What to do on the bad mornings when even making a cup of tea seems too much engagement with the world? When the coldsore cluster newly erupted on one's upper lip (for "one" read "My!") demands one admit an exhaustion of body and spirit, wave the white flag of defeat. . . .
Stay in the slough of despond for a while, perhaps, until resilience and experience with "trusting to process" kick in, along with some self-chivvying. . .At which stage, for me, a shower or bubble bath might be the next step. But most often, I turn to formulaic activities, something that lets me fake purpose until I take that purpose on for its own self, for my own worth. . . .
Unfortunately, this particular bad morning coincided with some software program nonsense that I'd decided to resolve. Ancient (three years old!) software to be updated . . . bumped into ancient (five years old!) computer OS . . . and an hour of patient, clear, and helpful "Online Chat Support" later, I've got money for new software refunded (incompatible, so. . . ) and old software licences restored (back to my Starting Point, in other words, and it only took me an hour, insert eye-rolling emoji). I've added Buy New Computer to my ToDoEventually List . . . and also added New Computer to my Christmas wish list.
But not yet feeling any buzz of purpose, nor even less of achievement, I turn to my default list of creative or productive or utilitarian activities I've found calming or endorphin-producing. The structure of a blogpost, for example. A brisk walk listening to a French or Italian podcast. Knitting a few rows on a sweater. Writing out the conjugation of an Italian verb across the tenses I know. Running a load of laundry. Paying some bills online.
Some of these seem impossibly ambitious for my currently deleted energy account; some of them dispiritingly trivial. But I know that sometimes energy levels can, weirdly, be charged up in their use, the way a car battery can be charged as the car is driven.
This morning, I'm going to charge my battery in the simple task of copying out a Donald Hall poem for you. I promised this several posts ago, but "This Poem" seems particularly apt to me today in the simple discipline of its form. Donald Hall was known for his use of common language in tackling themes of love and loss, for pointing to the presence of the numinous in the ordinary everyday. Often, his "common language" is deployed in conversational "free verse," but he's also known for his craft within such formal restraints as blank verse. (Read more about Donald Hall here, here, or here.)
And he played around a fair bit with syllabic verse, of which "This Poem" is a stellar example. Here it is. . . the end of Stanza 3 will spell out the governing formula for you. To quote William Wordsworth's sonnet "Nuns Fret Not," the poem's form, although different from that of a sonnet, offers a "scanty plot of ground [within which those of us] Who have felt the weight of too much liberty / Should find brief solace there, as I have found."
Of course, Donald Hall was a master, and I'm hardly suggesting that choosing a form or discipline and working within it will yield such richness for/from all of us. But isn't the poem instructive simply at the level of demonstrating what submission to process can deliver? Never mind what it says about poetry itself or about the human need for comfort and consolation. But, "when you require it, / this poem consoles" . . . . and "Suppose all poems / contain this poem, / dreaming one knowledge / shaped by the measure / of the body's word.
And that's all I have for you today. And my wishes for a good week.