I was startled awake in the pre-dawn hours by a loud crashing sound.
"What was that?" I shot up in bed.
"It's Miles. He's rummaging around in the office," answered Micah. He lay in bed in a state of defiance.
I ran to the office and turned on the light.
Our cat Miles had knocked one of our succulents off the top shelf of the desk. The pot broke open in volcanic fashion leaving a pile of dirt and a limp, uprooted succulent. I looked in horror at the broken pieces of red clay, remnants of a keepsake from a trip to Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota's Black Hills. The leaflet that came with the piece of pottery said the red clay is sacred. Nothing is sacred with cats around.
His black and white tuxedo face peeked around the corner. Things had not gone according to plan. Miles' original plan (which had been successfully implemented the morning before, and so many others before that) was to take a bite of the succulent, induce vomiting, and watch as his comatose humans crawled out of bed to clean-up the bile. And, once awake, feed him his breakfast. He is an evil genius.
After Miles was fed, we took everything out of the drawers to vacuum out the dirt that had fallen through a crack in the desk. Micah emptied the contents of a drawer: pads of paper, colored pencils, Smencils (root beer, cinnamon, bubble gum, and orange, because who doesn't love an aromatic pencil every now and then?), and a mini Buddha Board.
"Hey, just think, three years ago I bought this for you to help silence your inner critic and now you have a finished manuscript!"
I glanced at the Buddha Board and forced out a grumble. His affirmation sounded more like a painful accounting of how slow I am. Three years? What the hell took me so long? I've become obsessed with the measure of time: three months to finish a book proposal, two years to write a manuscript, and an eternity to build a platform. It feels like a colossal waste of time.
The Buddha Board did not silence my inner critic. It's very much alive; slowing me down, taking the form of procrastination, and thrusting me into periods of creative paralysis. "It boils and bubbles. And without knowing it, quietly and cruelly, [s]he begins to sabotage [her] success, because success cannot be borne. It is so very easily done," writes Helen Macdonald in her memoir H Is for Hawk. Quietly and cruelly, minute by minute, one begins to measure what hasn't been accomplished instead of what has. To keep a record of all that hasn't worked and might go wrong, instead of all that has gloriously and miraculously succeeded.
The Buddha Board did not silence my inner critic, but it has reminded me how living in the present moment is redemptive. Living in the present frees me from my merciless inventory. Whatever I have or have not accomplished, this moment is all that matters. The one where I am sitting at the kitchen table, writing on my laptop, as snow blows across the back patio and the space heater moves warm air in my direction, and Miles sits at my feet begging to be fed. In this moment, I am writing and the possibilities are infinite.