Being comes before doing

So, I’m not very disciplined. I care far too much about pleasure to be any good at that kind of thing. Ritual and routine, not sheer willpower, regulate my hours. I hate hurrying. I need quite allot of protected solitude to spread out into in order to feel sane and grounded and like I have something to give. I use this claimed privacy for wallowing and daydreaming and stretching and just being before I pick up a pen or do anything remotely productive- the ratios of luxuriating: actual labour would be appalling if I bothered to map them out. My vitality springs from a deep well of indolence. My husband refers to my ‘aristocratic tendencies’ half jokingly as I often write lying down in bed or stretched out on the sofa: I can’t think when I’m at a desk, it smacks of puritanical work ethic, a deeply unsexy way of producing anything.

‘Being comes before doing,’ theorises Winnicott in Playing and Reality. I know this in my bones. The place I create and love and play from now is from an ‘I am’ place which ‘must precede the ‘I do’ otherwise the ‘I do’ has no meaning for the individual.’ Since R has stopped napping his sleep has been a bit erratic and night wakings, earlier mornings, later mornings, overtired sobbing at 4am, (mostly mine?) deus ex machina style catnaps on my chest in the afternoon are intruding on my ring fenced ‘I am’ time. My slapdash asanas have been unfocused or abandoned altogether in favour of sleep for the past few weeks and I’ve lost my hour and a half in the middle of the day of me time. I’ve lost my book/writing group that met at naptime on a Tuesday, my intellectual succour. The result is a collapse in time to connect with myself and live a personally meaningful life. This is not an overstatement. I feel a tightening in my chest as I use the far-too-paltry-for-me -only -exactly enough -time -in -the -day -to -execute the precise amount of tasks I have responsibility for. This is scarcity and puritanical work ethic. This is an ‘I do’ without the fecund ‘I am’ of ‘just being’ to mulch my actions with personal meaning. I’m balking in horror. Or rather collapsing with exhaustion and reading with my face buried in the purring cat before passing out at 8pm.

I’m scrambling. I’m carving out time, making do with pockets and margins and snatches of stolen solitude. This is not the held space that ritual and routine provide. But I feel the cost. I’m not very patient at the moment: it took me about a week to name the breathless, harried feeling, the urge to make R put on his shoes NOW and get out the door NOW despite not being on anyone’s clock but our own, to connect it to the long afternoon with no time to myself and my disrupted yoga practice. I feel knocked out of my orbit, a little off kilter and not quite myself.

I don’t know quite how to find my way back from this mess. I suspect a new pattern of waking and sleeping and solitude will emerge, but it feels so shallow to be so locked into ‘doing’ without the external routines that free me to just be.

Copyright Diana Smith 2018

The notions of doing and being are drawn from Winnicott’s essay, ‘Interrelating apart from instinctual drive and in terms of cross identifications,’ from Playing and Reality

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