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Trips, sicknesses, and other hub-bubs can fray healthy habits we weave. I find changes in routine to be invigorating, but they can also scatter my focus.


When we journeyed to visit my husband’s family in Italy this Christmas, I promised to stay in touch with my memoir.


The trip was so full of agony and ecstasy that at first I didn’t have time. So I made charts to do pages each day. Some days I skipped, but usually I made it up to myself.


As spartan as my practice was, it was enough to prevent the usual post-vacation tug-of-war: should I or shouldn’t I take up my work again? Jet-lagged and a little sick, I woke up early the day we returned and started writing. Because the connection was still there — even if barely — I kept going.


However, the biggest challenge was yet to come. The scratchy throat I felt on the plane turned out to be Covid-19. Although I was never terribly sick, I needed to slow down, do less, and rest more.


I slept late. I wrote only 15 minutes before children started bumping down the stairs. Some days I didn’t even think about the memoir. My 5 a.m. creativity habit was hanging on by a thread.


In the past, I would have quit in shame and then drown myself in housework and other people’s needs. It would have taken months for me to start again, if I did at all.


The Indian sage Swami Vivekananda once said, “Our first duty is not to hate ourselves.” How exactly is this done? For me it’s been a lifelong process that I can best describe as learning to be my own mother.


I live in a patriarchal society. The father figure inside me (not my real father who supports me) would have disapproved of my scrawny output. He would have ripped the feeble thread in a fit of rage.


But the inner mother knows the child will naturally return to growing. The mother knows there are times of sickness and times of health, times of progress and times of decay. She knows that devotion can thin to a string, and when it does, she steps in to protect, to nurture, and encourage.


Little by little this is how we maintain the thread that keeps our soul’s work alive.