A Few Thoughts on Not Writing

Strangely enough, as I sit here looking at the white ‘paper’ of my screen, I can think of nothing to say.  I titled this Blog ‘A Writer’s Life’ but now the eternal question of whether I can be a writer pops into my head again.  I’ve stopped writing.  What happened to all the commitment and desire of just a month ago?  How did I slide so far back into my previous wanting-to-be-a-writer-but-not-writing life?

I feel trapped in the circle of my life, trapped in the good days and bad days cycle that I know so well.  I know that if I could just step one inch to the side I could be in a totally different place.  I know my life could open and expand into something that I long for and yet have never found except in broken moments here and there.  So how do I know this and know what I need to do to take that tiny step, but I don’t step.

All my life I’ve known that I was a writer.  Telling the stories of the characters in my head, or rather telling the stories they tell me, has been all I’ve ever wanted to do.  I have worlds expanding inside me, fears and strengths and failures and successes, that are not mine.  But without finding out what it is holding me back, I can’t let those worlds show.

Of course, I know what it is.  Fear.  I’m terrified of opening up; terrified of reaching that life because if people don’t understand me now how will they understand me when my life explodes the impossible into the possible? I am afraid to live my life to it’s fullest possibility.  What if the ambiguous ‘they’ out ‘there’ don’t like what I write?  What if they laugh?  What if, after all the starts and stops, all the failures and successes, they tell me that I’m not who I’ve always known I was?

And why does their opinion run my life?  Because somewhere back in my past somebody told me that I couldn’t trust myself or my own thoughts.  I had to trust their thoughts, their beliefs, their decisions about who I was and who I was meant to be.  Even if it wasn’t me at all.

I know what I need to do to take that side-step.  I’ve done it before, but lost all progress when another person tried to dictate who and what I was meant to be.  I still have ‘responsibility’ tugging at me.  Kids that don’t seem to know how to fly, who expect me to continue to take care of their lives even when they are 18 and 21.  The difference is that nobody owns me or runs me or tells me what to do or who to be.  My family tries but I’ve stopped listening.  I can’t listen.  If I don’t make a break now, will I ever?

I need to sleep more and exercise more – healthy body, sound mind.  I need to put pen to paper ever day even if all I write is “I don’t know what to write.”  A tiny step every day.  Just a tiny one.  Nothing much. Carrots instead of chocolate (not all the time, of course).  Exercise instead of being a bed potato.  Accomplishing instead of doing nothing.  Every inch counts.

Step.

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Five Phases to Eliminate

There are five phrases that I’ve decided to eliminate from my life.  To most, they sound harmless, just a few words here and there that come without conscious thought. Easy enough, right?  The phrases are:

I don’t know
It should/could
I think
As far as I know
I guess so

When I actually started thinking about what I was saying, I realized what those words really meant is:

‘I don’t trust myself so just in case I’m wrong – which I probably am –
I’m not going to put myself on the line but warble in the background like
part of the wallpaper.’

I don’t like what that says about me but the truth is, I’ve lived life waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me. These words are part of my soul. There are many reasons for this, partly me and partly outside influences that taught me never to trust anything – even myself. I am tired of living in this shadow. How can I BEGIN as talked about in my last post when I can’t even stand behind my own words.

But what if I am wrong? So what is the worse that can happen? I’m wrong. Apologize and move on. So-and-so might be angry or upset of me. I can’t do anything to control their reactions to me; I can only control my own actions and responses. Was I lying deliberately? No. Maybe I was, in all good conscious, just wrong. Can I accept that of myself because I can’t expect anybody else to accept it unless I do.

Can I let myself stand out in the spotlight of the world and make a mistake without feeling so empty that I long to disappear?

I think so….. but I don’t know.

Begin

There is a park on the main bypass through town. It is falling into disrepair because the play equipment is old and sparse. The wading pool has been closed. I pass it every time I take the bypass and, besides stopping once in the fall to take pictures of the leaves, I never give the park a glance. Until I started to notice the writing on the fence. Some unknown soul had woven bright green tape through the lattice of the fence to spell out the word *Begin.*

This, too, I ignored for weeks until one day I saw Begin and started thinking. What was I beginning in my life? What did I need to begin? I am in a phrase of change, of trying to get back to being the writer I am and move my life into the direction I want to go. Like most mothers, I have spent the last twenty some years of my life caring for children. So how, and when, do I begin my life again? How do I begin to be a writer again when I’ve only written in my mind for so long?

So what does Begin really mean? According to Dictionary.com, Begin means the following:

to proceed to perform the first or earliest part of some action; commence; start:
to come into existence; arise; originate: be originator of
to succeed to the slightest extent in

All so simple and easy, right. We all know what the word begin means. We’ve used it all our lives. But now I wonder if I’ve I’ve ever really, really, thought about the word and it’s meaning, in particular how my life and beginning are intertwined.

To proceed to perform the first or earliest part of some action. As a writer, I begin by picking up my pen or, nowadays, turning on my laptop. Each word is a new beginning, a new choice, the possibility of my characters going right or left, saying one word or another. And each beginning subtly chances the course of the story.

To come into existence. Was this the first beginning? My birth with every moment since a new beginning because each moment I make a choice which, again, implies other possible choices. Is my life a life of moment to moment beginnings?

To succeed to the slightest extent in. As in, my salary won’t begin to cover all my expenses. Yeah, this one I know, too. I’ve struggled with the money issue all my life. How does one begin to accept that the money will be there and that if I just give up my need to control every aspect of my life, that the Universe will begin to take care of me.

Where does life begin? That is one of those issues people fight over, sometimes kill over. All because of the word begin. We all know that life is sacred, as we should, but where does it begin. In what moment in the womb, what second, makes the change from a growth of cells to a living being?

Begin? Being? How close these two words are. Is life simply about beginning to be?

DIctionary.com also says that begin is Old English beginnan “to begin, attempt, undertake,” a rare word beside the more usual form onginnan from bi- “be” + W.Gmc. *ginnan, of obscure meaning and found only in compounds, perhaps “to open, open up” (cf. O.H.G. in-ginnan “to cut open, open up.

How do I undertake my life, open myself up to all the glory that is waiting? How does one stop being afraid of beginning? And how do you begin? Have you thought about what you need to begin in your life?

Monsters In My World

When I was a child, I believed in monsters: the great slobbering crocodile-like creature lurking under my bed; nameless somethings prowling in the woods around our house; and the dark shadow things living in the basement.  Where these monsters came from, I don’t know.  Was I born with them engraved onto my infant’s mind or did they somehow infiltrate my consciousness as I was thrust into the world from the womb?  Are my monsters like your monsters, the same as some child elsewhere in the world born the same day and time?  At the time, I believed these dark shapes were mine alone, something that haunted only me.

As I grew, my monsters began to conform to the world around me, to the stories I read and the TV I watched, monsters like Bigfoot and Nessie and the Yeti.  I believed in them because they were exciting and out of my world.  I was safe behind my book or the TV.  Not likely that I’d travel to Loch Ness or Washington State or the Himalayan Mountains.  I was fascinated with the mystery of them, the possibility of how these monsters might intersect with all the parallel worlds in my mind.

I began to learn about real monsters, men and women who committed unspeakable deeds.  How could anybody do such horrible things?  And yet, I was secretly fascinated by them, always hoping that I might be able to open their heads to discover the reasons inside.  There had to be reasons; no one would do such unspeakable acts just because.  The idea of a sociopath was so foreign that I didn’t even speak the language.  And yet, as a writer, I kept looking, kept tunneling into the horrors in the hope of understanding.  I wanted to understand; I wanted to peer into their lives and see their truth.  I wanted to know that I wasn’t a monster, too.

As I grew even older, I found other kinds of monsters.  Men or women who stand before you with a smile on their face, saying everything you want to hear, all they while their actions are tearing away the foundations of your world.  Can there be any worse monster than one who says ‘I love you,’ while acting like you are nothing?

I have come to terms with most of my monsters, those fears that came from who-knows-where, hidden in the darkness of childhood.  With the crocodile creature under my bed, I learned to stand on the bed and jump as far as possible.  He, like most monsters, couldn’t come out from his hiding place. I learned not to go past the edge of the lawn after dark, not to turn my back on the night woods.  To trust my instinct and if I felt something out in the dark, to run.  Fast.  And never look back.

Today I am comfortably happy believing in Bigfoot and Nessie and Yeti.  I believe in them because I’ve chosen to believe, because their mystery adds something to my world.  I never want to be terrified of a monster again, but I do want to know that out there, somewhere, dark mysterious creatures exist in this scientific world, a little bit of magic left from a far distant past.