Last month, we invited readers to share their responses to a writing prompt inspired by Anne Liu Kellor's literary reflections essay, "Open Receptivity: On Becoming a Mother-Writer." We asked: "Write about a time that you've found the peace and solitude to experience 'open receptivity.' If you've never had such an experience, write about your ideal creative retreat: Where would you go? How would you spend your time? What would you come away with in the end?" Read on to see how reader Kristin Wagner took the theme in an unexpected direction.
Response to Open Receptivity
by Kristin Wagner
The topic of this writing prompt distressed me greatly. Really. I couldn't wrap my brain around what bothered me so much, but I knew I was bothered.
The idea of a writer’s retreat, the peace and solitude of it, the idyllic cabin in the woods, at first sounded wonderful.
But then I argued with myself why it absolutely wouldn't work for me. Too lonely. Too distant from my creative non-fiction subjects. Too much freedom. In fact, I constructed a five-hundred word argument for why allowing myself that much freedom would lead to my mental and physical breakdown and that I didn't really need it anyways. The last part may be true. In the structure and rhythm of a day caring for children I've been able to find enough peace and quiet in scraps of time to feel satisfied. But I was surprised by my eloquence and vehemence in defending that gilded cage of structure and routine. It was irrational fear cloaked in the words of rational thought and I almost had myself convinced. Would my life really fall apart if I gave myself a week’s time to write?
I realized then that I absolutely do not trust my brain with that much freedom.
My brain, that structure that believes its lofty ideas are worth more than anything else. My brain, that structure that will sacrifice sleep and food and love to ruminate on lost opportunities and mistakes I've made. My brain, that structure that is so greedy to learn and explore that it can become manic in its obsession. My brain, that structure that loses words and cannot even manage to read when my fibromyalgia is at its worst. My brain cannot be trusted to serve my best interests for that long.
I don’t trust it.
Maybe I am being prudent. I wouldn't trust a two-year-old with an open electric socket. I wouldn't trust my eight-year-old to swim in a pool alone.
How strange that I don’t really find my children and their needs to be an impediment to open receptivity. I feel open to ideas and self-awareness…enough. How strange that I don’t trust myself enough to believe that a few days on my own, letting myself do what I enjoy doing in a rhythm that only has to work for me, will not kill me. Time to give my attention to whatever I choose would not make me abandon my children, or sink into a deep depression, or become manic with ideas I couldn't express before. How strange that the thought of being left alone to work with my brain is tantamount to being left alone to fight against an enemy.
It is certainly easier to say, “Oh I couldn't go away for so long. The children need me!” than to admit that I am afraid of something that looks like, and could be, a wonderful gift.
Kristin Wagner was once a high school English teacher who now stays home raising her two young boys in the Chicagoland area. She writes essays about children, parenting, and parenting while dealing with fibromyalgia and posts blogs at kristinwagner.wordpress.com.