Palm trees

A teacher once told me that when you are writing your personal stories, often you need perspective. Sometimes, the experience is too raw to process well enough to then convey accurately – or if not accurately, effectively, in an entertaining or interesting manner. But occasionally you just need to get the shit down on paper and let it flow, whether it happened 10 years or 10 minutes ago. Today, I’m going to listen to the teacher’s advice, though, because what I’m feeling most heartbroken about are my failures as a mother – and that alone could fill a book.

So, today, palm trees. I am on a mini-moon with my man. After a few days in Vegas for a conference, we’ve just hit Palm Springs for a couple of nights then off to LA. We’re taking our ‘real’ honeymoon in December but this feels like a nice getaway. We swam in the pool tonight and as I looked up at the palm trees swaying, I was reminded of when I first moved to California. I had just turned 20, and had been dreaming of this move for as long as I could remember, and as long as I could write. There I was, at a friend of a friend’s family house in San Diego, marveling at their backyard. Instead of grass and birch trees, they had rocks and avocado trees. Orange, lemon, cacti, and palms everywhere. I remember craning my neck to watch the palm fronds undulate, back and forth, much like hair underwater. The turquoise blue sky behind them provided such a stark contrast that I thought I was still dreaming… Here I am, exactly where I’m supposed to be. And while, obviously, I was supposed to move to NYC 20 years later and meet my man, I still dream of California – both the life I had before and the life I will have again. So, tonight, as I floated on my back, water blocking my ears from any sound, I watched the palm fronds sway in the wind and for a minute, it felt like home.

Day 7

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried keeping a blog or writing as a habit. Its not that I don’t write, I just write sporadically. I’ve kept a journal since I was about eight years old. In the last decade, I write in a journal on two different occasions… on planes, and when I’m super super stressed out about something and can’t sleep. Now, because I have traveled every 4-6 weeks for the last decade or so, I have plenty of entries. It’s a mechanism to deal with anxiety I might feel about flying and it’s also a way to reflect on what’s going on in my life at that time. Separately, I’ve taken numerous writing classes – memoir, screenplay, dramatic writing. I’ve done the Artist’s Way, taken workshops in writing + yoga, and free writing flings. In the moment, when I am working on my writing, I feel challenged and if I’m lucky, inspired. Sometimes, I even write good shit. The problem, of course, is consistency. I have spent most of my life believing that I am not a writer because hello, writers write. Every day. All the time. It’s the work they can’t not do, as Scott Dinsmore says. Or said. Isn’t that right? Isn’t that what defines a writer?

For me, though, I sometimes hate it. Yes yes, the blank page, the fear, the doubt. Moreover, though, am I wasting my time? Shouldn’t I know already? Shouldn’t I feel a deep compulsion, every day, to tell my stories? I think I used to. I have suppressed those feelings for the last 20 years. When I was young, I dreamed of telling stories through film and books, not being able to dream yet of an internet connecting me to the world. I had an active imagination, I had fun with my stories, and I moved to California believing without a doubt that I would make it in Hollywood. Boy, was I dumb. And thank god because if I hadn’t taken the leap, I wouldn’t have had such a wonderful, adventurous life. More fodder for the page, I guess.

Maybe I am more afraid that this isn’t the work I can’t not do (note: as a grammar nerd, this sentence tortures me.) But it’s the work I can do now. I’m in a position in my life where I finally have the time to find out. I am not trying to figure out how to avoid a late notice from the electric company. I’m not worrying about bouncing checks to my ex for rent and wondering how much interest he’ll charge me. I have stability despite the fact that I’m not working, because my supportive, generous husband wants me to take this time to figure out what’s next for me. And I do, too. Which is terrifying, of course, but also liberating – and I still need to find a way to see that I deserve it. That I don’t need to be suffering. And that just because I am white and educated and privileged, doesn’t mean I can’t also complain from time to time. I know who I am inside and what I believe, I know my level of compassion. Maybe the problem is that the work I can’t not do is work I actually can’t do. Humanitarian work? Diplomatic work? Or is it writing screenplays and memoirs about my life which I think is extraordinary but honestly it’s not. And isn’t that the point? That my stories will resonate, that despite our obvious differences, we are fundamentally the same?

So, today is day 7 of the writing challenge. I’m not ready to find out how to monetize my blog or get 100,000 followers by this time next year. I’m not ready to say this is the work I can’t not do. I feel that this work, this expression, much like my journaling, actually just allows me to get the spinning mind down on paper and frees it up for what’s next. I have to remind myself, every morning, that today is a new day, a new opportunity. I only need to see the 10 feet in front of me, I don’t need to know where the road ends.