The Joy Inquiry

What would happen if the news about rejections, bad sales, crappy reviews was simply that: news?

What if I didn’t make it mean anything?

Like…
I’m a bad writer
I’m not successful
I’m not smart enough
I’m not good enough
I can’t do it
I shouldn’t do it
I’ll never be
Respected
Admired
Loved

Holy crap. That’s quite a rabbit hole. But that’s exactly what it feels like when something happens which isn’t a yes. Bam. I am scampering down that rabbit hole, cowering, hiding wishing I could be be better, successful, smarter, etc. You get the idea.

So what would happen if I didn’t go down the rabbit hole? What would happen if that response wasn’t my go to response. What would happen if I could hear publishing events as the facts that they are and leave all my ascriptions of meaning aside? What would happen if the act of writing was simply that: Me writing. Me exploring. Me discovering. Me figuring out the next scene. The next chapter. Without the baggage of: this had better be good enough to turn the tide of publishing and my own self worth.

Yeah. That’s what I’m up to here. Unhooking the old neural pathways of making (positive and negative) meanings out of every little thing that happens around writing and landing in the discovery of me inventing a world on the page.

Yeah…

Joy

I am beginning the year with an inquiry into joy. Specifically joy in my writing.

Last year, the joy  dribbled out of me. Let’s just say some things happened and gradually, writing began to feel like a duty. A have-to. A if-I-don’t, I-won’t-be me-and-I-may-as-well-die feeling. It was terrible. I dreaded sitting down to face the blank page. Too much was riding on the words.

I know a bit about why it was happening and I will get into in later posts. Maybe. But for now, I am announcing my inquiry into joy. What will it be? Showing up here every day for ten to fifteen minutes and connecting with the freedom of writing. For me.

Why here? Where it can be read by anyone? Well, it makes me take the sitting down and doing it a bit more seriously. That’s all.

Have I experienced joy while writing? Yes. Absolutely. I love the experience of creating a character and having them explain their world to me. I love explaining the world to myself. I love revealing self to self and self to other.

Also, a little over two years ago, I fell in love. Slowly and madly. It was delicious. It began by writing. Every day for four months. I couldn’t wait to sit down at the page and share secrets, memories and stories. That was joy. And when I wasn’t at the page, I was writing in my head. That was joy. Every minute at the page (and not) was joy.

At the end of those four months, we kissed.

That was a different kind of joy.

Love

When you’re given a prompt like love or longing, it can get a little esoteric. It works to ground the a big topic in a concrete object. It is way to tell something slant.

The Prompt

Love in terms of a handkerchief.

My father reaches into his pocket and hands me his white handkerchief. It doesn’t come out of his sleeve like a hanky from my grandmother. No, it’s neatly folded, half, then half again, then one more time so it is a 3×3 square. He hadn’t used it. Putting a handkerchief his pocket was part of how he got dressed in the morning. Right before he went out the door. Did his mother or father tell him to do it?
“Bill, you should always have a handkerchief with you.”
“Bill, don’t wipe your nose on your sleeve.”
“Bill, sniffing your nose like that is so impolite. Use. Your. Handkerchief. Blow your nose.”
Who knows? I wasn’t there.

Maybe it was a habit born out of necessity. No Kleenex. Instead, they had these linen or fine cotton squares, folded in the man’s pocket or tucked in a woman’s sleeve. Maybe it was another way for the upper class to distinguish themselves from the drooling and sniveling masses, stained with with dried mucus up and down their sleeves. Again, I wasn’t there.

My father gave me the handkerchief because I was crying. I don’t remember why I was crying at this moment. Boyfriend. School. I really don’t remember. I cried a lot as a teenager. And it made my father uncomfortable. But he always he reached in his pocket and handed me his neatly folded handkerchief. I sobbed into it. Tears. Snot. Mascara. Once, I tried to hand it back to him and he looked at it like, “Ick.”

Then life went on. My tears were shed. My snotty nose was wiped. We didn’t talk much about what caused the upset. It was over. It was in the rearview mirror. He wasn’t phobic about feelings. He came girded with the handkerchief and he quietly let me dissolve into it. But he wasn’t keen on parsing out the beginning, middle or end of an upset. Let’s move on, shall we?

I gripped one of his handkerchiefs at his funeral.

I’ve taken to putting his folded cloth squares in my purse before I go anywhere. Just in case. Someone cries. Or sneezes. Or needs that soft white square.

What I Know Now

I know I have one body.
One body. One planet from which to land and take off.
In the beginning, it feels like we have many bodies.
The infant.
The toddler.
The little kid.
The teenager.
The young woman.
And then somewhere in our thirties, they all begin to merge as one.
One body.
One heart.
One mind.
One garden from which to tend our soul.
Even then, I pushed to do more: motherhood, career, lover, wife, friend.
I want everything.
I want to do all of it with this one body.
I want to feel it all. Yeah.
Except there are limitations.
Iceskating.
There I was with my daughter at the Whole Foods rink in December.
I skated for an hour. I feel confident.  Music is playing.
So I dance. And I fall.
Hard.
People say they heard my head hit the ice. Thud.
Not crack. Thud.
I go to the doctor’s. He looks in my eyes. He tells me what to watch for.
I do not have a concussion.
I do not have a brain bleed.
I am fine.
But I know I will never ice skate again.
I will never risk my one body, my one brain on the ice again.
A few years later. I ask for a jump rope for Christmas.
I take the rope to the Y. I jump. My feet hurt.
No, they ache.
The cartiledge in my feet is gone. I can’t jump rope anymore.
Do I chafe at these limitations?
Not yet and a little.
I notice them. I note the passing of me.
I notice the closing of different parts of my garden.
But I also celebrate the container.
Sometimes that freedom and immortality of all those different bodies was too much.
Now I tend to this one garden
This smaller plot
More tenderly.

Eyes Closed

 

I’ve never been one to stare at the stars. The ocean. The Mountains. Sunrises. Sunsets. I’m all about them. I gulp them in with my eyes. Stars. Nighttime. Not so much. I don’t know what I’m looking at. It’s like trying to read a book in a different language. Or with glasses that don’t work right. It makes me restless. And frustrated. And pretty soon I close my eyes. It’s nighttime. Why not sleep and let the stars take care of themselves? But here on the eastern edge of Block Island, I look up at the stars. The new moon has set. It’s only stars up there. And the sound of waves on Pebbly Beach. I am tucked in close to his body on the aluminum chaise lounge. It isn’t as though I can read the stars any better. But tonight their indecipherability is a comfort. Life has so many indecipherable moments and relationships and problems. They weigh us down. But not tonight. Tonight they drift up and get lost in the unreadable stories up there. Down here, we rest weightless and insignificant in each other’s arms. It is all that matters.