Remember last Saturday? Back when we were seriously concerned, but could still buy pasta and milk at the supermarket? Back then, I was relatively unfazed.
On March 14, a blanket of toxic fog erupted from all sides of our decrepit station wagon, and the world around me disappeared. I steered toward what I hoped was the side of the road to call the spouse. “The wagon died,” I said, in exactly the same way I would have said, “It’s March fourteenth,” or “We need more broccoli.”
Back then, I was still in shock.
I’d already had the kids home for over a week, and though I knew I’d have them home for three more, that seemed doable.
“Maybe we can have a quiet little spring break in Tahoe,” I thought. But then we were ordered to “shelter in place.”
“Now I’ll have plenty of time to find more work,” I thought. And then the economy tanked.
“Okay. This is a great opportunity to reconnect as a family,” I thought. But then the governor announced that schools may remainclosed through the summer—which seems less like reconnecting and more like the tenth circle of hell.
“All right. I can catch up on some house projects I’ve been avoiding, like staining the handrail to the basement…” By that point, I’d downgraded from Hopeful to Resigned, but I was still looking for silver linings. “Maybe we can find some cool art or yoga online…or something.”
BUT THEN, THE WASHING MACHINE BROKE DOWN.
Though embarrassing to admit, that’s the moment when the enormity of the current public health crisis hit me full force. While I’ve been following the news and the new rules, I’ve been operating as if I were gathering information for an ethnographic study: “Wow. Look at how people are behaving during this moment of historical significance.” It just didn’t feel real.
But now? Now I’d like to curl up in a corner and sob into a gigantic glass of wine. Someone please crank up my dosage of memes, adorable animals, and McSweeney’s.
*Thanks to Ellen Schatz for the post title and for being smart and funny even while the world is falling apart.
I have never parked in a disabled parking space, but I have looked longingly at the empty ones. They are always so tantalizingly convenient–right by the front door of wherever I need to go. I have caught myself wondering why places like Safeway and Home Depot have set aside two, four, or even six spaces, when they often sit there unused. Just look at all that prime parking real estate!
Hey, I think. I’ve been circling for eons and I’m in a ginormous hurry. Or, I grumble about what a pain in the ass it will be to lug the crate of water/shop-vac/propane tank to or from the car. Life would be so much easier if I could just park in one of those geographically desirable spots.Thoughts like these may be accompanied by a twinge of something inappropriate, too–jealousy? resentment? Hopefully not “going to hell”-sized bad feelings, but enough to make me feel a little ashamed.
Likewise, I’m no tri-athlete, but I have occasionally rolled my eyes at the slow movers of the world. The I-need-a-scooter-to-meander-through-Target types, the ten minutes in the crosswalk folks. You know. Those people.
Then, six weeks ago, I leapt off a rock and significantly altered my worldview. I felt a horrible rip and shock in midair, knowing before I landed that the next 24 hours would be spent lying on top of a bag of frozen peas–instead of hiking and frolicking in paradise as I had planned. So much for my trip to Wilson’s Promontory.
It was time to drag my torn calf muscle home. Stubbornly refusing a wheelchair at the airport, declining the boot from the doctor, and hiding my crutches in the hall closet, I started to wonder what my problem was. Weeks passed before it dawned on me: I don’t want to admit that I’m middle aged, let alone mortal. And now that I’ve got the gait of a pirate crossed with a slug, there is visual evidence that both are true. In the frenzied ebb and flow of urban life, I am a visual thorn, causing people to stare before rushing past.
Walking into a store the other day, I heard the greeter say, “How’re you doing today?” Before I could answer he added, “Oh, my.” He grimaced. “Want a cart to lean on?”
No, I don’t want a cart to lean on. I want a new friggin’ leg. This one sucks.
At the crosswalk, people wave for me to cross…then scowl as they realize how long they will have to sit there. At the store, on the street– everywhere I go–I’m the one making you all wait, and I can tell I’m driving you crazy.
Shoot, I’m driving myself crazy. Everything I do takes three times as long as it used to, so I’m doing less and less. Forget something upstairs/in the car/at the store? Oh, well. Can’t find my phone? Make calls later. No shoes handy? Drive carpool in slippers. I make decisions based on how long I might have to stand or how far I will have to walk. If I need milk, I go to the market with the dairy closest to the door. If parking’s tough, I go early and circle like a hawk. And you should see the strategies I’ve adopted for unloading the dishwasher. Thank goodness I work at home, so I can ice and elevate whenever I need to. Theoretically, anyway. Sometimes the freezer just feels too far away.
After my daughter’s piano recital last week, I had to walk from the performance space to the reception. Noticing a couple behind me, I lurched to the side. “Go ahead,” I offered. “I’m terribly slow.” “Not to worry,” the man replied warmly. “We have issues, too.” I saw, then, that his wife had a pronounced limp. We exchanged smiles and hobbled along together for a while–not talking; just understanding. It was a relief to know that at least these two people would not get annoyed or leave me behind.
The past six weeks have felt like an eternity. Despite my frustration, however, I need to keep in mind that while I will start physical therapy next week, some people may never be able to run around. I’m fortunate and I know it, and this injury has given me a lot to think about. What’s been my hurry, anyway? In a hundred years, will anyone care that I had to wait an extra 15 seconds for someone to cross the street or get into their car? I won’t. I’ll be six feet under.
There. I’ve admitted it. I’m mortal.
So, if you need a little more time in the crosswalk, that’s ok by me. I have nothing but empathy for the slow folks out there these days. And don’t worry; I won’t be encroaching on any of those disabled parking spots until biology dictates I must. With any luck, I’ll be getting older and slower someday, so prepare yourself. I’ll be needing your patience and understanding.
In honor of the upcoming holiday, I wanted to take a moment to think about gratitude.
If that sentence gave you the heebie jeebies, join the club. For some unknown reason, I have a deep-seated repulsion for Chicken Soup-y type aphorisms and daily meditations.
Perhaps it is accentuated by the cliché art and bad fonts which typically accompany such things.
Don’t get me wrong. I love sunsets. In fact, I would be thrilled to be present for the moment depicted above. But what’s great about the setting sun over the lake is definitely not the cloying overscript on a two-dimensional reproduction.
Moreover, just because I won’t hang that poster doesn’t mean I have a beef with fostering gratitude. On the contrary! Gratitude is essential. I’m working on this often, striving to be a better person, and I certainly don’t want my kids to grow up to be selfish brutes. So…presenting…
A brief discussion of gratitude in a sans serif style.
Semi-recent articles in the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, the Atlantic Monthly, and Family Circle once again outline that teaching gratitude to your kids is important. Do it.
Why? Fostering gratitude doesn’t just make more tolerable people; it makes happier people. Jeffrey Froh (PsyD) did a study with middle schoolers. He asked one group to list up to five things for which they were grateful everyday for two weeks. Another group listed hassles, and the last group filled out surveys. The first group showed a marked jump in optimism and overall well-being that extended for a while, even after the study was completed. Those students also had a more positive attitude about school in general. Feeling grateful boosts happiness, gives people better perspective in life, and improves relationships at home, school, and work.
To sum up what I’ve learned…most experts recommend:
Model gratitude. Big surprise. Thank your kids. Thank your significant other. Thank friends, cashiers, relatives, teachers, baristas, maybe even the DMV clerk. After all, it must be a sucky job.
Give positive reinforcement. Even just “hey, thanks for noticing.” or “I appreciate your comment,” can help the set a pattern of behavior.
Give them less. Have kids work toward something they want, do chores, earn money. Let them know the value of an item. I could buy you those shoes, but then we can’t order pizza tonight. Lost a backpack? Help earn a new one. Talk about how work hours translate into garbage pick up, electricity, gasoline, vacation. Read aloud Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. In addition to being a humorous and vivid story, it discusses hard work, chores, about wasting nothing. There is also a great discussion about the value of a silver dollar that Almanzo would like to spend at the fair. Another book recommendation: Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter. If that doesn’t make you appreciate having heat and food on the table, I don’t know what will. Amazing.
Volunteer as a family. We’ve started very small. We collect our change and bring it to CoinStar periodically, which allows us to select a charity and send it electronically. What could be simpler? It teaches them that even pennies and nickels can add up to something significant. We’ve also baked cookies and given them out to homeless people, sold cupcakes to raise money for charities, and currently we foster kittens for the SPCA.
Coach when appropriate. I often have my kids make their own purchases, even when they are using my money. I remind them to say thank you (before or after the transaction, not during. I try to avoid barking at them while they are mid-transaction) and ask them to leave a tip when appropriate. They need little nudges along the way. “I was disappointed that you didn’t seem more grateful after I helped you with your homework. I could have been doing other things.” Reminding them of opportunities to be aware and thankful is not cheating.
Structure a moment of gratitude into the day. Practice, practice, practice! Gratitude is a muscle that needs exercising. Examining life for the positive helps lay new pathways in the brain, creating a positive mindset. That explains why Jeffrey Froh’s experiment had such an impact. This is big! I grew up saying grace at the table, so it feels natural to ask my kids, “What are you thankful about today?” when we sit down to eat dinner. I answer the question, too.
I highly recommend Shawn Achor’s TED talk on Happiness. Don’t be put off by its title: “The Happy Secret to Better Work.” It actually includes the happy secret to better life. There are amazing nuggets tucked in amongst some amusing anecdotes. Among them: “90% of your longterm happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world.” In other words, by your MINDSET. Further study has shown that increasing positivity increases creativity, energy, and intelligence, because the dopamine released not only makes us feel happiness, it turns on the learning centers of our brains.
In the last two minutes of his talk, he outlines five quick and easy ways to increase happiness–based on research and not hopeful speculation. Guess what comes in at number one? Write down three new gratitudes each day for 21 days in a row. That is why I now have a gratitude journal, though I can’t call it that, of course. The phrase “Gratitude Journal” makes me gag a little. I have a crass name which I can’t repeat here, but which makes me laugh every time I take it out. I figure that makes me happier, too.
My brother-in-law is a very ambitious and successful guy. I asked him once, “how do you juggle everything?” And he told me, “Sometimes, when I’m hurrying from one thing to another, I pull over, turn off the car engine for two minutes, and breathe.”
His comment didn’t make much of an impression on me at the time. It wasn’t delivered in a “here’s what you must do to be amazing like me” manner. It was just honest and straightforward. And effective. Dubious? Try it yourself.
Today I would like to take a moment to mull over a few other comments that seemed very small at the time, and grew to be important tenets along the way.
“Don’t discount this young man just because he’s nice to you.” I was indeed surprised to hear a comment like that from my mother. Smart lady, though. I married the guy.
“Be more Beret.” This sounds like a no-brainer. People say things like “be yourself” and “be true to yourself” all the time. But somehow, throwing my name in there made all the difference to me. I thought, “I am Beret, how can I be more Beret?” I started small, of course. I started reading books that I like, instead of the ones I should read. I started saying no to things. I started saying yes to things. I started making time for things that make me happy. I started singing along with catchy songs even though they might be insipid. Who cares?
“You don’t have to love being a mother, you just have to love your children.” This was news to me. If I ever write a book about parenting, this is the quote I will use on the dedications page.
Lastly, when I started teaching, I didn’t go through the traditional credentialing route. I hadn’t taken any education courses in college, so I had a boatload of theory crammed into six or eight weeks one summer, and then I was thrown to the wolves. Terrified nearly to paralysis, I asked a seasoned teacher for a few wise words before my first day. “Always have an extra piece of chalk in your pocket,” he said.
When I tell that story to people they roll their eyes. “Nobody has chalkboards anymore,” they say. But while I am grateful for discussions of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Krashen’s Input Hypothesis,that teacher’s advice still rings in my ears. For me, it meant that no matter how great a challenge I was facing, how insurmountable and overwhelming it might seem, I could break it down into tiny, doable tasks. Likewise, despite the fact that the knowledge and skills we need as teachers/parents/humans are hopelessly infinite, we can start by learning one thing and building upon it.
My oldest brother built a tree house nestled in the power lines, about twenty-five feet off the ground. It had glass windows, plus who knows what other amenities; I never went up there to see. By the time I was old enough to climb trees, his fort wasn’t in the best of shape anymore. Also, I was kind of a chicken.
But I would gaze up at it, and wonder how in the world our mother could watch her boy shimmy up that tree with hands full of nails and saws and glass. There he was, teetering outside her authority, outside her ability to keep him safe.
“How did you know he would be OK?” I asked her once, long before having kids of my own.
She thought for a while before answering.
“Being a parent is hard,” she said finally.
This was my first glimpse into the gray area of parenting, but it was years before I figured out that most of parenting is spent meandering around in the unknown.
There is a game called “Why is Baby Crying?” which consists of a set of dice printed with phrases like “dirty diaper” “sleepy,” and “hungry.” I didn’t understand the premise at all–let alone the humor of it–until I was holding my own wailing newborn, wondering what in the world was wrong.
“Why is she crying?” I asked my mother, since I had tried everything I could think to soothe her. My mom had had four kids, after all, and we were alive and well. She must know something.
“I don’t know,” she said.
Maybe the dice should have said “I don’t know” on every side, or offered suggestions that frazzled, sleep-deprived parents might neglect to try. You know, such as: “put baby down and take a deep breath,” or “have a glass of wine,” or, even better, “find a friend to watch the tiny tyrant for an hour.” There is no secret path around the gray area, just a few tools to clutch while you fumble through there.
Now that my kids are eight and ten, I’ve learned to tolerate some of the gray area with a little less anxiety. However, if I had the chance to sit someone down who KNEW ALL OF THE ANSWERS–someone like Dr. Spock was supposed to be–I would have a few questions.
Here are a few that have crossed my mind lately–feel free to add yours in the comments section.
*How do you know when to head to the emergency room, and when to say “walk it off?”
*How do you balance everyone’s needs so that your kids feel safe and loved, and you don’t lose your cool, identity, relationship, or mind?
*How do you quickly restore domestic harmony when your spouse gives your child three or four times the recommended dosage of Milk of Magnesia?
*What’s the nicest possible way to explain to your child that her favorite jacket and uncombed hair make her look like a homeless person?
*How do you guide your kids to make better decisions without them noticing and becoming resentful?
*What’s the best way to survive a child’s birthday party with a hangover?
*How do you keep your sense of humor when you get a flat tire, the brakes go out, the hot water heater spontaneously combusts, and you get a parking ticket all in the same weekend?
*How can you warn your kids about the dangers of the world without terrifying them or–worse–getting them excited to flirt with disaster?
And, last but not least:
*If child #1 has a fever of 104, has been crying and moaning for hours, but finally gets to sleep, and then her older sister leans over and vomits all over her bed, do you wake her up and change the sheets, or wait until morning?
I was worn thin from an epic day at work. Chilled, tired, and hungry, my couch was calling.
Unfortunately, in order to sit on it, I first had to conquer the Bay Bridge during Friday night rush hour traffic. For added excitement, it was the first rainy day of the season, which is typically when everyone spontaneously forgets how to operate a moving vehicle. I really, really did not want to make the drive.
I sat in the car, listening to the rain and to some extremely sad songs. As I was following the lyrics in the semi-darkness, I began to notice the rain falling over the words. Then, after a minute or two, the wipers would cut across the page, leaving a blazing trail of light.
I sat and watched for eons. No doubt the folks in the neighborhood thought I was on some sort of stake-out.
This was a shot that needed a tripod and a decent camera–and FILM, for crying out loud–but I was smushed into the driver’s seat and all I had was my phone. I took the photograph anyway. It can serve as a visual reminder:
In the midst of just about any moment–no matter how stressful, or annoying, or banal–there is often something amazing right in front of my face.
The moment you announce that the free ride is over, that this parasite had better get out of your uterus, a tiny tyrant emerges, and you wonder if you might possibly cram it back inside, just to secure a few more moments of sanity and solitude.
This wee, adorable creature demands all of your time, attention, energy, and soul. There is nothing and no one else that matters as much. This is why cherished friendships shrivel, marriages are raked over the coals, and newish parents become unbearable. You are suddenly up at all hours of the day and night. You cannot finish a sentence or focus on anything uttered by an adult. Worst of all, the things you smirked and said you would never do, you see and hear yourself doing without apology.
A little shame, perhaps, but no apology.
The boundaries blend. It is not possible to distinguish where you end and where the child begins. You anticipate their needs, and punish yourself when you can’t identify or remedy a discomfort. They are the center of your universe.
And they grow.
Imagine that you are beside yourself because you are stuck playing Barbies yet again. Each minute stretches into an eternity. You can feel yourself devolving, while politically astute essays you composed in a past life unwrite themselves in your head. You parade a stupid piece of malformed plastic around, babbling the required perky gibberish–all while secretly wondering, “what is the meaning of my life?”
And then, the very next time the Barbies come out from under the bed, just as you are mentally muttering obscenities, your daughter turns to you, and from her lips come the most surprising news.
“Mom.” Accompanying eyeroll. “We are playing in here. Please shut the door.”
A lump forms in your throat. You were already gearing up to feel resentful for the next 45 minutes. What are you supposed to do now?
“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” Yogi Berra
FYI: This post is not really about the book.
I read it, though. I even saw the movie. I acted all impressed, and I suppose I thought I was. Despite all the raving, however, and despite Milan Kundera’s remarkable portrait of Czech society during a Seminal Historical Period, the story I read was about one man’s shameless infidelity and his meek and accommodating wife.
What I love is the title. Whatever the author meant by it, those five words distill the magic and misery of being a grown up: the unbearable lightness of being.
Every time that phrase surfaces, I imagine shifting, amorphous shapes, rendered almost completely unintelligible due to some blinding backlighting. It’s as if I am emerging from Plato’s cave for the very first time, or–rather less grandly–as if I am staring into the setting sun through a filthy windshield. No matter how hard I try to focus or shield my eyes, I cannot make out what I am hurtling toward.
No one says it out loud, but everyone seems to believe that eventually we’ll know what we’re doing, where we’re going, and what it all means. We’ll feel Grown Up, and life will feel defined. It’s a grand fallacy we buy, and oh, how alluring.
By my early twenties, I was already itching to feel grown, to know who and what I was becoming. I needed to figure it all out, because I wasn’t handling the gray area very well.
Here’s the problem: it’s all gray area. It’s all undefined, and not just when we’re 23.
When things seem to be black and white, it’s a cognitive short cut, a decision to see the world that way. While we may not determine our material circumstances, we do create our interpretations of them, and forge theories about ourselves and our lives. We need to believe things are clearly defined now and then in order to plow ahead with enthusiasm.
I once had a long talk with my sister about marriage. I wanted to know how she knew it was the right decision; how she knew that this was the right guy. She admitted that there was no such thing as 100% certainty, but once you married, you no longer had to continually ask yourself: is this the right person? You started from the idea that it was, and figured out how to handle whatever was coming your way from that vantage point.
Of course perspectives evolve and change, but if we don’t adopt one, we can’t focus in any direction. We lose traction and go nowhere at all. Contrary to how it may appear, choosing a direction isn’t limiting, it’s what makes movement possible. When I allow myself to wallow in the gray area, I limit myself. When I wonder, “Am I really a writer?” I waste a lot of time and energy on this question, instead of simply saying, “I am writing. How can I continue in this direction?”
In the interest of full disclosure, my sister got a divorce. Still, I don’t think that negates the power of what she was saying. Picking a direction only means that we are more likely to get somewhere, it doesn’t guarantee that we will.
September 11, 2001 is an extreme example. It was a clear, beautiful day, and the collective mood had adjusted accordingly. Moments later, when the sky was engulfed in a fog, when it was raining detritus, and fear swallowed the streets, people could not process what was happening. Part of the shock was having to acknowledge the gray area, the great unknown that is life. On that deceptively sunny day, people thought they could see where they were going; they believed that they were headed to work, when actually they were passing through a portal to hell.
This is not a message of doom and gloom, however. Thankfully, we are not always teetering on the brink of an abyss. We just don’t know exactly where we are going. We can’t control other people and events. To be honest, we can’t even control our own actions sometimes. The best we can do is to figure out what and who give us joy, what values and issues are important to us, and how we can contribute to make the world a better place. Then, we can surround ourselves with those people, work on those projects, and head in that direction. But we need to do this while being open to uncertainty. We need to be flexible enough to learn from our mistakes and the changing world around us.
The good news is, when the cracks become visible, when our current perspective is shattered, we can sift through the pieces to make a new place from which to stand, a new perspective that is just as true. It just takes a while to make a new map and start to trust the road.
A friend called me one night not long ago, completely agitated, to ask me, “Who are all those people, smiling and walking down the street like they know what they’re doing?”
Those people are you and I, my friend, on a day when things seem clear.
It occurs to me that I have become pretty adept at procrastination. Maybe I should write a few how-tos.
When I mentioned this to a friend, she responded enthusiastically:
“Ooh! Contemplate the cat. Play Age of Empires. Watch the Biggest Loser finale over two days, in 5 minute increments; sob hysterically, and pretend it’s allergies.”
“No, no,” I said. “I mean how to procrastinate productively.”
“Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?” she wondered. A reasonable question, but I think not.
Here’s how I discovered the vast potential of my avoidance strategies: I foolishly promised someone I would read Proust, so that we could engage in some Heady Discourse. I didn’t promise to read all 4,211 pages, mind you; not all sevenvolumes. Just the first one: Swann’s Way.
I bought the thing in hardcover by accident, and it was just so crazy big, so heavy-looking and heavy-feeling, that I could not coax myself to get past the first ten pages. It did, however, make me feel terribly guilty sitting there, so I started to tackle other, less intimidating material I had been meaning to read for ages. I simply used my guilt to read a whole host of other books while Proust lay on my bedside table, chiding me.
That’s the secret, really. Just think of a task that you would mind only slightly less than what you are supposed to be doing, and do that instead. If you mind it a lot less, chances are it’s not a particularly productive choice.
To illustrate, here are five useful things I have done while busy not-writing this post:
I cleaned out the refrigerator. If I had had a big research project due, I probably could have made myself take everything out and sanitize that sucker. This time, I merely went through it shelf by shelf, drawer by drawer, and did a little wipe down. All it needs now is a new box of Arm & Hammer.
I got rid of fifty things. I thought that would take a lot longer than it did. It is actually not that hard to purge 50 things, depending on how you are counting. The added bonus is that purging feels great. I’d even dump Swann’s Way, but without a literary moral compass sitting on the shelves, I’d probably devolve and peruse People magazine every night. Best to save the trashy magazines for dental appointments only.
I wrote a letter by hand to a couple of people I have been neglecting. Far-away family member? Check. Estranged former roommate? Check. Boy, did that feel cathartic. Plus, people enjoy snail mail. When is the last time you received anything hand-written besides a thank you note? If you even get those! Incidentally, if I owe you one, I apologize. I probably tidied my desk instead.
I got some exercise. Taking care of my body has totally taken a back seat to almost everything else, but the truth is, I need to start looking after this thing. Apparently, I’m not going to wake up in tip-top shape without making some sort of effort. Thanks to my To-Do list, I’ve been up a mountain twice this week, plus done a little yoga. Now I am sleeping better as a little added benefit–except when I wake up and worry about what I have left undone.
I have cracked down on my mail pile. I paid my bills. I located and actually used a couple of gift certificates. In general, those tend to wind up in the trash a year or two after they expire, so that felt particularly satisfying. I’m going to have an awesome new lunch box, and my kid will get to take an art class, all because I did not want to do what I was supposed to be doing.
But let’s say you really need to make yourself face down some heinous task—one so emotionally draining, or terrifying, or just so darn huge it seems absolutely insurmountable from this side of the to-do list.
In that case, I recommend reading Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. That will take a day or two, and really inspire you in the process.
What are you supposed to do today? Taxes? Schedule a root canal? Perhaps you could clean out a closet or two instead, and even squeeze in a trip to Goodwill.
Somehow a lovely story wrangler named Michelle stumbled across my essay about sleeping in the hallway.
I find myself wondering: what are the odds? And I marvel a little at the sheer luck of it. I must have posted my essay on the right day, at the right time, on a topic she found interesting. I must have put just the right tags on it.
But what has been truly astonishing was that all of a sudden a whole community of writers appeared, and I realized that we are not on our own out here in cyberspace at all. I feel immense gratitude that you have taken the time to read my words and relate them to your own lives, and I’ve had the pleasure of reading your work as well.
Unfortunately, the inevitable has happened: I got stage fright. I am TERRIFIED to write anything at all. I’m not typing away in a room by myself anymore, because now I know I am not alone. Someone might see if I have a crap day or make a poor word choice. Someone might judge my grammar errors as harshly as I would theirs. Mostly kidding.
Perhaps most paralyzing of all is the thought that I might not be able to write something worthwhile again before you all lose interest and wander off. Shoot, what if I never write something I like as well again?
Fortunately, someone showed me this quote from John Steinbeck when he was beginning to write The Grapes of Wrath:
“I don’t know whether I could write a decent book now,” he said. “That is the greatest fear of all. I’m working at it but I can’t tell. Something is poisoned in me. You pages—ten of you—you are the dribble cup—you are the cloth to wipe up the vomit. Maybe I can get these fears and disgusts on you and then burn you up. Then maybe I won’t be so haunted. I have to pretend it’s that way anyhow.”
I include this quote not because I am putting myself in his league, but because fear and writing seem to go hand in hand for many of us, no matter who we are, or what we have previously accomplished. But THAT IS NOT AN EXCUSE TO STOP. Imagine if Steinbeck had caved to his self-doubt and neglected to finish his novel. What a loss.
Thankfully, we don’t have to write The Grapes; that’s already been done. But we DO have something to say and a remarkably friendly forum in which to say it.
Well, it looks like I just wrote a whole post about not being able to write a post. Hope that is out of my system, now; that I can ‘burn these pages’ and move on to other topics. Come to think of it, you might be hoping the same thing. Now go write something awesome.