Somewhere (I really should start writing these things down) I read that it is an act of power and self-protection - an act of strength - for an introverted person to insist on a moment to think before answering. Think before speaking. Think before responding. Wait. Think. This made sense to me. I have seen children do this, and I have seen their adults get very impatient. "Well? Well? What do you have to say for yourself?"
I have realized lately that this moment to think is something I have been surreptitiously carving out for myself for about three decades. Childhood's "Well? Well?" rings in my ears. It's not that I haven't had these periods of thoughtfulness - I have had them. But I've stolen them like apples at the edge of an orchard, taken when the owner's back was turned. I did not think the juicy refreshment was rightfully mine. I repress the guilt - or I confess it, depending on the moment - and on how much the pleasure bothers me.
Enjoying it seemed worse somehow. I mean, it is, right? There you are. Caught. Chucking the apple away isn't much use if the juice is dripping off your chin and the joy of it is still in your eyes.
Now, for me, there has been one bright and shining exception to the guilt. Yesterday I figured out that I have never had one moment's hesitation if I was choosing an apple - preserving the Moment of sovereign contemplation - of quiet and openness - for Someone Else. "What should I do?" the Someone asks. "Do you like it?" "What do you think?" Respond. Validate. Give me some feedback. Now. If I rush to an answer for Someone Else, if I pay no attention to the importance of the Moment, I always regret it. Much better to wait and study it. Wait and choose. Let go of clever. Breathe into calm. For Someone Else - especially if Someone Else is a child - I know how to do that.
But not for me. Stealing cannot be justified if it's only for me. That's what I've thought.
Writers everywhere and for all time, and most other artists too, have defiantly declared themselves to be a selfish lot. They admit to being thieves - they steal the apples simply because they must. It's apples or starvation for writers. Write or wither. I'm sorry. I'm sorry, they say. But it cannot be helped. I must have these Moments. I will die unless I pick them - juicy or dry, large enough for ebb and flow and small enough for silence, I must have these Moments.
In the summer of 2010, I will be fifty years old. In half a century of life on this earth, I may have finally figured out that defiance is and has been utterly unnecessary. Silly, even. I have discovered that the apples are mine - and they also belong to anyone else who wants them. The owner doesn't mind if I wait and study - if we wait and study. The owner doesn't mind if I breathe a minute and choose - if you breathe a minute and choose. The owner has given us blanket permission to glean from this orchard whenever we want to. And it doesn't even have to be for Someone Else. No justification is required. Permission has been given.
So turn a deaf ear to anyone who yells at you from across the road. That - over there - where they are busy, busy, busy ... and noisy, noisy, noisy ... doing all the work of commerce, and trade, and bargaining, and buying, and selling (and often posturing and approving of postures) - you need to cross the road and join them when you want dinner. Or fresh paper and paint. You need those people, and they need you. You are supposed to love them - not beat them or join them. Your job is choosing and picking and tasting the apples. The noise they make has nothing to do with you. Don't be distracted by it. Breathe. And choose. And create your art in your Moment. You have permission. And so do I.