Ebbing and Flowing

I stumbled this morning on Live Now, a sort of collective art project/"community of happiness" that sprang up in the wake of creator Eric Smith's diagnosis of and treatment for cancer. Live Now is a somewhat indescribable combination of art, design, words, collaboration, and general good feeling--to which I could only say, Yes, please.

There's plenty of interesting work on the Live Now site, but what really grabbed me was the piece above, both because I had to sit with it for a decent amount of time until the meaning and import really sunk in, and because, when they did, they stopped me short. I wanted to pass the message of this sweet little boat along (just 'cause), and I wanted to repeat the words to myself all day, a mantra, a reminder, a goad.

Half of me this week wants to do what's generally easiest when you find the carpet pulled from under your feet and your face in sudden, unanticipated, and generally unwelcome contact with the floor: that is, to withdraw, retract, go fetal and conservative and quiet. It's this half that would stay in bed all day with books and tissues and carbs were it not required to play along as a Responsible Adult.

The other half has decided that this is as good a time as any to write a proposal for the book idea I came up with back in early November and have since largely ignored. Almost without my awareness, this half has climbed the mast of the SS Sure Thing and is ready to do a swan dive into whatever body of water we're sailing in.

Whence this crazy-ass idea? Who knows. I can only say that, on Tuesday night, as I walked to the gym, something in me proposed this pact: If in fact you're about to experience a relationship implosion, you have to promise yourself that you'll return to the book.

Perhaps because I didn't want to give much (more) thought to the disappointment I feared was ahead, or perhaps because I didn't want to pay much heed to the voice in my head ready to commit me so blithely to such a huge project, I simply thought, Yes, ok, fine, done and done, then went inside to read bad magazines and sweat for a while, assuming the insanity would pass.

But then, alone with myself on Wednesday night, I thought, Well, you promised, had some wine, and went online to hunt down a book on writing a proposal and finding an agent.

Is this utterly ridiculous and Quixotic? Quite possibly (though regular readers of this blog should be used to such things by now). But somehow it also seems unquestionably necessary. After all, I can't convince anyone else that there are risks worth taking and potentially illogical passions worth pursuing, but I can convince myself.

The sure thing boat never gets far from shore.

So here's to a completely unsure thing, and to stretching myself farther than I ever have before, and to learning to face rejection again and again and again, getting up every time and trying once more. Here's to Live Now. Here's to what will become "Lost on Me."


"dark though it is"

As one almost must in cases like this, I turn to Elizabeth Gilbert.

Not her new book--its topic a million miles away from me right now--but rather Eat, Pray, Love, with its dog-eared pages and the notes I made in the margins when I first read it three years ago, right around this same time. (April is the cruelest month, T.S. Eliot? Au contraire; it's February.)

Last night, it was Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies that I pulled from my bookshelves, because I love Anne Lamott, and will happily do my best to lose myself in her words at any time, and because things last night had not yet stepped off a cliff with both feet. I read until I fell asleep, thinking, after I turned my lamp off, of the final words of the W.S. Merwin poem with which she opens the book ("we are saying thank you faster and faster/with nobody listening we are saying thank you/we are saying thank you and waving/dark though it is").

But now, come morning, an unhappy chat behind me, I'm off that cliff, and it's Gilbert, not Lamott, I need most. I can't shake the vision of those paintings of Jesus in which he has two fingers in the open gash in his chest, right over his heart. At the risk of sounding utterly sacrilegious, I know the feeling today, my man: something in me that was intact has torn open, and I can't ignore the wound, much as I'd like to.

So I return to Eat, Pray, Love.

Being the annoying completist that I am, and now faced with an unwelcome surfeit of free time clamoring to be filled with distractions, I will, of course, read the damn thing cover-to-cover all over again. Maybe twice.

But for now I flip through and read the passages I marked last time, thinking Yes, thinking Remember that, thinking Know that. You made it through--and out--before. You will certainly make it through again.

With my fingers over that new, sore, achy, messy wound, then, I keep reading.