I sat at the computer for half an hour trying to write this. There are so many words in my head that I can’t seem to force out of my lips or my fingers – a problem which I almost never have as I’m sure you know. Sometimes I’m too busy to write or sometimes I can’t quite put a name on an emotion, but I can usually at least paint some metaphorical picture of being overcome or I can fumble my way into a revelation. But tonight, and lately in my real-life conversations, I just can’t seem to pull it out of myself. If you’ve talked to me in the last month, you know. You know how I’ve been doing as much talking as normal but I’ve been saying half as much. So for this entry we’re going to try one of my favorite writer’s block games. I’ll start with a story. For you long term followers I’ll note how familiar – and unfamiliar – of a story it is …
It was the perfect summer Friday. Four hours at work somehow went from quietly paging through a Barefoot Contessa cookbook while I waited for various reports to load to an explosion! and I spent some quality time having an internal conniption. Fortunately, things got calmer when a hand was laid on my back, I was handed a train ticket and was promised a pre-packed picnic when we arrived at the beach. It’s amazing, Long Beach is maybe half-an-hour from Manhattan and yet it’s a million miles away. The rest of the day was spent splashing, poking washed-up sea creatures, and soaking up the late-afternoon sun. By the end we were laying, listening and watching the tide coming into the shore, and we were quiet. He asked about the Crazy. The Crazy, that a wise friend of mine advises a person let on on slowly in these situations, was there and he could tell. I have no idea how he could – it must be what he does when he does all the not talking that he’s so good at – or maybe I mentioned it in all the over-talking that I’m so good at doing these days (who am I kidding? Everyday). Either way it got me started, uselessly, at trying to explain what’s going on in my head and my heart and my life. I talked in circles, the Jesus prayer, staring out at the water, comforted by its constance and repeating pattern.
I think it’s safe to say that I’m in a period of tremendous change and personal growth. I recently moved to a new and (cliche to say but unbelievably true) very different place, I started a new job (my first real adult one), I’m in the process of settling into a new apartment (also my first real adult one), and I’m creating an entirely new social network (again, as a big girl). Granted, I was at least familiar with the city before and I do have a few old acquaintances here, but for the most part I’m blazing a new trail all on my own. I’m blazing a lot of trails actually – more than I even realized I had to blaze – and of course it’s all happening at once. And it certainly wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done this. College most recently was a time of constant and intensive growth, and high school and other times before that were as well I’m sure. College is fresh in my mind and I remember the chaos, the late nights and wine and confusion and tears and extacies and driving and burning and epiphanies, and I remember bracing myself for the intensive swings and riding them out – the sophomore-slump, the seven-days-grace post East Coast adventures, the lake baptisms, and everything else. College was, in a word I used obsessively, epic.
But what about now? There’s as much going on now in my life as there was in college and perhaps more. And while I know it’s there, I can feel it inside me and I’m trying desperately to articulate it, and all of you who I am talking to are generously listening and allowing me to work through, it doesn’t feel like it used to. I realized that for the first time in my life I’m both cognatively mature and aware enough to recognize that I am in a time of great change and… and something else. I couldn’t get to what it was though.
You’re in control. He said.
Well, no I’m not really, I mean you can’t ever really be totally in control of something like that – of life and everything that’s happening around you and what you encounter – it’s just not really possible, I mean I do like to think I can control things and I am older and maybe calmer but I’m not sure, but it’s not like you can really … I defended, donning my new relaxed and go-with-the-flow self…
No, he interjected with polite force, But you’re guiding it. You’re deciding what you like and what you don’t, what you want and what you don’t, and you’re making decisions.
And that’s it. I didn’t get it, even when he said it I don’t think I did, but that’s it. For the first time I feel like I’m both cognizant and in control. It isn’t me against me and everything else. I don’t have to label my life a Homeric epic in order to justify things beyond my control. It’s not like I’m the one responsible for Earth’s gravity, but I am in control of my own. I am aware what’s happening, and I’m the one who’s doing it.
“You can’t just walk out on the results of your own hankerings. Cause and effect, buddy, cause and effect. The only thing you can do now, the only religious thing you can do, is act…
as if all of what little or much wisdom there is in the world were suddenly hers…she seemed to know just what to do next too…[she] drew back the cotton bedspread from the bed she had been sitting on, took off her slippers, and got into the bed. For some minutes, before she fell into a deep, dreamless sleep, she just lay quiet, smiling at the ceiling. ” -J.D. Salinger