There’s a quote I carry around close to me – like its in the bottom of my purse next to my car keys, an unwrapped Werther’s and an open bottle of lotion.
When I am questioning my values – the eyebrow-raising path I’ve started traveling down – these letters flash in front of my eyes like colored plastic in a kaleidoscope. If you really think about it, its just ink pulled from a page – but its ink that became a part of a person. These letters strung together, old as they are, are like an event in my life. They inform the way I drink my coffee and do my work. In this way, Charles Dickens took too many tequila shots on Christmas Eve and checks the surf report. Maybe it seems obvious to you, but that fact reminds me of the connectivity of it all. The magic and the mystery pulsing under everything.
Its not easy to write something really good. In fact, its bleeping hard. See, with first drafts, for all writers, what happens is after staring at your computer for hours with nothing to say; after questioning your worth as a human being and resisting the urge to do far more important things that simply cannot wait – like alphabetizing your spice rack and color-coding your tupperware – an AHA! moment comes in like dragging a refrigerator over pavement. Its a crawl of insight. Its not quite good – but its almost good, and its certainly better than the unoriginal, barf-worthy material you’ve been slogging away at for two hours. And if you’re lucky, the words you put down – one after the other – hint at what life is really like. Not what’s its about, why we’re here, blah blah blah – but what its like to live a life. You’re explaining what its like to walk around in one of these deteriorating skin suits, and not in a sugar-coated, Instagrammed way. In a real, breathing, in our bones everyone knows its true-way.
Here’s the quote, and you’re probably going to be like, “That’s it?” Its not the “I Have a Dream” speech, but what can I say, this gem from David Copperfield resonates: “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”
When my eyes roll over these words, sometimes I think of the woman I am not. How I haven’t been the hero. Don’t heroes have mortgages, nod-worthy incomes, and Pulitzer Prizes? Grown-up lives? I think of the oceans whose waters I haven’t felt, the books I haven’t published, the feelings I haven’t expressed. I think of the battles I lost – the times when I closed my computer when I should have kept writing. I think how old I am – I look into the mirror and see the crypt keeper. I pass by a homeless woman pushing a shopping cart and see a window into my future. I realize I’m out of gas in the In & Out line (which I’m in for the third time in two days) and decide that if my car stops, in the middle of the line, this is truly, a new low. I think about where I should be – but I’m not; its all hopeless, etc.
I love David Copperfield here, because I know his words are true, but there’s also responsibility in them. I want to be the hero of my life, but heroes aren’t made by rubbing magic lamps. You have to roll up your sleeves – you have to do the work. You have to find the values that you believe in, and live a life that is true to you. You gotta get gritty. When my thighs seem pasty-jiggly and my work seems ghastly, when I procrastinate – I want to be able to snap right out of it and find my life again. Find me again. Its my job – its on me, and its on you – to see the fruitfulness of each moment. And that isn’t metaphysical, self-helpy bullhoky (that’s a word, right?) – the truth is every moment reflects back to us what we want to see. The events of our lives show us what we’re acting like – a scaredy-cat or a warrior.
This time of year, people start signing up for Jenny Craig – which doesn’t work, trust someone who knows. We douse our cigarettes with water and charge our credit cards for a Pilates package. We even buy into crazy campaigns like the one started by that guy who said he wasn’t going to complain for thirty days. #noonecandothat. We say we’ll never fall again. I can’t do that. I can say I’ll never get scared, but I’ll just disappoint myself, because I can’t change my nature. We can’t never be afraid. But we can begin again this moment. We can stop mid-spiral and find a life illumined. We can poke pinholes through the darkness to see the sunlight cutting through.
I made resolutions last year and guess how many I kept. I am making general ones this year: surf a lot – keep track of it. Read a lot – keep track of it. I have writing goals, too. But lately I’ve been thinking about how I want to feel in 2014. And how I want to feel is lighter. I want to rub my eyes, put my feet on the ground, and remind myself to have faith in the process. To stand alone strongly. I want to be constantly unloading myself of baggage – of people, things, and memories I’ve been too afraid or too stubborn to let go of. I want to relax into the ebb and flow of life – the giving and the taking, the darkness and the light, the yours and mine.
Item #2: I want to be more grateful. I am truly lucky – to live where I do, to have the opportunities I’ve had, but most of all, to have my family. I love that my youngest sister, Nina, goes around the house shutting off our water heater and placing post-it notes next to light switches that read, “Climate change, love Nina.” My parents are still together and in love, and I have a handful of good friends. I think if you have those things – a good family and a few good friends – you’re richer than you think.
Havelock Ellis said, “It is as if we change the map of life itself by changing our attitude towards it,” and in my being – at my core – I know this is true. Because I’ve seen this principle working in my life this past year. Things I never imagined doing, people I never imagined meeting, started walking in through my doors because I started (finally) listening to the heart whispers, and I relaxed!!! We have to relax into it. I don’t know what 2014 will bring, but in my gut I know, that no matter what happens – I can still see what I want to see. And I know, too, that anything is possible.
Here’s a quote I came across today that I just love. Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone. See you in 2014.
“Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential — as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.
You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.
To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.
Your preparation for the real world is not in the answers you’ve learned, but in the questions you’ve learned how to ask yourself.”