ALCHEMY OF WORDS
ALCHEMY OF WORDS
I don’t know how I have done it so far. Sewn together the pieces and kept them from falling apart. In the wash, on the line, tumbling down the street, being trampled underfoot.
There’s no quantifiable reason for it. I’m not all that suited for doing the things people are willing to pay for these days. I can’t write code. Or build a house. Or make erection pills.
Mostly I like to write. Which seems to be one of the things many people are less willing to pay for these days. My dream life looks like waking up in the morning, making coffee and writing. And somehow having all the money I need to pay the bills and do more than just live.
I have a couple of degrees that should mean something. The State of Nevada says it is ok for me to practice law. And so I have done that. And I’ve helped a few people along the way. But I don’t really like the idea of wearing a suit everyday or working someplace where I don’t get to choose my clients. And so the paychecks are not always so regular where I work. And I have to create a benefit if I want it.
In theory the life I’ve created affords me flexibility, creativity, autonomy, even the ability to make a lot of money. In reality, I get to show up in flip flops some days and take lunch when I want, but I don’t take very many vacations, and I am often wondering how I’m going to pay for that which must be paid.
Also, I might mention it is possible my brain doesn’t always work right. I don’t know how common this is. Maybe yours does. Maybe you are able to just do what needs to be done every day, to stay motivated and inspired, meet your deadlines, follow the rules, feed your 401K, exercise, pick up the dry cleaning and the groceries, get the kids when and where they need to be, not drink too much along the way, and get enough sleep.
More and more, I find myself half-heartedly reaching for a glass ball in mid-swan drive.
If I could stop what I’m doing long enough to come up with a different game plan than the one I’ve been running for season after season, I might do that. If I could just find the clarity to draft it. And the time to execute it. And the will to see it through.
In all this time, I have managed to do a few things. I mentioned those two degrees. And I passed the state bar. And I’ve gotten two people off death row. And helped a handful of others turn their lives around.
I’m sure there are other things I’ve done along the way.But there are days where I have no idea how I’ve done this. Because I feel utterly incapable of being an adult.
And then things like this happen: After I dropped my son off for school this morning, while driving down a crowded street in morning commute traffic, I cried in my car. I was triggered by something as small as a cover of Sweet Child O’ Mine.
Sure, I did acid at a Guns n’ Roses show once (several lifetimes ago). But that wasn’t why I cried. (I’m pretty sure, anyway.) And it wasn’t nostalgia or longing for those carefree days. Just something about the woman’s voice covering the song pierced whatever feeble armor I wear and got me right in the heart before I could catch myself.
What kind of a warrior is that? What kind of battle would I ever be suited for if a simple song on my morning commute turns me into a river in flood.
Also, there is a terrible person who lives inside me. That person does things like yell at my son sometimes. Ok, almost daily. Sure, he’s kind of a nightmare to parent. But he is also an amazing human being, with endless curiosity, creativity, generosity, and independence of spirit and thought. His brightness fills whatever room he is in. But it also has a tendency to blind you if you are trying to corral it in any way.
Maybe I’m just jealous of him. Because he’s the one who gets to be the child now. The one who does whatever he wants. The one who is not bound by the illusion of time. Who gets to live in a different realm altogether. While meanwhile it feels like I have become a slave to the clock, the calendar, the bank, and more fears than I once knew existed.
But I think what I want – what we all really want — is to finally wake up from this condition. We want to believe the books we read, the classes we take, the healers we seek out. We want to believe the life hacks we glean from all the podcasts we listen to while driving between points A and B.
We want to feel alive again.
But also, we know that in order to feel alive again, we are going to have to actually feel. And that really terrifies some of us. Because in this brave new world of bigger, faster, more, we are afraid that those things called feelings are likely to cause us to walk through each day hit by one Sweet Child O’ Mine after another and be utterly unable to function. And that seems like a pretty crappy trade-off, frankly.
Until you take a step or two back and (like the masters say) become the one who notices the feeling. The same way you would notice a spring flower if you were paying attention. Or a storm cloud, or a snow flurry, or a rainbow.
A feeling is just like a dream monster. The more you’re afraid of it, the more it will haunt you. The only thing to do is to turn around and look it in the eye. Shake its hand, invite it to sit down for tea (or whiskey). Then ask it why it has come, what it wants to tell you.
Because whether you are trying not to feel anything or trying to feel alive, both are pointless. The feelings will find you. The more you are trying not to feel, trying to ignore them, the bigger they will have to be to get your attention. And trying to feel alive is like trying not to think. Both are impossible.
The only thing you can be is open and patient. The only thing you can do is make space for them. Set an extra place for synchronicity at the table. Without fear. Without expectation.
Feelings are kind of like cats. They’ll come when they’re ready. They’ll rub against your leg for a minute, let you touch them. And pretty soon they’ll be ready to go back outside. But if you ignore them, look out. You have to sleep sometime.