It’s funny– not ha-ha funny– how fast inspiration can wane. How quickly the grind of life can sweep you up and pull you off track. How, perhaps, priorities shift from grand master plans to socializing and getting the laundry done. It seems that I get these colossal ideas, these moments or even days of what seems like clarity about the path I need to take, only to slip back into the mundane. The stuck even. But, I suppose that they say if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. Still, we must have a vision, right?
So, several weeks ago, I was visiting some friends in DC and wrote the following:
For the past three days, I have been visiting some friends in DC that I haven’t seen in over ten years. For this couple, it has been a few moves, a few jobs, and four beautiful children later. For me, it has been a few moves, one job, one child, a divorce, and a difficult journey to sobering up. I am always amazed with those friendships that you can just pick right back up. Those people that have touched your life but you have fallen out of regular contact with, and after all those years and all of that silence, somehow still love you. And, you them.
I am also amazed at those people who seem to have lived a normal, fulfilling– perhaps sometimes challenging, perhaps sometimes stressful– healthy life. This couple has, for all intents and purposes, lived that very life. The bumps seem to have been those standard variety bumps, and the triumphs seem to have left the bumps in their dust. So, after an evening in which they asked questions about my last ten years (the last time they saw me was at my 2005 wedding), and I had tried to succinctly explain a decade’s worth of joys and hurdles in addition to my current dilemmas, I woke up the next morning with the sense that I am completely abnormal.
Of course, because of their love and their nonjudgmental nature, I didn’t really feel that jolt of self-loathing that used to shake my very foundation, but I did become wildly conscious about the fact that our paths looked extremely different and that my impulse gel nails (the worst impulse purchase I have ever made) were much more gaudy (and damn, they felt gaudy already) than I had previously thought. With my crazy tales and failed ventures and tattoos and the explosion that is the interior of my car, I felt a little like a late teen still trying to make sense of her identity. I wasn’t embarrassed exactly, but I was acutely aware.
Still, despite the different twists and turns that our lives had taken, we slipped into this my-house-is-your-house comfortability and respect and delved into honest conversation that felt both fresh and much like the seventeen year gap since college had never occurred. And, they have been the loveliest of hosts. Since they met in Germany (She is German. He is American with a German soul.), their house is all manner of Euro-trendy and they are always serving up coffee brewed in a french press and sliced fresh mangos and bagels with soy butter and they have this amazing, powerful German dishwasher that I didn’t use because they did all of the dishes and I just sat there soaking up their hospitality while our children played together like little angels. (Although I visited her in Germany many years ago, I don’t really know if any of that is indicative of being German, but I like to imagine that it very Germanic indeed!)
I regret that this is our last night here.
While the vegetarian curry was beyond tasty and the personalized tour of museum and monument spectacular, I am walking away with more than a full belly and a host of tourist memories. I am walking away on an altered path both clear and inspired. Perhaps I am being a bit dramatic, but I don’t really think so. I know that when I cut through the previously unidentified insecurities about being horribly childish and low brow and I started to really listen, the synapses started firing. I also know mailing them a thank you gift wouldn’t even begin to cut through the gift of inspiration that they have given me.
And, that’s where I stopped writing. Just before I expounded upon what that gift of inspiration entailed. Ironic? I think not. I think it is telling that I discontinued writing before I spilled the guts of my dreams. Upon returning home, I did nothing to satisfy those inspirational nuggets and instead went about the daily business of keeping a schedule that is far too full. In DC, I thought that my writing goals had direction and that my financial insecurities and issues might be close to solved. Pshaw! But, one can choose to start over at any given time. I just need to muster the gumption to start over.
During my stay with my trendy, kind-hearted friends, I stayed up late one night with the man of the house discussing my goals as a writer. “I just wanna do something with it,” I said. We talked about the possibility of me going back school, this dream of a writing and healing center that I want to one day open up, and just how to get my voice out into the big, wide world. We also talked about a budget which resulted in him giving me a print out of my finances and how I could save more than a few dollars each month. (This friend counts every penny, discovering new ways to cut back each day. He knows how much gas he conserves if he shifts his car into neutral while coasting down mountains with the windows only partly down to enhance aerodynamic flow.)
Anyhow, we concluded that I have talent—however raw—and that going back to school might be a waste of time and money. “Put that time and money into writing,” he said. We discussed blogging and the possible creation of a new blog that is entirely anonymous so that I may write in greater detail. We brainstormed potential methods of self-promotion and what my core audience might look like. Then we decided that I would have to start writing several posts each week, perhaps stockpiling them before “publishing” them on the vast World Wide Web and how, eventually, if I played my cards right, I might be able to publish a book and make some spending money.
It was as if I was on fire.
Then, home again, home again jiggety-jig and I’ve written absolutely nothing. I’ve also saved not a single penny. I did start reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life in which she very honestly relays the truth that publication and monetary writing success is both unlikely and not as fulfilling as one might believe. She described the disappointment that her students face when they hear this, and I knew that my heart was sinking as well.
Yet, I must look at the bright side. I was reminded recently when I said something to the I-wanna-be-somebody effect that I already was somebody. As one of my goals is to help people with my writing, or as Macklemore puts it in the song Can’t Hold Us “We give that to the people, spread it across the country”, I probably need to acknowledge that I need not be famous or have a grand readership to touch or inspire folks. Perhaps, I am already achieving my goals without even being conscious of it. One friend of mine, for instance, shared this very blog with a family member who was sobering up. I was given the feedback that I had described her feelings and fears rather accurately and that she found some solace in these digital pages. That should be enough. But, in my greedy soul, is it enough?
Still, if writing is my passion, then I need to make time for it. I need to find the inspiration on that vacation night of fire and make my passion my priority. Why do we humans often stray from what we know is good for us? Why do I eat chocolate cake when I am trying to eat healthy and lose a few pounds? Why do I nap instead of exercise when I know it will only make me groggy and irritable? Why don’t I find the discipline to engage in regular meditation? Hell if I know. I pray that I am not just inherently lazy. I read on Facebook a quote by Paulo Coehlo: “Never allow waiting to become a habit. Live your dreams and take risks. Life is happening now.” What am I waiting for? We, as it is said, should never die with our song still inside of us.
My song, I believe is my story—either in direct recount or masked in short stories like the one I wrote about the girl who felt angst and shame and was trapped inside her own false belief systems. My song is my word. My song is, literally, letters strung together to make words strung together to make creative sense on the page. How do I hold on to that night on the German couch brainstorming ways to capture my heart’s desires? I imagine it is all tied up in discipline. And, unfortunately, something will have to give be it social time or mopping. (Not that I mop that often anyway.) We must stop waiting and waiting and schedule time for what we know is good for us. I know that I have heard time and again when someone says that they don’t have the time that all they need to do is make the time.
My son has a friend over as I type. While they entertain themselves downstairs, while they are comfortable and safe, I type upstairs. It is making the most of every moment. It is carving out the space and balancing, with grace and determination, on the beam. As many times is the case, writing this alone has helped me to gain perspective, has reminded me of what I already know, and has secured, again, the belief that “everything I need is already inside of me.” All I have to do is access it. All I have to do is try.