Bukowski and Zen: a Calling

“What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.” – Charles Bukowski

On the eve of my 21st birthday, I was sitting alone on an apartment stoop trying to work through the mind-bending task of completing a poetry portfolio that was probably due the next day.  A dearest of dear friend, the kind that would show up with groceries when you ran out of fundage, appeared on the stoop in his traditional black garb and attempted to coax me (as it was almost midnight) to hit the bars for my first legal drink.  When I refused him to work on my portfolio, he told me to bring the damn thing along because we were “going to kick it Bukowski style.”

So, we went to a popular Irish pub and kicked back with some Jameson and I stumbled home laughing and inspired only to (I’m sure) turn in my portfolio late.  Luckily the professors in our esteemed Creative Writing Department were so used to my shenanigans and so loved me (of course!) that they let my tardy slide… again.

Still, my friend’s Bukowski plea is emblazoned in my memory—not only because of Post Office and Ham on Rye and Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit—No! but because of the fact that my friend knew me so well that he knew the Bukowski line would peel me off the concrete step (oh, yeah, he had to twist my arm) and because of the immense spirit of it all.  The haphazard, the creative promise, the fun.

While my Bukowski Days are over (are they really?), the spirit still rings true.  Right now, while not at a bar, while not incapacitated (or even tipsy I might add), while not seducing or being seduced (oh, damn…), I am so amped up and inspired that I cannot sleep.  I’ll work on this, dabble with some short fiction, and eventually drift off to sleep.

So, what’s this to do with walking through fire?

I believe, sincerely, that all this practice with words, with, if nothing else, my gift of inspiration is strengthening my voice.  And my voice, I believe, is my calling.  And, if it is my calling, then I will do something big with it.  And, if I do something big with it, it will impact the lives of others as all of our voices inevitably do.

So, fire?

I feel like I am, especially recently, being called to give voice to some of the more difficult experiences of women (and possibly men) in the world of connection and relationship and intimacy.  (Hence, perhaps, all of those depressing dysfunctional love stories.  See, they may serve a purpose yet!)

Let me give you an example with no fear of appearing weak:  I, from the ages of 18-20, walked through the fire of a physically abusive relationship.  I know what it is like, for lack of a gentler way to say it, to be grasped violently around the neck and to be kicked to bruise and blood.  I also know what it’s like to see your battered image in the mirror and find within you the strength to say “this is not me, this is not me, enough!”  So then I also know what it is like to tear yourself from the seemingly invincible grip of that relationship and walk away and become a really strong, hip, fantastic, lovable woman.  (Not that I wasn’t those things already…)

I don’t know, dear reader, if that is difficult for you to hear.  I don’t know how that reflects upon me.  But, I feel, right now, that I must shed that light here.  I am a battered woman and also a survivor.  What a gift!

So, another dear (can I use that word enough tonight?) friend recently shared with me the Zen proverb “The obstacle is the path.”  This, as I believe that my traumas and tribulations are gifts, seems to hold special meaning for me right now, seems to hold true.  My struggles have done nothing but give me perspective and I am finally starting to reflect enough to see how, with my talents, I may be able to shed light, give voice, at least respond to these dark chapters in the (collective?) female experience.  Being codependent and in a sick relationship was an obstacle but was also my path—what matters most is how I walked, and continue to walk, through that fire.

So, I have some full circle from “Bar Fly” to the self-proclaimed articulator for the trials of women everywhere. But, I am compelled to share this right now if only to make real what is in my heart.  If only to challenge myself to use my abilities for a deeper purpose.

I hope to flesh out some of my ideas here, though I don’t know exactly what this quest (is that the word?) will look like yet.  I don’t know when or how I will be using my gifts, but I am certain, a deep down certain, that I will.  This is all part of the transformation.  All part of the healthy spring.

So, it is 1:30AM and I’m going to kick it to bed.  And, maybe, I will dream about Jameson and writing and healing and fire…




1 Comment

  1. Melisa said,

    March 31, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    This is one of the best. A preface to a book.

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