Saturday, January 31, 2004

Inspire Me

Tell me... will the television do it? Will drinking beers and flirting with boys do it? Will surfing on line and answering emails do it? Will coffee? Will lying on the couch reading escapist fiction do it? Will flipping through fashion magazines do it?


You can ignore me. I am being rather dramatic and enjoying my own lack of inspiration.

In other words, I am wallowing in it.

The truth is, any of the above things can cause inspiration, can inspire me to be filled up with the creative spirit. The truth is, inspiration is about the energy you put into it. It's about saying YES, loudly and actively, instead of the constant, under the breath, whiny, miniscule, "nonononononononononononononononononononononononononononononononononononononono."

When I saw the real human ovary/fallopian tube/uterus on tv, with the doctor and Oprah talking about how delicate and beautiful a structure it is, I could have written a poem about our delicate and miraculous insides. But I didn't. I started moaning about not being inspired. (Yes, Virginia, even afternoon tv can inspire.)

I don't believe there is such a thing as writer's block. We may actually be stuck, for many different reasons, but I think we give ourselves the label, like hypochondria. It offers us an excuse to not be creative.
"Oh, no, I can't write my novel, I have writer's block."

It's like a trump. It's like shuffling off the responsibility for our own lives and creativity by blaming it all on "creative block." (I wonder if having a "fear of commitment" is the same sort of thing. Oh yeah, it is.)

Truth is maybe there's something that we aren't paying attention to, and that's why we're suffering this thing called block. Maybe it's fear. Maybe it is exactly the same thing as being afraid of commitment, or of failure, or success. Maybe my dad told me I was no good-- no, wait, that was my poetry professor. Maybe the idea of actually putting all your beautiful, wonderful, brilliant ideas into the light of day is just too damn threatening. What if the ideas can't stand up to the harsh noon sun? What if everyone laughs?

Hey, look where this post went. Right back to the last one, about embracing the dark. Yes, we actually have to face that fear down. Take a look and see if it's a genuine fear-- not if we are really afraid of it, obviously we are-- but the question is, is it really something to be afraid of. If someone laughs at you or says that you are no good, will you die? Will it even be true? Do you really believe it, and if so, then maybe the problem is not the fear, but instead your own lack of belief in yourself.

So many of my fears want me to say "no." And the fears win.

I haven't written in my novel for two weeks. I find other things to do that inch around the block, inch around my own desire to be creative, my own commitment to writing a novel. I write in my blog. I write in my journal. I paint a picture. I decorate my living room. I research poetry magazines and publishing. I search on line for interesting blogs.

It's like I am living my life with a little mutt at my heels. Yi!-yi!-yi!-yi!-yi! And I'm going about my day trying to ignore it, maybe feeding it little tidbits now and then that quiet the yapping. Maybe what I really need to do is to put on my jack boots and stomp on the mutt. Silence it once and for all. Or maybe I should pick it up and love it. Put it on my lap and let it sleep in warmth and comfort as I actually sit and write in my novel, allow inspiration to come because I can finally understand the whispers that I couldn't hear over the crying of my mutt-self-fears. Actually sit and write, that's what I need to do.

(No animals were harmed in the making of this blog.)

Friday, January 30, 2004

Perfectly Imperfect

The sooner we come to accept that we are all imperfect, that we are not always right, that we make mistakes and can be less than ideal in our choices, attitudes, desires and actions, the better we will be at being imperfect.

The better we will be at being... ahh! HUMAN.

It's kinda cool to be a human, stumbling along in the darkness, one foot in front of the other, occasional flashes of insight and vision-- like walking a country road in the middle of a midnight thunder storm. Frightening and dangerous, but thrilling.

It's so easy to be afraid of the darkness-- it's the unknown, the always-potential for the unexpected. The night hunters live there, and so do the pebbles that twist your ankle and bring you to your knees. But in the darkness are the stars, and the sound of the crickets, and the cool dew, the silvery light of the moon that makes everything gentle.

So what if we can accept the darkness inside of ourselves-- hurtling toward self destructiveness and apathy, destroying our own dreams ourselves because of the unknown that could come, the critics, the mistakes, the failures-- and also, strangely, the success, the love, the joy.

All that is unknown, too, and sometimes more scary than failure. It's much safer to stay where everything is familiar and known-- manicured and domesticated. That's where life is comfortable, where we have sanitized all the wildness and dark potential from it. Safe, comfortable because it is all planned out and set. A clear road, straight down the middle. We think everything will be predictable, no danger, no shocks-- heh, heh, like life is ever predictable.

Choosing to leave secure teaching for an unknown career in the arts was a wide-open, light of day choice. I knew that I was heading into a thing that challenged me, where I didn't feel secure, where the outcome was unknown. But I faced the knowledge that there was something wild and untamed inside of me that the rules and have-to's of the board of ed did not value. I valued it, more than I valued following somebody else's rules. And I also faced the knowledge that it was my fear that I wasn't good enough that kept me from diving whole-heartedly into art and writing.

That's the fear of the unknown. The darkness.

Maybe we try to keep the light and the dark too separate from eachother. We choke our lives with rules and boundaries, trying to keep it known and accepted and understood, and we run from the darkness back to the safety.

Maybe what we need to do is to try and illuminate the darkness in our lives, shine the light into it and begin to understand what it is this pain and unknown is made of. Maybe we also need to allow some of the darkness into our manicured lives. Like compost, the rotting bones of what we discard, it can only make our lives richer and deeper.

There's nothing wrong with order. There's also nothing wrong with wildness and imperfection. We're made of both, and the more we try to ignore and reject one or the other, maybe the less whole and imperfectly complete we are.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Perfect, Happy, Zen Goddess

Don't for an instant think that I am some zen buddha-like goddess. I am moody and lazy. I get pissed and spout off. I avoid the things I am afraid of and embrace all that is escapist. I get this place between my eyes and my ears where sometimes things get all tight and hot and I think everyone, everything is just stupid and nobody does anything right. I curse. I ignore people. I sleep too late and don't eat enough so I have no energy. I don't take care of myself, sometimes I don't even take care of my cats. I am in debt up to my ears and don't feel terribly motivated to get it all settled. I am a royal slob, and a minor snob. I am not nearly as nice as I used to be before I learned that boundaries were what kept people from walking all over you-- and that I don't have to waste my time with people I am not all that interested in. I make snap judgements, and I waffle in indecision.

In short, I am human.

Maybe some of my previous posts give this impression that I am totally at peace with myself and my world. I know what is important and am headed right to it.

So not true.

Today at worked sucked. Not in a oh-how-can-this-day-get-any-worse way, but in a kind of up and down, I'm-just-kind-of-pissed way. I felt out of it and disconnected. No reason for it. No attempt to see the grander, more meaningful side of life. I was not the better person. I was just a regular person.

And that's what I wanted to post, today. I came home and straight to my blog, no email, no surfing.

I was pissy and disconnected, annoyed by drunks and small tips and stupid waitresses (I am not even amending that to "shy and timid") and selfish bosses and macho busboys.

I did not have moments of enlightenment or existential understanding.
It was just a day.

And that's okay.

Hey, yeah. It is.

Maybe the myth of being happy is that it is this constant, ecstatic flow, or atleast this continual contentment, but maybe it's not. Like what a customer said about being an artist. He said "People think making art is always this orgasmic thing, and sometimes it is, but mostly, it's just a lot of work." Maybe happiness works like that, too. Maybe happiness is work-- or at least effort.

Maybe being happy means letting the being pissed go, even if it's fun to get pissed at things that don't matter. Maybe being happy means actually stopping to pay attention to what it all means and what it could mean, and rearranging your attitude until it's in a place where you can find a beautiful meaning again. Look at me, I'm back to being zen-Rowena again.

But then, you don't know how good it felt to realize that it was okay if my day was sucky, and I didn't have to be perfect, happy, zen goddess.

Being normal-- like letting out the breath held too long.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

I am not a poet but a poem

this quote by Jaques Lacan.

The snow today, promised, finally came.

I watched it fall from my spot behind the bar. The restaurant, warm and cozy, with a bustle of business, but not too much. No one bothered me because they all had tables to wait. No conversations because my friends weren't working today. It was okay. I stood in the corner of the bar, watching the snow fall through the window and writing. Snowfall, rainfall, sleetfall-- New York sky crap that couldn't decide what it was. Occasionally an order for a margarita.

I talked with these two art students from Pratt. They were here for a term from London. They told me how hard it was going to be to go back to England. "Why?" I asked, I didn't know.
"It's so hard to live in London," they said, surprise to me, I always thought it was New York that was hard to live in. "No, no. It's hard to get around there, it's ugly, it's not safe."
"You get the feeling that it isn't made for you," the guy said.
"So," I said, "You're saying New York is a more humanitarian city."

"Yes, Yes it is," they said, "and the people are so nice."

So take a look again. Seen from another perspective, what you thought about a thing-- like New York being unpleasant and hard (especially in this cold, harsh winter,)-- can be something not. Something new. Something wonderful.

That night, people came out of the cold into the candle lit and glowy restaurant, brushing snow and unwinding scarves, beatific smiles on their faces.

The shift settled down into drunken jokes and mild flirtations before we closed the door on last call. I made more money than expected, but not great money, and cleaned up the bar. I had to wait a long time for the rest of the staff to finish their duties, so I could close the register and go home, but it was kind of a nice night, I didn't want to get stressed over nothing, over a delay of a few minutes where I could sit with my feet up on a stool, a hoegaarden on the bar infront of me, writing a few lines in my journal.

The night was over and I waited. And then I bundled up and wandered out into the street.

Truly, Brooklyn was beautiful. Cold, yes, but gentle. Snow always does that. And the dark was this not-dark, reflecting back all the lights from the city in this gauzy gray. Cement streets softly folded in white.

I walked home-- a short walk-- just drinking it all in. Middle of the night, and still safe alone. I remembered when that wasn't the case. I don't want to be dissatisfied with my life. I could be so unhappy right now. No money, no boyfriend, crappy job, debt, cold, no career, no connections. I'm starting all over again. It's hard.

But I want to be here now. This is my life I'm talking about, and this is vitally important. Mine is to me. Yours is to you. Maybe even we all are to eachother.

The more I am focused on what isn't there in my life, on what I lack, the less I will be able to see what is there. The beauty. The poem. The chance met encounter, the chance spoken phrase that sets the whole shebang into momentary, thrilling synchronicity.

Just for a moment, because I think that's all we can really handle. Because we have to lock the door and put on the gloves and buy cat food, and duck our heads away from the crazy guy who knows us so we don't want him to notice us, and walk home through the snow so we don't slip and fall.

And yet... We can still catch that moment of wonder in motion around us, like a reminder maybe, that, yeah, life IS good.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Make it Mean Nothing at All

They say there's more snow coming. What a winter.

I miss being able to be outside, walking around the streets. Maybe sitting in Union Square, painting and people watching. Or in Verb Cafe on Bedford-- the main strip of Williamsburg. It's like everyday's a parade.

I love to walk around and just be open to whatever's out there. Whether that's new graffiti on the walls or someone who might say hi, or the new art books lying on the table in the bookstore. Grab a cup of coffee and sit down in a garden with my journal, or my little watercolor set. Or open up my laptop (alas, now crashed) and write pages in my novel when I am not staring out the window at the people passing.

Even talking about it I get nostalgic. Oh... if only...

As if it were a life I couldn't be a part of now.

All right, the wind chill is 25 below. Not much walking around, but I think it's more the being open that is where the inspiration comes from.

I don't really know if I am open, right now. Not for art, anyway. Sometimes I think you have to take care of living, first. Does that make sense?

Someone, a while ago, caught up in the drama and tragedy of being an artist, said that art was life. I suppose that's a beautiful, passionate statement, but I piped up and said, "No it's not!" into their horrified, insulted faces. "Art is NOT life, art is the interpretation of life."

Life happens-- you live it, or it grows, or it dies or whatever, and then we think about it and feel about it and put it on paper or canvas or in song or movement, or film, or so on. We make meaning out of what life has given us. It's possible that without art we would be a lot more confused about life than we are. Even though a good book or movie, even a documentary feels like life, it's still just someone's translation of what it means to live. All of that is just an illusion of life, but it isn't actually life.

For that matter, neither is science or math-- that's more like measuring life. All the other stuff, history, sociology, psychology-- that's making meaning of life, too, while keeping up the illusion that it's science. Don't get mad. If you think that history isn't nearly as made up (sometimes more so) than fiction, take a look at a text book from the forties. Yikes.

It's absolutely why I sarted writing a journal twenty years ago. How anyone makes it through their teens and twenties without some sort of tangible meaning-making is beyond me.

So here I am now, living in this cold winter, trying to make meaning of it???
Am I getting meaning out of it? Are you?

Maybe I'm making it like some sort of hibernation. I don't really need to be making art right now, it's winter. Hey, it was good enough for Persephone. (BTW- myth, religion, also a way to make meaning.)

Maybe I will choose to make it mean nothing at all. Maybe I actually AM making art, and am just being a perfectionist about not doing enough. Maybe my every thought, action and word is actually going into the soup of my novel and I will sit down when I come home from bartending tonight and write fifteen pages before 5a.m.. It could happen, especially if I don't have it in my head that I am NOT making art because I'm hibernating (or lame, or lazy, or blocked, or not good enough, or stupid, or not a real artist/writer at all.[the meaning-making for why I am not doing what I want to do is legion-- and it's also kind of an excuse for why I don't have to do it at all. Hmm...])

Maybe the wind will blow, and the clouds will hurdle in to cover the moon, the snow will fall and blanket the streets. And tomorrow the sun will rise, and then the world will be full of all sorts of possibility for action and thought and experience.

How's that for meaning making?

Monday, January 26, 2004

I'm no longer looking for an escape hatch. I like this funny earth suit I'm in.

The above quote is by odiouswoman. A great enough quote that she deserves to be in my links section. Plus she writes about the zen of running. And I was talking about the zen of running being like the zen of writing. So. I like.

And let me just say, it's scary not looking for an escape hatch.

Hmm. Maybe I should change that around. Because if I like this funny earth suit, and I do, then, maybe I should like right where I am, and maybe it's not so much SCARY, this no escape-hatch thing, maybe it's exciting. Maybe it's an adventure.

Oh, yeah. Adventure.

Maybe it'll be kind of fun jumping around and spinning and trying to find out the limitations of this earth suit. Maybe it's a suit like Batman puts on. Maybe it has all sorts of gadgets and power.

The power to hope for good things.
The power to roll with the punches.
The power to draw good people to me.
The power to see beyond the predictable and leap into the void.

And, oh yeah, the power to fly.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Mission in Life?

This weather is killing us. I am quite ready for May, enough of this "coldest winter in 25 years."

Not only is it killing us with frigid temperatures and shivering bones and wicked colds that EVERYONE is getting, but man, business sucks.

Everybody wants to stay in and cuddle under the covers. Who wants to come out to a mexican restaurant and have frozen margaritas? The manager is too optimistic and keeps putting all these people on staff-- 5 people this Saturday, and the restaurant really isn't that big. It's hard to make your long hours worth it. And maybe the eighty dollars will be a drop in the bucket for the rent, but seriously. There's nothing like the "waiting" part of waiting tables to make you bored out of your skull.

So we had to pass the time somehow, and most of that was in mindless conversation.

And yet... maybe it's a reminder that even a day that you write off as a waste can be important to your life.

In the middle of one of these casual, off the cuff conversations with my coworkers, I said, "my mission in life is to inspire people." I said it without any premeditation, without any deep significant meaning to it, not intentionally. It just popped right out of my mouth, and after I said it, I had to think about it.

My mission in life is to inspire people.

I don't think I'd ever really brought it together like that. But everything I've been doing for the last seven years has been about that.

I've been following my life and what feels right, and I've known that I have something I have to do in my life, without ever knowing quite, exactly what that was.

Who knew a boring day waiting tables would be the last piece I needed to drop into place so I could see the whole picture?