Another lockdown. I wake in a spin. Half-heart, half-headless chicken, I beat myself against these morning pages, trying to figure out what to do – what to do – what to do.
At the end of a long and much-needed break from the university, I throw myself back into my teaching, full of big plans that I hope – I want – will make a difference to anxious students who feel let down by life. A new year, but January throws me headlong back into old fears and feelings – what is happening – what will happen – what should I be doing to help others to cope? And how will I cope myself?
Where do you put your fear? I believe that writing can help. Finding a container for our thoughts and feelings – to document them, record them, bear witness to them – can hold them for us as well as separate them from us, to give us some distance between ourselves and these thoughts and feelings. Once written, we can turn the page, find a new clean place and to keep going, to write beyond the churn and loop of questions and concerns. My own morning pages confirm the desire – the need – to offer that practice, somehow – here and to my students.
I have been tinkering with a morning pages workbook, and this third lockdown convinces me that it is more essential than ever. Fear works on our minds and bodies in a number of ways: we freeze, we stick, we want to run. I work with bright, young writers of all ages – and their fear is palpable. They’re afraid they’re missing opportunities and running out of time; they’re afraid their learning is being compromised. And while I seek to reassure them that their engagement need not change, even though the delivery system has, I can feel their disappointment and their disaffection.
I want to fix everything – but all I have are words. I can write my own to them, full of support and encouragement for their upcoming assessments; I can listen to theirs and seek to understand. And I can urge them to offer their own words up, to place their fears in their own containers – as well as one I’ll hold for them. Most of my ideas come through morning pages, and in today’s, I realise I want to create an anthology of student writing – Lockdown Pages, for lack of better words. I am so busy – we are all so busy – but I plan to pitch it as a project to my students on Monday: wish me luck.