A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire…
On Repetition (& Breaking It)
I exercise at the YMCA, where each bike has its own TV. I’d avoid this unnecessary extravagance except it turns on when I pedal, so I end up with an eye on the television and an ear in my audio book. This odd juxtaposition is how I find myself on a recent trip to the gym listening to the heartfelt words of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being and watching a silent, red-lipped Taylor Swift sing her ballad du jour.
What I see are legs in pantyhose. Legs in pantyhose jumping, legs in pantyhose twirling. What I hear is Kundera’s prose on the transitory nature of our existence. ‘The whole of man’s plight,” says Kundera, is that “human time does not turn in a circle; it runs ahead in a straight line. That is why man cannot be happy: happiness is the longing for repetition.”
I do not agree with Kundera that we cannot be happy. However, I do buy into the longing for repetition; it is why I write every day. This writing ritual is painful when the words won’t flow, but it is also safe. There is comfort in its consistency.
The real pain is in stepping outside my comfort zone—where I dwell in the past and wrap myself in dreams of the future—into the unknown fluid hemisphere of creation, of newness, of the present. It’s strange how the basic virtue of enjoying the present moment, a pleasure that even a small child can grasp, must be explained to us again as adults. We forget the significance and simple happiness derived in repeating the joys that once came naturally to us, of grabbing our mother’s red lipstick and smearing it on our mouths.
I am thirty-five years old, and I still haven’t figured out how to wear red lipstick. At that thought, I follow an impulse to pause my audio book and transfer my ear buds to the television. I am surprised to discover I love this song. Giddy with the energetic beat of it, I pedal faster, glancing sideways to be sure no one sees me use the device I publicly dismissed as gratuitous just moments ago.
When I hop off the bike, I head to CVS, where I purchase a tube of red lipstick. I go home and try it on, feeling ridiculous at its brightness but heading out to pick up my daughter from school. The pick-up area of her school is where I am guaranteed to have the same five conversations always, so I am pleasantly shocked to discover my look provides new roads of dialogue to travel. On the walk home, I stop the girls several times to pull out my notebook and jot ideas for how to move forward an essay I’ve been stuck on for months.
My first grader finally becomes frustrated from having to stop again and asks, “What are you writing, Mommy?”
“A thank you note to Taylor Swift,” I reply.
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