The Art of Mirriam Neal

//sunday, 5:13 pm.

It’s been nineteen days since my last blog post. This number seems huge to me – almost three weeks? I didn’t quite expect that. It’s not because I haven’t had anything to say – it’s just I seem to be rediscovering how to say things. Every once in a while – well, it’s usually an annual thing – I go through a re-adjustment. Usually this re-adjustment takes a couple months and something changes – my writing improves, my art improves, my self improves. This year is different. This year I’ve been readjusting since March. October is nearly here. I’ve been readjusting for nearly seven months. I read stories of people readjusting for large things – illnesses, deaths, new jobs. But I rarely hear of people taking seven months to adjust to…nothing, really. It’s strange, how life can feel chaotic in the midst of calm; how my mind and heart can be thrashing in turmoil even though there is nothing new to upset them.

It’s something of a comfort, to be able to look back on life since March and see a trail of things that help this odd upheaval make sense. It’s been one thing after another in some ways – and not everything is large or heavy, but after a while even the smallest stones, when stacked on top of one another, create a lot of weight.

Sunday is my hermit day. Most people who know me would argue that I’m already 90% hermit (and they’d be right, on most days) but Sunday is the day I eschew social media. It’s the day where I don’t communicate with anyone outside of my house, and for most of the day, I communicate only with myself. I do what I haven’t done the rest of the week – I sketch, I read, I watch a movie or two. I keep to myself. I pray.

Today has been large mugs of black coffee (as usual) and Death Note movies. I’ve sketched several sheets in a sketchbook rapidly running out of room (it feels like I just bought this sketchbook, honestly) and I’ve read half of the latest issue of Bella Grace. Usually it’s an article that speaks to me, but this time around it wasn’t an article – it was one phrase, a quote from the order of St. Benedict.

‘Always we begin again.’

The second I read this quote I wanted it tattooed on my skin as a constant reminder. I wanted it tattooed because in four words, it managed to sum up the essence of everything I try to learn, year to year and day to day.

It’s something I’ve always had a hard time articulating. In fact, I’m not much good at articulating anything unless I can write it down. If I have a pen and paper, or fingers and a keyboard, I can say anything (usually). It’s the brain-to-mouth function that doesn’t work very well – and unfortunately, my default response to ‘how are you’ is ‘I’m fine!’

And usually I am fine. But ‘I’m fine’ is a very paltry phrase. It doesn’t say much, if anything. It says please don’t worry about me, don’t speak to me, nothing new to report. So while I usually mean it – I am fine – what people understand is not what I mean.

Change tends to give me a melancholy air, or sometimes a downright bleak one. People think I’m sad or angry when really, I have ‘begun again’ and don’t know where I am, or how I feel, or what I think. Somebody asks me how I am, or if I’m okay, and all I can say is ‘I’m fine,’ because I won’t be able to give a full, unabridged response until I’ve figured the new beginning out. I don’t think this is a bad thing – the bad thing is my difficulty engaging in the world around me during times of change. I’m more comfortable in my own head. I’m more comfortable observing and not speaking. I’m more comfortable staying inside rather than going out – but sometimes it reaches a point where I realize my inspiration is running on zero. The things that inspire me most are stories – books, songs, movies, shows. Good stories, stories that teach me how to tell my own stories. But I’m inspired by other things, too – by new sights and sounds and smells, by brief interactions with strangers, by singing at the top of my lungs in the car with my mother driving and my sister in the back seat.

I show favoritism to my inspiration, and eventually, certain aspects of my inspiration will run dry. I’m realizing more and more that in order to remain connected during these renewals, these new beginnings, I need to make an effort. I have a tendency to drift whenever I’m in upheaval, and the problem with drifting is that often it becomes so relaxing that I forget to swim. And when I forget to swim, I sink.

I haven’t sunk, but I have been drifting, off and on, since March. And so I’m embracing St. Benedict’s mantra – always, I begin again. And I will begin again as many times as I need to, over the course of my life. And I will readjust and change and shift and keep myself pointed in the right direction, and I will correct my course if I have to and drift now and then when I’m where I want to be, and if the tide rises, I will rise along with it.

I will face each new beginning with excitement, because each new beginning is a new road to endless opportunities, choices, and adventures.

I can’t always choose which door opens, but I can choose to hold my head high and step through without hesitation to face the new beginning, no matter what it looks like.

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