Sitting in a karate dojo may not be the best writing environment for calling forth the creative spirit. But it’s where I am for the next hour, and time is precious. Nine black belts gather on the bright red and black mat, geared for battle with padded sticks, thick, protective gloves and head gear that rivals any major league baseball catcher’s. Silently, they listen. Quietly, I watch, my fingers clicking the keyboard in opposition to their stick staccato.
I watch the instructor lead the class through drills that require intense hand/eye coordination, quick reflexes, and serious concentration to avoid a beating. “Don’t look away-stare your opponent in the eye,” the teacher directs. My son’s cat-like reflexes make it appear effortless, but I know better. I see what’s going on behind his stare.
I envy his ability to block out all distractions and focus on one seemingly simple act of snapping a stick towards his opponent. He’s not stressed out about the English homework left behind on his desk, or the piano practice he has to do when he gets home. He throws himself into the moment, fully present for the hour of training. I’m having trouble getting in my groove. Distractions abound in this place.
For me, being fully present in my environment is essential for creating, and while I find inspiration in the world around me, today the words come slowly. The train whistle, the beat of the funk music and the chants from the students across the hall challenge my focus and complicate my thoughts. I can’t concentrate. The words swirl. I need silence. Escape.
I could walk to my car-that’s always a quiet, controlled space for me-but that’s not politically correct in the parenting world. I could put in earplugs, but then how would I follow along with the class? Perhaps I should just sit with my notebook, jotting down words, thoughts, and inspiration that comes to mind…
They’ve moved to knife defense now. The instructor carefully tosses directions to his students. Tighter grip. Looser grip. Crowd the upper arm. Don’t let him wiggle out or get his posture back. Nice and smooth. It’s not about bending your arm 90 degrees in the wrong direction.
As I gaze down at my screen, I suddenly realize what I’m doing wrong: I’m bending in the wrong direction. I’m filling my days to the brim, looking for any moment to spill my thoughts. I’m immobilizing myself, keeping a tight grip on all the parts of my day instead of keeping it smooth. I want to capture it all, to not miss a moment. I’m bent over, poorly postured, no wiggle room. I’m not present in my now. I’m the epitome of multi-tasking. I’m the sucker walking down the dark alley, unaware of the danger lurking behind me.
I’m my own worst opponent here. I’m a sure target for being taken down. I have no self-defense.
The drills stop, and the students line up for last words. Today, it’s a motivational quote. Something by Winston Churchill – maybe “Never, never, never give up.” I’m not 100% sure. I’m listening, watching, writing, and only part-way there. Maybe that’s just the quote that comes to mind-my creative muse sending me a message after all, perhaps.
I’d better listen up and learn how to get myself out of this one – before it’s too late.
More life lessons from a 13-year-old.