Monday, December 9, 2013

try as much as you can

As Much As You Can

by C.P. Cavafy

And if you can’t shape your life the way you want,
at least try as much as you can
not to degrade it
by too much contact with the world,
by too much activity and talk.

Try not to degrade it by dragging it along,
taking it around and exposing it so often
to the daily silliness
of social events and parties,
until it comes to seem a boring hanger-on.

I suppose there are many who wouldn't concur with the sentiments expressed in Cavafy's poem, which is one I probably drag out every December. But I think part of what he's saying is, have respect for your life. It is yours to shape. So, in the holiday season, you don't have to say yes to every single thing that comes your way. It's perfectly okay to carve out time of your own, to retreat a little. To stay off the social network sites for a few days.

In December, there are times when it seems our life is not our own. It's shaped by other forces. But do what you can to make it, even in this busy month, an authentic life, a joyful one.

This is also the time of year when I bring out my Joseph Campbell Companion (which is somewhere on the recommended shelf above). He talks about when he was young, a student, before he was settled in work of any kind. He was able to spend 8 months 'rambling' or wandering. A time where you are idle enough to ask yourself questions such as, "Where do I feel good? What is giving me joy?"

And though few of us are likely to have such a span a time as we might have had in our youth to ramble about, and to let our minds and bodies wander, we can still ask the questions.

How to be authentic? How to be exactly, deeply who we are?

These are questions I ask myself, as well.

And:  What is my next step?

Longtime readers of Calm Things, will know that I often bring up Pema Chodron's line about, going forward with curiosity, which is something of a mantra for me. And I ask myself that, too:  are you going forward with curiosity?

On the days I'm not working, I try and sit in the afternoon at the kitchen table. Last week it was so grey and dim in the late afternoon, that I lit the candles I have on the kitchen table while I drank my tea and wrote in my journal.


by Cavafy

Days to come stand in front of us
like a row of lighted candles—
golden, warm, and vivid candles.

Days gone by fall behind us,
a gloomy line of snuffed-out candles;
the nearest are smoking still,
cold, melted, and bent.

I don’t want to look at them: their shape saddens me,
and it saddens me to remember their original light.
I look ahead at my lighted candles.

I don’t want to turn for fear of seeing, terrified,
how quickly that dark line gets longer,
how quickly the snuffed-out candles proliferate.

This is the time of year where it's natural to reflect on all that's gone by, on what we've accomplished and what was set aside. And I think it's proper and good to reflect. But to then, cast our eyes forward again, to look ahead, to not waste time...

I suppose I say this as someone who has wasted a terrible amount of time this second half the year. A dreadful amount of time. The summer, as you'll remember, was taken up by my episode of Bell's Palsy, That was two months down the drain. And then all through the fall, and up until present, I've been waiting for a piece of editing to come in, which simply hasn't, and because of this I've turned down other things, and worse,  neglected my writing. Well, I realize I need to light a fire in myself, and just get to the writing, no matter whatever else happens. Also, I'm trying to think of the past few months as 'rambling' time, and trust that somewhere deep in my subconscious, some gathering was going on, which will serve me in the writing to come.


  1. even as a child i seemed to realize i lived too much in my head.
    but then . . .
    now . . .
    i realize it's my authentic self. and poems like his and writing like yours . . .
    it makes me feel that i'm in very good company.
    your candle and these candles on your table are perfect.

  2. I have recently discovered your blog and find it a daily delight. Thank you. And what an inspiring recommended reading shelf. As an (early) retired librarian, now following my heart, I find it a really interesting book list!

  3. Surely the time with Bell's Palsy wasn't wasted - there will be something you learned that will come up later, don't you think? And the waiting - not fair, but there you are. You'll light the fire, get to the writing, and the rambling will have served some purpose, however obscure.

  4. Thank you all, for visiting, and for all the encouragement :)

  5. Just a quick note to say that I am so grateful to have discovered your lovely blog. I have bookmarked and will be back with a cup of tea and more time. :-)


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