Reading: Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
Listening to: "Can't You Trip Like I Do" by Filter & The Crystal Method
Outside: Ah! Springtime! Laundry dries on the line!
She's at it again: my toddler daughter continues to teach me more about life every day. Yesterday's lesson came at me like an out-of-control steam engine. One word. Tantrum.
Now, my little lamb, she is usually that - I mean, scarily so - a little lamb. But sometimes she can't get the train tracks clicked. Or sometimes the Mega Blox just don't stack right. Or sometimes, I don't know, I want to put her left shoe on her left foot, as opposed to her right foot, and well, things just slide out of control and careen right off the rails.
The same thing happens to us adults, although we've usually, in the fullness of time (hopefully, hopefully), learned to deal with it with a little more, shall I say, finesse.
I'm talking about more than just waiting a long time to get the check at the end of your meal. More than just being stopped on your way to the bagel shop at lunchtime by a guy braying about a charity you already donate to, and if you don't, you would be more inclined to donate to it if you weren't being brayed at about it. More than just being cut off in the fast lane, or the rain dashing your hopes of sunning yourself in the back yard because you have Seasonal Affective Disorder and you are f*cking desperate for some Vitamin D.
Yes. More than that. I'm talking about when you don't get that job you were really, really hoping for. When you don't lose that five pounds you were expecting to lose. When you ask that girl (or that guy) out for a second date and he/she doesn't answer your text. When you're trying to learn a foreign language and the words are senseless, maddening scribbles across the page. When you're pretty sure your physical therapist is trying to kill you when she asks you to actually stand up and walk down the length of the shallow pool. When you spend so much of your time and your energy and your thoughts and, no, more than that - your dreams - on something and things just fall apart. It hurts.
To that, I have the answer, and it's the same thing I said to my daughter as I knelt in front of her on the living room floor, catching her eye for a few brief but important seconds (because a few seconds is all it takes): Just because something is hard doesn't mean you can't do it. If it's hard to do, that means it's important.
Like I said, we're all past building blocks and little toy train sets, but we're not past the grinding hurt and anger and the blinding urge to lash out and scream and throw it across the room when things just don't work out. You've felt it. I've felt it. God, have I felt it.
They say to count to ten. They say take deep belly breaths. Those things are supposed to help. In the short term, yes, they do help. Here's something even better, and long-term: Inspiration.
You need it.
What is it that keeps you going when you feel like giving up? Is it the praise you might get from your friends and family? The look on their faces when you actually make it? When you get the job of your dreams, or you slim down to the size 12 (or 18, or 8) you always knew was in you, or you speak Italian fluently to the waiters on your trip to Rome? Is it the promise of fulfillment of something once missing, another half of you that you finally find: someone who actually does answer your texts? Is it the visualization of your heart-pounding walk across a park, a walk that took weeks or months or years to relearn, after your motorcycle accident almost wiped you out?
Sometimes I get rejections from literary agents and in my lowest moments even I'm tempted to just throw it all away. And in my darkest times, I've thought, really, what's the point?
Here's the point: because I'm a writer. I need (need) to fill people up with the stories that compel me to write. I want to give back to the world those same emotions that rushed through me when I read Magic Terror by Peter Straub, and 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King and Toni Morrison's Beloved (this is a maddeningly short list; it goes on). I keep going because when the writing - when the Doldrums of mere living - seems impossible to navigate, I have little pieces of myself, my friends and my family around me all the time. I have my Wall of Inspiration.
|My Wall of Inspiration|
This is only a small part of it - it actually takes up three walls - but you get the idea. We have photographs, poems, newspaper clippings and drawings, art projects from high school, little pithy quotes and cards and even a mini American flag from my mom. I sit and work on my craft amidst all these, reminded all the time that there are people out there who believe in me (especially in those moments when I forget to believe in myself). Words written in ink, typed and on display for me to read and remember. The annals of rejection may be vast, but my inspiration is wide and deep and impossible to measure.
Sometimes it feels like there's no end in sight. Before you check your phone for another hopeful job offer, before you step on those bathroom scales again, walking past that someday bikini you got hanging on your closet door, or before you sink down into the chlorine of that physical therapist's torture pool again - take another long, hard look at yourself and remember who you are. Why you're living and breathing on this earth. Decide what's important. Keep your eyes on the prize. Then get to work.
How about you?
What's your inspiration?