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  • Earlene Gleisner

One Foot in Front of the Other

I have been unsettled by the fact that life is still bouncing between one concern or another, that is until I decided to grab on. I went back to my basic and forever passion, writing. I determined that if I just wrote for ten minutes a day, I would feel like I accomplished an action that I love, and that perhaps I would feel better. So, I did. Just ten minutes turned into 30 then 60 on one day, and two hours on another. I have now gathered twenty short-short stories, five poems, three memoir entries, and seven scenes for my third novel. Sometimes I write stuff I never want to see again and sometimes I do not. The practice has been the framework I needed.

Putting words on paper whether they make sense or not has shown me I can accomplish an action. Then, I feel more like tackling just one chore. Cleaning a corner of my office, I found myself doing one thing at a time. One paper needed to be filed in the ‘To Try’ folder in the kitchen, so I immediately did just that. Wala! The chore was done. I did the next thing until my office corner was cleared.

I reminded myself of the laundry sorters at Stockton State Mental Hospital in 1966 where I was in psychiatric training as a student nurse. We lived in the attic above the Acute Women’s Ward. It was a huge facility at the time, housing all levels of mental impairments, a convalescent hospital, and various degrees of Mentally and Physically Challenged individuals (although that term was not used at the time.) Those who were mobile and could be trained to recognize one piece of laundry were given the task to find that piece in the tall pile of dirties and take it to the appropriate bin for washing. I was heartbroken when I saw these earnest individuals doing this work. A supervisor commented that each one of them felt they were doing the most important thing in the world. They were dedicated to this job and, he said, “They are calmer when they accomplish this single task.”

This practice, of course was abolished, but I will never forget that sight and those words. And today, as I carried that printed recipe, I admit, I felt purposeful and calm and good about myself that I had completed that one task.

I am seeing that it works. One story or poem written, one duty done, and my world is taking on a new shape with more energy and resolution.

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