I started meditating and then decided to try working this out here.
The book I’m (re)writing, Ambivalent Miracles, is some kind of Kilimanjaro. And as is the way with naming things, the title seems to have embedded itself in me on personal levels: I often bring ambivalence to the writing, or at least the needing to write it, and it may feel like a miracle when I finally send it off, which I just try to regularly envision myself doing. After all this time, and the climbs and setbacks that have happened along the way, I just need to summit, at long last, and finally descend. I never in a lifetime expected to live this long at Kilimanjaro.
I’m trying to bring joy to the ascent, and sometimes I do, when I find the groove. I am putting distance behind me, and it is beginning to settle into its essence, its voice.
But showing up to it often hurts. There is a spot beneath my breast bone that roils. There is nausea, both when I sit down before it, and when I’ve gone too long without facing it; either way, the bile rises. I sit down at the keyboard and feel the press of tears full to bursting–not when I’m writing, but when I’m contemplating writing, when I know it’s time to resume the chipping away. The anticipating it, the fearing it; that’s what hurts. The chattering, screeching, fidgeting, mocking monkey mind is a demon. I have to design tricks to sidestep it–freewriting, plowing forward without knowing, sprinting sometimes. I need to remember to find ways to write in faith; devotional writing; writing as a form of knowing, even when I feel like I do not know. (Is this wherefore the yoga?)
Writing is walking into the not-knowing. And I’m free in it when the risk feels low, like here. But the academic audience is severe, is often a ruthless chorus of self-loathing critics, and I remember how their words abraded me last time. I still have the scars, though they’ve faded. And I can hear them even now–but it doesn’t matter, because I have to tune them out to listen in, to hear the voice of the narrative that is already there, ready to be articulated. In the end, it has to not matter the outcome. It has to matter that I write the book that is ready to be written, that needs to see light. Not necessarily the book that “they” might want. I have to trust that the chips can fall exactly where they’re meant to and that doors are always opening. The matrix of possibility constantly shifts and flows, undulating with infinite opportunities.
I know these things rationally, or spiritually. It’s the visceral panic, though, that counts when I sit down to the task. Every day, freaking out, slaying the field of hissing dragons, picking my way over them, and trying to move at least few feet forward. Gaining ground regardless of scuttling claws behind me.
Send me an image; I’ll take all the inspiration I can get these days.