I have been avoiding writing today. It’s like a silly dance in which my feet fumble around some desperate thing and I close my eyes, falling, falling to some land covered with leaves and denial. I don’t know why this is. What is it that I am afraid of? Perhaps it’s a fear of discovery—discovering something that moves even when I look away—something that grows even as I refuse to tend to it, and it still pushes through no matter the audience. So there sometimes are movements in us, feelings that charge impulses and thoughts to spring from some darkened soil in us. Even if we refuse to garden those regions, they grow, regardless. I thought briefly today about one in particular, a memory triggered, a hurtful phrase from a distant friend, and I managed to corner the feeling, interrogate it. I could have given it no license to speak, could have denied its existence or covered its mouth with tape, but chose, rather, kindness and acceptance. Though I would much prefer not to feel hurt, angry, disappointed, etc, these emotions have their merit. If I continue to deny them when they arise, I’d be denying, along with them, more beautiful emotions.
But this really has nothing to do with avoiding writing—only insomuch as it put a damper on my mood and left me watching Larry King Live or CNN for an hour. Anything to distract from the self. I ate too many M&M’s, drank two Perrier’s in a row, talked to my bird (who in turn only said “come here” “love you” in response), before deciding to take a bath and read some of C. S. Lewis’ letters.
Still, I lie here with yet another bottle of Perrier and think: how to come to some agreement with the self when the self wants nothing more than to be invisible.
I don’t know if other people experience this or not—the intense desire to fade into a swirl of outside noises, to linger in the doorway of distraction, dizzy from the constant bombardment but grateful for the drowning-out-of-things… I often come to this point and that is when the writing particularly slows down.
Yeats once said: “You must draw heaven and earth into your net.” Certainly, in this casting there is the need to include the self, all bone-grit, lungs, and heaps of hair—the body cannot be denied, like earth, nor can the mind, as in the heaven, be passed over. Just as one might say how lovely the face, but the guts passed over—this cannot be done. As one may put forth only the cleverest of thoughts, the kindest, most humble, there remains the hidden ones of ignorance and mean-spirit, of self-serving and ill-mannered. Like the lover who carelessly ignores the characteristics in his love that may one day ruin the foundation on which he builds his heart’s investments—it is foolish to overlook the same when confronting the self…all bone-grit, lungs, and heaps of hair.
But I think it’s often accepted that one should turn away from unpleasant things in the self, such as inconvenient emotions or tugging ambitions that threaten to awaken desires that might throw comfort off its railings and into an unknown sierra, and instead to surround oneself with distractions and anecdotes.
I’ve tried to approach this before, and described desire as something we smother and refuse to tend to. Not desire in the erotic sense, but the passions of ones life—I guess if I were speaking in part of the church, I’d refer to it as one’s “calling.” And yes, I think “calling” is a good word, rinsed, of course, from religious connotations for universal purpose. Because a calling is something quite physical, something to be felt in the body—perhaps, in a literal sense, vibrating in the cochlea, tingling in the brain, then felt in the chest or gut. A passion contends with no thing. It does not simply die unquestioned and unnamed. It will call on you even as you sleep, restored to life when your mind leaves those subconscious doors unlocked. I have found this quite the case for me at times of suppression, times of denying the self the attention it needs, the meditation upon one’s inner rock. I like the idea of this inner rock, as it may absorb every fleeting, flowing thought or whim, desire or fancy—and along with this absorption may store all one’s memories and transferences, interactions and thought-processes. To think: as one lays dying, even then, this inner rock keeps in it’s halls all of the body and mind’s messages and scripts.
And I think it’s a fear that at that moment, or in something similar along the way, I may feel a heaviness pull me with a stamped sign “Regret”—regret-of-the-self kid–moments where I could have paid attention but chose to “shut off” all receptors and instead tuned out, spaced out, avoided. I think this is the main cause of anxiety, in fact. And some sociologists would go so far as to label it the prime example of “death-anxiety.” Quite accurate.
So what does any of this have to do with writing? Simply that writing is an act, which, if done truthfully, is facing the self, being open to discover—in all its beauty and warts. And as Yeats said, one must draw both heaven and earth into one’s net…to account for everything, from slugs to planetary stars and whirling hurricanes.
It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s even a bit lonely—okay, it IS lonely—in fact, that’s how it should be, I suppose.