January 15, 2012

The Best Part of My Day . . .

By Cheryl Spence

The best part of my day is the time I spend every morning in a little coffee shop close to where I live.  I am typically the first patron of the day and have the place all to myself for at least the first half hour.  It is during this time that I collect my thoughts, record my dreams, and seek guidance for the day to come.

This ritual came about quite by accident and began while I was doing my Masters degree in university.  As a mature student, I found it difficult to work on papers at home without becoming sidetracked by household stuff like laundry and vacuuming or less productive activities like surfing the internet or watching reruns on TV.  In an effort to rein myself in, I began taking my books and blank paper to coffee shops, promising myself to have a set number of pages written before leaving the establishment.  Fortunately for me, I did my best work early in the morning before the coffee places had too many customers and so never felt I was tying up space from other patrons.

What I learned during these early morning outings was how much easier it was to hear my own thoughts and be able to articulate them to others through my writings.  I also discovered how much I enjoyed writing and, even more, how much I enjoyed the solitude and time to be with my own thoughts.

Once University was done, I continued the practice, the writing topics changing from theories in psychology to how do I deal with this problem (person/predicament) today.  During this time, I discovered Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way”.  In this book, Julia writes about an exercise she calls “morning pages”.  She suggests first thing every morning getting up and writing three pages of whatever comes to mind – without censoring or rereading.  What happens, Julia suggests, is that we write our way to living a more authentic, creative, and honest life.

In my experience of morning pages (I kept them up for about a year), I did feel more authentic in my life – at least theoretically – but I was not always strong enough or courageous enough to follow through on the wisdom presented back to me in the writings.  Even so, being honest with myself about what I really thought and wanted was a huge first step for me in recognizing what was true for me.  Being able to actually live this honesty came some time later.

While the solitude of my early morning writings allow me the space and opportunity to become aware of how I really feel and think about things, it also creates an opening, of sorts, through which wisdom and a perspective not my own, are able to come through.  The overall effect is one of feeling grounded for the day, whatever the day may hold.

I want to be upfront and share here, however, that not all morning solitudes are so neatly packaged.  There are some mornings where the pages before me are void of clarity, wisdom, or anything even resembling an answer.  What I have learned from these experiences is the importance of learning to live with ambiguity and uncertainty.  Sometimes we need to stop trying to fix something that may not need fixing or stop trying to make something happen that is not ready to happen.  I should also add here that writing is not always part of my morning solitude.  Sometimes, just perusing the morning paper or enjoying the light roast on brew is enough to set the tone for the day.

I think the most important ingredient I have discovered is simply creating some sort of space or time in my life where it is possible for something larger than myself to manifest its guidance and support.  And then hope I have the courage and strength to listen to it and follow through on its guidance.

Cameron, Julia (2002).  The Artist’s Way.  J.P. Tarcher/Putnam.

Cheryl Spence is a Registered Psychologist in Calgary who works with adolescents on a psychiatric inpatient unit as well as with adolescents and adults in her private practice in SW Calgary.  For more information, please visit her website at www.cheryl-spence.com
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