Today is an I am the Universe day.
I woke to a perfect blue-gold morning. It peaked around the sequoias in my yard to slip through the bedroom window. Last night I stayed up late, riding a strange rush of energy that allowed me to finally cross a few task off my to-do list. But in spite of the late hours, I woke feeling energized for the first time in days.
Lately I’ve been overwhelmed. So what else is new, right? My eyes are always bigger than my stomach when it comes to what I think I can devour in any given day. But during landscaping season, the feeling is particularly pronounced, because the nature of the work is so physically draining. And when I’m tired, my brain stops working. I can keep on shoveling compost like the Energizer bunny, but don’t expect me to be able to design a drip system. Writing, naturally, is completely out. Basic words elude me. The idea of stringing several thoughts together is enough to make me whine like a sleep-deprived two-year-old. Hence, I tend to do my landscaping in the summer and my writing in the winter. But this year I’ve been attempting to do it all.
Screenwriter/playwright Cynthia Whitcomb talks about the Cycle of Creativity. In it she describes three parts. Brahma is the lightening strike of inspiration that sparks your story ideas. Vishnu is the period of work, when your inspiration drives you to complete your goals. Shiva is the time of rest, of doing nothing. In America we value Brahma and Vishnu, but tend to negate Shiva. Yet we need this time of stillness to recharge our batteries so we can get that spark of inspiration for the next cycle.
In my own life, I’ve found that summer is my Shiva. Sure, I’m doing physical labor, but I’m giving my mind a break. For me, writing is a Yin experience. It’s almost meditative. I can force myself to do it on the fly, but it’s difficult, unpleasant, and generally uninspired. My landscaping, on the other hand, is very Yang. It’s a welcome relief after a winter spent expending mental energy. I’ve been beating myself up for not being able (or willing) to come home from a day of slinging compost to crank out a chapter. But my friend Barb told me yesterday that it’s perfectly okay for me to write in the winter and landscape in the summer. That’s my cycle.
So what exactly is an I am the Universe day? Several years ago I read a book by children’s author Barbara Corcoran titled I am the Universe. In it, the protagonist’s 8-year-old brother, who’s a genius, proclaims that he is the universe, and that everyone else is, too. That idea really resonated with me. I liked the thought that we are all part of everything, and everything is part of us. How empowering. How reassuring. How grounding.
Back when I was racing stock cars and would be lined up before my event—heart rate rivaling the RPMs of the car’s engine—I’d focus on the horizon and chant to myself, I am the universe. It always calmed me. But the phrase isn’t just a meditative mantra. It’s also a song of celebration, an expression of gratitude. I often find myself caught up in the splendor of a particularly stunning sunny day, feeling that kid-like, Christmas-morning delight over being granted yet another summer. And on days like this, those words come whispering back, I am the universe. Guess what? You are, too.