A Beautiful Obsession


The intuitive’s morality is governed neither by thinking nor by feeling;  he has his own characteristic morality, which consists in a loyalty to his vision and in voluntary submission to its authority. ~Carl Jung, CW 6, para. 613

Every day was Labor Day this summer. Mental labor. Emotional labor.  A labor of love. Labor nonetheless. That’s just the way it is when you’re writing a book. At least for me. I’m exhausted. I’ve been back in Florida for four days, trying to let myself rest. Yesterday was Labor Day. We celebrated our granddaughter’s thirteenth birthday at the beach with our family. Pure pleasure. How can she be thirteen?

Today’s my first day back at work. I’m eager — well maybe anxious is a better word — to get started, but putting it off. It’s time to give you an update. I finished six chapters this summer. Yaayy!!  Only two more to go before the first draft is finished. Almost….. There’s so much more to do.

You spend eight hours a day writing two pages and end up on a great high. But by the time you go to bed you’re worried about the next problem. Plus, You have a deadline. Yes, okay, that’s a year away but there’s so much to be done. And so much you’re not sure of. You go back to it the next morning and realize half of what you wrote yesterday needs to be trashed because it’s empty. Boring. Meaningless. Dry. Too wordy. Whatever. You dread starting over. Find excuses to stall. Force yourself to start.  At the end of the day you feel good again because you know it’s better. Maybe you’ll change it tomorrow. But that’s okay. You’re making progress and that feels wonderful.

You fall asleep quickly, wake up the next day forming sentences, playing with words, choosing this one over that one. You can’t wait to get to your computer because you’ve rewritten the opening lines in your head and don’t want to forget. You think you may have had a dream. What was it…..?  But you can’t remember. All you have are the words you woke up with. The dream is lost. You wish you could recapture it. You think it might have been a good one.

You write down the words before you forget. Izzy nudges your elbow. She needs breakfast and a walk. You throw on some clothes, feed her, take her for a walk, make yourself a quick breakfast. Go back to the computer. The next thing you know it’s four hours later. Time for lunch. You don’t want to stop because you’re on a high again. But the phone rings, or the handyman knocks on the door. Or Izzy wants to go out.

So you do what needs to be done, all the time thinking about the last paragraph. Rehearsing the beginning of the next one. The pressure to get back to work never leaves. You make notes to yourself on your iPhone as you walk through the woods, impatient to return. You feel guilty because you’re not even enjoying Izzy’s delight at running around free, sniffing everything. Oops. She’s finishing a half-eaten, ant-ridden green tomato some critter gnawed on, then dropped. Digestive enzymes will see to them.

You force yourself to stop thinking. Just observe. Breathe. You smile. Gaze at the cloudless pale blue-gray sky. The mountains peeking through the spaces between the trees surrounding this valley nest where you live every summer. Like those Carolina wrens that return every year to the same nest in your porch planter. A yellow leaf spirals to the ground, a fiery flicker of light from the cherry tree that’s struggled all summer. Another tree dying?

You give Izzy a treat and make a lunch and force yourself to sit on the porch in your favorite rocking chair. You worry too much. Push yourself too hard. You need to enjoy the moment. You close your eyes. Slow and deepen your breath. Tell yourself the book will wait. Watch the birds vying for perches at the feeders.

A hummingbird stares at you and flies closer. It hovers a foot away from your face. You hold your breath, afraid to move. It flies lightly past your left ear. You sit still as stone, feeling the gentle breeze from its wings on the back of your neck. Do stones feel the breezes of hummingbird wings? You hear the soft hum in your right ear. She’s circling your head. You want to hold out your hand and invite her to rest, but you know she’ll only fly away. She does anyway. You smile, relish this magic moment. Then you get up, put your dishes away, go back to work.

The next morning you wake up with more words. A dream image flashes past. You let go of the words, close your eyes, breathe. Invite the image back.

Dream #4972. My friend and I have ridden motorcycles to the back of this vast complex of buildings. I’m hiding in the shadows by the back door. I’m trying to disguise myself as an old woman. I have to cover my hair with a cloth and stoop over so they won’t recognize me. The man with me is over on my left, trying to bluff a guard into letting us into the building. I’m afraid they’ll discover we don’t belong here. I think we’re imposters. But my friend convinces them that John Somebody invited us. Somehow, the man lets us in. We wander through. There are others here. Why are they here? Why are we here? I don’t know. I only know I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’ve made it this far. Might as well have a look around until I know what the next step will be.

It’s been like that with my book every day. Joy and angst. Worry and guilt I can’t shake off. Conflicts I don’t know how to resolve. A mission I can’t stop trying to complete. I feel like an imposter. Yet my animus keeps pushing me to do this. I don’t know why. We just have to.

To live oneself means: to be one’s own task. Never say that it is a pleasure to live oneself. It will be no joy but a long suffering, since you must become your own creator. ~Carl Jung, The Red Book, p. 249

It’s a beautiful obsession. Back to work.

Special thanks to Lewis Lafontaine for posting the exact quote on Facebook I needed this morning.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

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14 Responses

  1. Thank you, Jeanie! you have no idea how important it was for me to read this today! The struggle that is so worth it…
    Regards, Doug McGinnis

    1. Hi Doug, I’m so glad this spoke to you. Both quotes just popped up for me this morning too and I was finished before I saw the second one, which, of course, was perfect for what I had described. Yes, it’s a struggle. Yes, it’s worth it. Stay conscious, dear friend.

  2. I have now this minute gotten off a video call from my younger son currently in Belgium – he and his lovely wife are about to go off to Italy and the Amalfi coast. He was saying that while they were in Germany recently he did quite a lot of work, he’s a musician and has composed some new songs. I told him I saw his recent FB post in which he said about his music. He said on our video call that his work is important to him and his vision keeps on changing all the time in terms of what he wants to put out. He said, he can’t compromise. He has to remain true to himself. Now that I’m attending to your blog post Jeannie, Jung’s quote struck me … this is all in the last few minutes –
    Life is always being in the opposites it seems – joy and angst, strange bedfellows but bedfellows they are. Joy in nature, angst about our work, the world, writing – life is strange.
    Your dream is powerful, very imageful. Thank you Jeannie. The photos are lovely too …

    1. I’m chuckling. Why am I not surprised at this lovely synchronicity? You and I just have that quantum level connection. Space and time are irrelevant when that’s in place. These things are always reassuring to me. They tell me that you and I and your son are known and loved by something which is gracing us with this knowing as a ‘reward’ for all the effort we’ve put into the deep inner work we’ve conducted and continue to conduct. It must be so nice to see your son carrying on that tradition! One of the best legacies you could have ever given him.
      Thank you for writing. Blessings on you and your family and the important work we’re all trying to do, each in our own way, to further life’s evolutionary journey to love. Jeanie

      1. Thanks Jeannie – it is so affirming, reassuring, pleasing when such synchronicities happen! It’s a grace when it happens this I know – it’s one of the very few things I do know .. 🙂

  3. Dear Jeanie, What a beautiful, poetic post! Thank you so much for sharing your creative writing process and rich “hiding in the shadows” dream with us. Your radiant words are truly inspirational to this poet who can resonate deeply! For when the work or task (however defined) arises within, I’ve learnt (through much trial and error!) it’s always best to surrender those hours, months, if not years, needed to work on what our soul desires.
    Your new book will be brilliant, I just know it will! This week the story of Ma’at and her feather of truth has found its way to me and is inspiring me to write about the journey of my own heart. Hmm, I shall now be locked away for hours, if not days, until that poem is fleshed out and I can put meat and bones on the body of work that presses down within … knowing if I ignore this beautiful obsession, I will suffer greatly. Love and love, Deborah.

    1. Hello dear Deborah, Thank you so much. For you to use the word ‘poetic’ in relation to my post feels like quite an honor!! You’re right. To do the things you’re meant to do you just have to surrender the hours, months, years to your daimon! But It/She/He can be a very tough taskmaster and sometimes it’s hard to hold your center and keep your balance!!
      You’re so sweet to expect my new book to be brilliant! I’d settle for very good!!
      Ahh, Ma’at. A goddess most necessary, especially in our time, when love is celebrated one day a year on Valentine’s Day and pretty much dismissed the other 364. I look forward to seeing where she takes your next poem! And you.
      Much love to you….from my heart!

  4. A Beautiful Obsession and an exquisite butterfly. You describe the writing process so well, especially when working on a longer piece. I find myself obsessed even with the short pieces, but it’s not the same as living with an unfolding project. A deep bow to you. I’ve had a few dreams lately to help–in one with Vic in the driver’s seat, he backed up and we were in danger of going down a cliff. Get that guy out of the driver’s seat (by that, I mean his Mars energy was big and productive and I loved it, but it could also push him to exhaustion. I need to drive at my own pace and stay on the road.) Last night I dreamed of finding many large Monarch caterpillars outside and bringing them inside to feed them and protect for the fall migration. Soul transformation continues. My Monarch raising and release project is entwined with writing and also with my mother-in-law’s gentle death a few days ago–such a relief and it’s bound to release energy for me once we get past cremation and the other things that need to happen after a death. She had no “things” left and all her money was gone, so that simplifies the last steps. I hope I’ll have a winter with my own Beautiful Obsession. Thanks for inspiration about the needed passion. I love waking up in the middle of the night with the next idea in my head, the one that wouldn’t come the day before. Go, Jeanie!! And take good care of the precious vehicle needed to get you there. Keep it on the road.

    1. Thanks, Elaine. I’ve been thinking of you and sending you many thoughts of love and peace since I heard Vic’s mom died. I’m so glad to know her passing was easy and peaceful. For both of you. My mother’s was too. It made me feel very comfortable with the idea of death. I’ve loved hearing about your beautiful obsession with the Monarchs. It seems synchronistic that their transitions have coincided with Virginia’s. Wishing you a huge release of energy for your next project.
      Like you, I need to go my own pace and stay on the road when I’m writing…usually for hours at a time. I hate to lose my momentum! The dreams have been far and few between this summer, but the liminal space between sleeping and waking has been very rich and helpful.
      Thanks for the encouragement. Back at you: Go, Elaine! Write that piece that’s been simmering around waiting for the right time. I suspect it may be just around the corner. Jeanie

  5. Thank you, Jean, for sharing the focus, energy, passion, exhaustion and ‘drive’ as you travel this amazing journey. The encouragement for so many of us is beyond words. Go well,
    With gratefulness.

    1. Your affirmation and encouragement mean very much to me, Catherine. Thank you for your unflagging kindness and good wishes. Blessings on your journey, Jeanie

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