliss in letting go of the striving or the need to hold onto a purpose as if it was a solid thing in the palms of my hands.
It feels like freedom is beckoning, if only I can be brave enough to truly let go.
And my little bird, perhaps she seeks freedom too. Perhaps she flies away from her hole in the wall, not to find food or to go into battle, but for the sheer joy of stretching her wings.