Muse – n. – a source of artistic inspiration.
I’m having trouble writing.
Since launching this blog in late June 2013, I have had little trouble coming up with post ideas.
This is my 271st post published since then.
My writing is fueled by negativity.
It’s sad. But it’s true.
Fear. Anger. Pain. Sadness.
Those emotions dictate the action. When I feel those things, I can’t not write.
But I’m a little less scared now.
A lot less angry.
I don’t hurt unless I stumble on a trigger.
And I can’t remember the last time I cried.
Human beings will always feel afraid and mad and hurt and sad. I will always feel those things.
But I’m no brooding artist.
And the only way for me to feel lots of pain and sadness is for me to intentionally go there. To time travel to all those moments that destroyed my family and thrust upon me this new and foreign and unwanted and unexpected life.
But I’m not going to do that.
I’m not going to intentionally make myself feel bad just so I can punch these keys more effortlessly. I don’t want to feel bad.
The entire point of this writing exercise from the start was to exorcise some of my demons. To explore my life and my choices and to figure out how those decisions got me here.
I don’t intend to stop doing that.
But I have so much less time now.
Because I’m living again. As more than just dots on a screen. As a real person. Laughing. And hugging. And anticipating. And doing. And just… being.
Months ago, all the unusual silence in my home screamed. I was terrified. Abandoned. Alone.
It wasn’t home.
But now it is again.
There was no one specific event I can point to.
No “ah-ha! That’s it!”
Just a collection of good things trickling into my life, one laugh, one prayer, one post, one party, one date, one moment at a time.
Building up on top of one another and forming this entirely new thing.
We’re more than a year in now.
Since she left.
Since I dealt with the enormous shock of life without my son at home half the time.
Since my world changed into a frightening strange new place, stripping me of so much control that I foolishly thought I had.
And that’s maybe my key takeaway so far from my personal year in review.
The trick is simply to stay alive.
Just stay alive.
And then you wake up one day and things aren’t looking so ominous.
And then more time goes by and you’re laughing more and worrying less.
Is this going to last?
And then more time goes by and you’ve healed even more. And it fortifies your spirit. And inspires courage. Courage you didn’t even know you had.
I can do this.
And then even more time goes by and you rediscover yourself. You recognize pieces and parts of you, but now you have so much more strength and wisdom and resolve. Now you have the tools to live advantageously in ways you never could before.
You wish you could go back in time and tell yourself what to do and not to do. Because now you know. And you regret the brokenness. And you regret the time lost. And you wish things could be different.
But they’re not different.
They just are whatever they are.
And because it’s less scary and because you’re more courageous it all feels okay—all those differences. It doesn’t feel good, necessarily. But it doesn’t feel bad.
And in a world where relativism and expectations affect us, that’s a whole lot better than dead.
Both literally dead, like all the people who don’t get to have an amazing day today like you and I do.
And figuratively dead. Like I was just one year ago.
I was nobody. I wasn’t who I was before. And I didn’t know who I was going to be tomorrow.
Maybe I still don’t.
But that’s okay. Because I can just enjoy being alive today.
I even managed to write a post with writer’s block.
Maybe my muse isn’t dead.
Maybe my muse is life.
Chest heaving, tears running down my face, the words pour out of me.
I couldn’t hold them in if I wanted to.
It just happens.
I recently revisited Charles Bukowski’s brilliant “So you want to be a writer?”
“if it doesn’t come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut, don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen or hunched over your typewriter searching for words, don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or fame, don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want women in your bed, don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and rewrite it again and again, don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it, don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody else, forget about it.”
After some more awesome in the middle, he finishes with…
“when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.
there is no other way.
and there never was.”
I want to be a writer.
And that doesn’t mean I just want to spew a bunch of words onto your screen.
It means I want to help you feel something.
Not sadness. Not anger. Not fear.
Even though I appreciate people’s empathy.
But rather, amusement.
Curiosity and wonder.
This entire process has been a journey of healing. Of self discovery. The pursuit of happiness.
I’m seeking purpose. Opportunity. Healthiness.
I crave connection, laughter, fun.
And that’s all coming back. It’s working.
As the dark clouds of divorce dissipate, I sometimes get a glimpse of tomorrow.
There is more smiling. More comfort. More peace.
And that’s all well and good. It’s what I’ve wanted more than anything for more than two years.
But there’s a casualty.
Because life after divorce is my muse. Fear, anger and sadness—my fuel.
And things are better now.
My life has improved.
So, naturally, I’ve created a new problem for myself.
Shit. Now what do I write?
And now I sometimes don’t know what to say. I wrote about Subway the other day, for God’s sake. I don’t particularly like Subway. But that’s what I’ve been reduced to.
That can’t be who I am. The guy who writes about Subway. I don’t want to be him.
My rule has always been: Write what’s on my mind. And when important human stuff—the inside stuff; the stuff that really matters—is at the forefront of everything I do and feel, that’s a good thing.
But I can’t be forcing it like that Subway post. That’s what me forcing it looks like. The sort of thing that makes Bukowski turn in his grave.
These words. These sentences. They’ll never be for everyone. They’ll never even be for most.
They’ll be for kindred spirits.
People who want to feel.
People who want to think.
People who want to grow.
People who don’t want to settle. People who believe there’s more to life than this. That pain and anger and sadness will not define our futures.
That’s what this is supposed to be about.
I still want to laugh. I still want to have fun. In fact, I need those things.
But mostly this needs to be about taking an honest look at ourselves. And asking the difficult questions. And taking responsibility for the choices we’ve made that brought us here. And making promises to ourselves to make better choices today because tomorrow doesn’t have to be like yesterday.
We don’t have to hurt. Or be afraid.
Yet, we do hurt. Yet, we are afraid.
I’m scared every day of running out of things to say. Of disappointing someone.
Of disappointing you.
Or worse, not mattering at all.
The longer I do this, the more I notice.
I see the writers doing what I want to do. Being who I want to be. Geniuses. Artists.
The keyboard, their microphone.
The internet, their stage.
Am I good enough? To play in the same game?
My personal insecurities about my real life poisoning my happy place.
If my son’s mother won’t keep me, who will have me?
How will I meet people? When? Ever?
Where did all my confidence go? I know I used to have a bunch laying around here somewhere.
I’m not a genius. I’m a B+ guy who has to work hard for an A, and is lazy enough to get a C.
I’m not an artist. I just get mistaken for one by people with liberal definitions of what that word means.
I’ve been afraid of this for a while. I’ve written about it before. Writer’s block. But those fears have surfaced again, stronger and harder than before, as sadness and anger have given way to new fears and anxieties.
You see, I’m not afraid to hit ‘Publish’ when my sadness outweighs my fear. When my anger is more pronounced than my anxiety.
In fact, I can hardly help it. Writing just happens.
Maybe I can overcome them.
The fears. The insecurities.
Maybe I can shed them completely.
Or maybe I can tap into them for fuel once again.
Because the mind is extraordinarily powerful.
I still feel it sometimes. The pain.
I just hide it better now. Smile more now. Laugh more now.
Cry less now.
I still feel it when my young son wants me to stand at the window and wave goodbye to what used to be my entire world driving away in the opposite direction.
I still feel it when I drive by the hospital where my wife met the man she was with when she left.
I still feel it when I conjure up these moments.
To just… feel.
I wish you could feel it, too. If only for a moment.
It’s happening now.
Horribleness on demand. Only muted.
A surge of anger where there used to be rage.
A tinge of sadness where there used to be breakdowns.
My body still tenses. My smile disappears. My eyes narrow. My stomach tightens. My teeth clench. My swallowing becomes more difficult.
That’s when I forget to breathe.
Remember to breathe.
Then just a bit more.
To keep those dark clouds moving.
To stay alive.
Isn’t that where inspiration lives?
Isn’t that where real stories live?
Then just a bit more.