that in the depth of the ravine
of the mountain of my hidden heart
a firefly of my love is aflame.
When I was a newly minted mother of two, I seriously considered giving up writing. At the time, I was 75% into the first draft of my third biography. The postpartum hormonal imbalance, combined with breastfeeding and erratic sleep patterns scattered my brain cells all over the place. I hated that feeling of being divided (which is the quandary of most mothers who have careers or jobs they love)—loving my children and wanting to spend as much time as I could with them, and yet also loving my work and the fulfillment it gave me. Despite the division, I felt that carving out the time to work, for two or three hour periods several times a week, made me a better mother because I would return home from a writing session feeling exuberant.
Sometimes, I look back wistfully at those pre-marriage, pre-children days, when a working day would begin with yoga or meditation, followed by writing in my slovenly diary while having breakfast and a cup of coffee. Work would finally start at 8 a.m., and I kept at it until noon or 1 p.m., after which I would do the household chores or go for a long walk in the woods. That was my rhythm from Monday to Friday, having learnt early on that when one lives in a tourist destination like Baguio, weekends are reserved for friends and family from out of town who would visit and expect to see me for a meal or coffee. Like any office worker, I kept to a strict work schedule.
Becoming a mother changed that rhythm somewhat. Stream of consciousness writing sessions with my morning coffee have all but become extinct. When we have household help, it is easier to steal away for a few hours to maintian my dates on the page (yup, I still write longhand). Rather than the practice of my morning pages to discover what I really thought or felt, or simply to hone my thoughts, I began to gather memories and impressions as one would pretty shells or smooth colored glass at the seashore. In the pocket of my mind, they would bump into one another for a while, until the energy of their jostling built up and the momentum would push me to steal a chance to sit down and pour them all out onto the page, haphazard yet singing with some kind of harmony, the inner logic of an unfinished melody.
Without household help (as is our plight at the present moment), it becomes a negotiation of whose work is more important at the moment, of giving one spouse a break from routine before the other. The tasks for running a home smoothly are never ending, and with aching back and feet I sink into our sofa after the children have fallen off to sleep for the long night, my heart and mind numbed by the endless demands of the day.
The beauty of life is that it never stays the same for long. A few days ago, my three-year-old began going to school with her five-year-old brother. Both are in kindergarten, but they are in two separate classes, one for the older kids and another for the younger ones. Suddenly, my husband and I have four child-less hours in the morning, five days a week! On the second day of school, we returned home after dropping them off, turned on Queen’s greatest hits at full blast, drank our coffee without interruption, danced like no one was watching. Yes, at 9 in the morning!
When my son started school two years ago, those four hours every morning allowed me to finish the first draft of my third biography in two months. And the following year, those four hours allowed me to write a second draft, a fourth book project in between, and then complete a rewrite for the final draft.
And perhaps it was that sudden influx of quiet time that allowed us to notice that a mere two days at school was beginning to change the baby of the family. She seems more confident, more assertive. Maybe, in the coccoon of our little family, she was content to be the baby and played that role. But in kindergarten, in a class with 2 ½ to 3 ½ year olds, she has somehow found the impetus to bloom. In these four hours, she is finding herself too.
About a thousand years ago, a quiet Japanese woman penned the poem I’ve copied above. I do not know what path she took in life, but I believe we all have depths within that are barely known to us. And so, as wearied as I am by the relentless onslaught of daily tasks, the “firefly of my love”—my inner self, higher self, or Soul, whatever you want to call it—lights a spark within my numbed heart, speaks to me quietly from the depths of “I am”, to remind me of the richness of spirit, the greater reasons for my being here. (Sometimes the firefly of my love is my editor reminding me I have a deadline to catch.)
The gift of these four, small hours is so much more than the time to do my work as a writer and artist. They allow me to hear the voice within, to sense the vastness of who I truly am, to connect me to my spiritual GPS. As the firefly of my love rises from the abyss to the surface of my awareness, to come “aflame”, I can transcend the gravity of human drudgery into a lightness of being that is joyful and even magical. Led from within, life becomes an adventure once more.