This happens when you're a writer -- you have the creative juices flowing but none of the ability to put into words; or, on the other hand, you are as alert as ever but wholly unfeeling, in which case everything you write sounds like a philosophical dissertation. Yes, the real magic that happens in writing happens somewhere in the middle. And I'm not there yet. Because I'm 100%, utterly exhausted.
So, I'm going to table part 2 of the "being authentic is not a luxury" discussion until I have slept something like 24 full hours. And, instead, I'm going to offer you the following reasons I've found this week to take stock and give thanks in the moment:
#162: A perfect Halloween evening with Mr. Wonderful. Nothing spooky or particularly spectacular about it, but therein lies the beauty of it: it wasn't anything special, and yet it was perfect.
#163: I've survived this week on very, very, very little sleep. Being grateful for and humbled by the little things is a tall task, and sometimes survival itself is worthy to be celebrated.
#164: After teaching on Tuesday, two of the program directors told me that I was both charismatic and cool. And they wondered if I might have ever wanted to teach. The answer to that question went something like this: "Ever? Yes. In the last 10 years? No. In the last two weeks with these girls in particular? Don't even ask that in jest."
#165: My boss' appreciation for my hard work at work this week. This is great, because no sleep + nauseatingy difficult work + cranky boss would have = disaster.
#166: An opportunity to hang out with a close friend who is having quite a difficult time this weekend. I sense it will be therapeutic.
#167: An opportunity to relax and enjoy "me time" during the rest of it.
#168: Fantastic visit with my therapist on Wednesday evening. The discussion: being authentic. The takeaway: "Being true to ourselves is a simple idea in theory but an incredibly difficult undertaking in practice. Being able to do it is quite an accomplishment."
#169: While spending time with Mr. Wonderful last night, he opened up and made himself vulnerable while talking about his mom. He told me things she always did and things she said toward the end, and he told me that he has up and down days and a lot of numb days mixed in. I told him that he wouldn't be human if he didn't.
#170: During said conversation, I bawled like a baby. It's harder to watch someone you love hurt so deeply than it is to hurt so deeply yourself. If I could take away his burden and carry it myself, I would -- no question about it. But I can't. I can only cry as he tells his stories so that he knows that the pain he feels is deeper and broader and wider than he has let himself fathom and, therefore, that it's okay to have good, bad and numb days. The reason to give thanks, though, is that after he opened himself up to me and was vulnerable (reason enough to take stock and give thanks), he rubbed my back and comforted me as I cried alongside him. The gesture was profoundly sweet, but obviously it made me feel guilty. "Stop comforting me!" I laughed. "I want to comfort you! I'm just so sad for you. And I want you to know that I'm never going to stop being that, be it a month or ten years in."
#171: The confirmation that he will be traveling back with me after Thanksgiving. As we take steps we once did before the crisis started, I find myself humbled by them rather than adamant that they should have always happened. Thank god for this. Arrogance prevents us from experiencing the beauty in our lives, because we demand that it exist and then it never meets our expectations. At least that's been my experience...
#172: Another great column by the brilliant Cary Tennis. It is a lot of what I want to tell Mr. Wonderful right now. Check it out for yourself:
Dear Spinning My Wheels,
For two days I have been walking around thinking I know what to say to you. I have been writing clever-sounding things about the changing publishing business. But the closer I have gotten to deadline, the more uncomfortable I have become.
When that happens, I know what to do. So I reread the letter. That is how I work. I go back to the letter, asking the letter what it is saying. And usually something leaps out. Something leapt out. It was that line about your head and your heart not being connected and how it’s killing you.
Well, sure. That I understand.
Like I say, I have been thinking about this column for two days.
You need somewhere to go with all this. The way to stop feeling disconnected is to connect. Only connect. Who said that? Some poet.
How? Well, again, I think you know the answer. It’s maybe not this time by poetry. It’s what happens in therapy. You’re too suffocated in words right now to get connected by poetry. It will just go into your brain and sit there. You need something else.
If the person who prescribed you the antidepressants has some time for you, go see that person. Tell that person you need to allow some feelings to arise. Ask that person to guide you to those feelings. You will find energy in those feelings. They will be a source of strength. If the person who prescribed your antidepressants doesn’t have time for you, then find a room somewhere where you can share what is going on.
Of course, if you are anything like me, and I suspect you are, you would prefer to go about your day-to-day business without this troublesome matter of breaking down and sobbing. You would like not bothering to break down and sob. That would be convenient. It would be convenient not to have to feel these things. But they are there. So that is where you need to go.
It won’t kill you. What’s killing you is not doing it. More like it will save your life. Just give in to it. Be a mess for a while. Have somebody prop you up. Find a shoulder.
You also need to get out in nature. You might feel like burying yourself in some leaves. That wouldn’t be bad — spend an afternoon in the autumn woods somewhere, covered in yellow leaves. It might be what you have to do.
You don’t need to reinvent yourself. Not yet. You just need to acknowledge what’s going on right now. That’s not as interesting as reinventing yourself but it will make you happier.
What is your heart saying? Is your heart broken? Talk to your heart. Draw a picture of your heart. Use crayons. What does your heart say?
What if your head came calling on your heart with hat in hand? What would your heart say? Might it tell your head to stop trying to do its work for it? Might your heart tell your head to shut up for a while?
How could your heart tell your head this in words your head could respect? Maybe your heart would tell your head that many things necessary to human happiness are beyond words.
Maybe the heart needs to sit barefoot in the words.
I meant to type “sit barefoot in the woods” but I typed “sit barefoot in the words.”
Weird. Maybe words are like leaves in the brain, how we want to cover ourselves with them, how they yellow in the fall and flutter down from trees.
Maybe there is something to that. Maybe your words have tight shoes on. Maybe not. Let’s not overdo it.
Me, I am waiting for the rain. I am listening to jazz and waiting for the rain and drinking tea. Assam tea is the tea I am drinking and it has sugar in it and I am not doing much else except typing these words to you. The guitarist I am listening to is Kenny Burrell. It is the Paul Chambers Quartet playing “Chasin’ the Bird” from 1957 when I was 4. That is about it.
So now after two days of trying to be smart I have given up and I suggest you give up too. These knots we tie ourselves up in can be untied. We just need to somehow get back in the roiling body of heartache. It’s where we’re living anyway.
It used to be the only way I could get into that roiling body of heartache was to get drunk. I was scared I guess. Sure. Who wants to see a guy blubbering. It’s disgusting, you think. It’s disgusting and weak and unmanly but if he’s drunk then it’s sort of funny and you can forget about it except when people tell you the next day, when they are solicitous and worried and they put a hand on that shoulder of yours and ask if you are OK.
But you don’t have to do that. There are better and more dignified ways to break down in a puddle of blubbering sorrow. There is an office somewhere with tissues. Maybe someone will get a tissue for you or maybe if you are lucky you will find that you are both breaking down and you will see that your grief is not just yours. That will make you feel better. We need this in our culture. We need places to go when we are falling apart inside. Those of us who are addicts are lucky. We have such places. I don’t know how the rest of the world gets by, I really don’t.
People always say, Tell him this, Tell him that, don’t tell him this, don’t tell him that, like as if they were there too. That’s like it was in my family, everybody talking at once. But I am talking to you like you were some made-up brother who is closer in certain ways but not in others. A brother who doesn’t know how full of bullshit I am maybe.
So this is what I send to you finally. Not a big piece about the new high-margin, low-volume, high-touch business versus the old low-margin, high-volume, low-touch business. Not that. I will go put that on my own blog or something. It’s sort of poppycock.
This is about getting your head and your heart connected.
That’s a doable thing. You’ll be OK once that starts happening. And it’s not hard. You just pretty much have to stop stopping it from happening.
See what I mean? Isn't that brilliant?