What is within my control

I’ve talked about drawing circles and writing down what’s within my control before. It’s an exercise I did at the start of the academic year, and I haven’t revisited recently because I feel like I’ve either been caught up in taking steps towards my goals, or I’ve been having to rapidly adapt to the new reality of online teaching for the rest of the semester.

I question whether the goals I set for myself are still worth pursuing. I can tell myself they are, or that at least my perception of their utility matters more than I give it credit for. But I’m also not convinced that that’s actually the case.

I know I need to make new circles. I know that I’ll have to think seriously about what the new reality will be after all this. (There will be no after, only different.) But sometimes that task is so daunting that it only induces anxiety, which isn’t conducive to being productive. (And anyway, what the hell does productive mean, right now?)

What I have been doing lately: grading the work that my students turned in before the switch to online classes; writing poems and short stories because I still feel that impulse, even if none of what I produce is seen by another soul; attending my virtual lectures for classes; thinking about tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

For the third time in four years, I bring up this quotation from Molly Crabapple:

Art can’t save you from pain, but the discipline of hard work can drag you through it.

Molly Crabapple, Drawing Blood

There have been so many ways that this idea has come up in my life, in the classes I teach, in the things that I gravitate towards. It’s not the product that matters, but the process. It’s not the commodity, but the creativity that gets expressed. It’s not about having a haven to escape to, but having the ability to create that haven, even if it exists in the mind and not in a material reality. This whole pandemic is pain, and for so many people, art is dragging them through.

What’s been dragging you through this pandemic? I’d love more things to explore.


Header image from Pixabay.

Published by Caroliena Cabada

Caroliena Cabada is a graduate student at Iowa State University pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing and Environment. Her writing has been published in online and print journals, and she's currently at work on a collection of short stories.

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