Thursday, May 7, 2015

Rocks in my Pockets

Here again I face the moment that has been waiting for me all my life. It sneaks around the corner whenever there is too much to do and climbs into my lap when I would otherwise prefer to sleep. It calls loudly in dreams and chews through the messiest tangles of my life. It's the reason you're here, dear friend, and the reason this exists on the page.

I'm a writer.

(I shudder when I write that).

My mind immediately jumps to those who have boldly gone before me, straight through a cistern of alcohol or a mild heroin addiction and hopped straight across a successful writing career and into the grave. Writers don't live well. They don't keep gratitude journals, because they realize what a waste of space it is to be grateful for toilet paper or instant coffee, or to write what you think you're supposed to write in case someone finds your gratitude journal. The gratitude journal of a writer says, “I'm grateful that I didn't go to the store before the blizzard and stock up on salted caramels.” Because it is funny, and sad, and true. But it sure isn't gratitude.

 I had a great conversation with a friend the other day about this practice, and how it has been helpful for her to write a gratitude journal because she believes that her grandchildren will appreciate it down the line. I agree wholeheartedly, but Virginia Woolf did not have this thought precisely (perhaps) because she knew she would not have grandchildren and therefore could simply be honest about her opinions. Or wallow in her negativity? Or possibly her gratitude journal was simply boring as she thanked each day for the sun rising, the river out back, and the stones in her pockets.

(Some foreshadowing is just too much).

The kinds of writers who have spoken to me have been those who tiptoe on the edge of this calling. They write with the kind of realism and truthiness that makes you laugh and cringe simultaneously, just like real life does. Because real life is stranger than fiction, and the kinds of writers that I enjoy the most get this fact and don't fight it. Rather than attempting to write about unicorns and rainbows, they write about the things that keep them up at night in an ooh funny, aah poignant kind of way. I write about the hilarity of infertility and neuroticism, inglorious interpretations of sacred yogic sutras and impromptu reviews of irritating modern “literature.” This is my sustenance, my penance, and the safety valve on my life that maintains my skepticism about rushing water and keeps the rocks out of my pockets.

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