Creativity, Growing Up

Cut a Rug

The moment on the living room floor. Scratched record, skipping back again. Recollection as perseveration. The sweet cling of liquor breath. Neck. Night. The dim light, a carpet brown or beige or bare depending. Each time the thousandth time.

A cue I did not catch the first time around.


I stand and walk from that place.

Over and over.

In lucid dreams, you cut.

Chop off the climax. Slice open an exit. Saw a hole through rooftop, treetop, pillowtop, sky. You reach up with your hands and trace the shape of yourself wherever they land. You open a manhole from the bottom up.

Out you go.

And this is where things get interesting.

Because that place where you step? Where you land up there? That has not been designed yet. The production crew hasn’t made it to the second story.


You are writer, designer, main character, and director. You decide, crack boom, with a flick of your chin, the next act. To spin up through the rings of Saturn, to brush your belly over a tropical canopy, to alight on a garden pillar in Babylon. You can tumble-stomp your way up the marble stairs and swan-dive into a dragon’s lair. This is your place. Your riches. Your loving arms.

Your script.

One tilt of the glass. One stroke. One cut.

It took me 30 years to trip into it. Another 10 to realize I could use it for more than grasping at innocence.

You know.

The hush of the cradle before the first time your father failed to come home, your mother told you too much, your friend laughed and left you stuck in the gears of your bike, you laughed and left your friend crying for help. Before you knew how sharp the teeth of the moon. Before you knew that your name did not fill the sails or patch the leaks.

When you were held. When only falling and fire showed the dropped stitches in your untested faith.

That is the place I learned to revisit. The place before the living room floor.

Do you know this before?

When you finally find the capacity to color your own imagined set, this is what you do. You lean back. Back into a grownup simulacrum of infant security. Wealth and luxury. Feet up, rolling open, feathered cloud. Because the mind longs for rest. The body aches for comfort.

At last, to stop having to consider the threats? Someone else will assess the dangers. There are no predators. No failures. No lives at stake.

It feels like peace. The truest gift you can give yourself. Pure, full, trusting quiet. Not sleep. No. Rest. Within your skin, your here-and-now, your wakefulness. That wakefulness no longer vigilance. Whether the place is one of being embraced by complete and utter adoration, or one of total silent solitude, in any event, the desire is deep-down the same.

And maybe, like me, you stop there.

The outer limit of imagination is a few thousand iterations of rest?

Still. And always. The power courses down beneath. Untapped. Barely even poking one toe up through the soil (or down through the roof, as it happens) and roots that trail down from above may look like spiderwebs, veins, the simple ductwork of oxygen, the delineation of your quarters. Of your chosen universe. But they are only the finest tendriled extremities of something so much larger growing outside your line of sight.

This is what happens:

When you decide rest is not an objective or a measure of wealth, and you decide at last, Oh, I choreograph the dance unfolding now. I choose the color of everything around me, the everything of everything around me, then you really begin.

When you have the guts to admit that there is more than returning to before,
more than getting up again and again from the place where the world forced itself on you and broke open the egg in which you could never have stayed anyway

and with intention alone
squeeze onto the wall ceiling floor you face
the ambergris and ochre and butter and blood
then hone your blade with floss and schist
and begin to score the scene

of what is here

and how you might proceed.



Happy 100 Days: Beginnings

This whole thing started because I was stuck. Two years had come and gone since the Jenga blocks of our little family had fallen all around us. Apparently it was not the most solid construction to begin with, but that’s a different story.
I was waiting. Waiting for what is anyone’s guess. Something to change, maybe? For a surge of energy? A white knight? I kept waiting to feel ready for the next chapter. Was I ready to move forward with Giovanni or ready to let go? Maybe I was waiting for Tee to make a decision that would force me into decisiveness. I am sure I was waiting for a better-paying job to appear on the horizon (as if this is how such things happen), or to feel inspired enough to launch the project that haul me out of my financial pit. At the very least, I was waiting to feel something other than dread about the future.
I think I was waiting for a sign. Since I do not believe in signs, it will come as no surprise that none materialized.
All this waiting contained neither momentum nor acceptance. It was frantic. I kept swirling, spinning my wheels, slipping into the same old vortex of exhaustion and hopelessness. Pick your metaphor. Every one is a different version of a circle turning back on itself. Work was a grindstone. Conversations with both Giovanni and Tee were broken records. The needle never moved forward along the groove of the music to find its conclusion and lift away, making room for the next piece. No, it was all just revolve, skip, repeat.
Work was getting done. I was walking and dancing myself healthy, staying on top of Bug’s schedule, calming myself before the reactiveness and complications that seemed to weigh down every interaction with the people closest to me. Sure, I was looking well enough on the surface. “You really just have it all together,” one of my co-workers said to me. I gave her a “huh!” that made her jump. I was holding things together, but only barely. It just didn’t make sense to me that two years into this new life, and everything (and I mean everything) felt so hard.
I claimed I did not know how to do anything differently. Those familiar grooves, even the revolve and skip and repeat, were keeping me a kind of safe. Known safe. Nothing-has-to-change-and-I-can-manage safe.
But, boy howdy, was I miserable. Oh, and did I mention? Tired, tired, tired.
About three weeks ago, I found myself returning to the same refrain of despair after a brief detour. I had gone through a tailspin preparing for a series of interviews for a job opportunity that would have helped me approach self-sustaining. After the dizzying crash when it was offered to one of the other two candidates (the one with 14 years of experience in a field to which I have just returned, so who can blame them?), I brushed myself off, got back to the grind, and heard the mean little voice I had heard at least four thousand times before:
No one is coming for me.
For two years, this message has left me bereft.
But on this day, I woke up. Something sounded different. I looked that voice right in the eye. “Say that again. A little louder.”
No one is coming for me.
A key turned in a lock. The whole mechanism of my understanding slipped into alignment, and the door fell open.
No one is coming for me!
I am off the hook! I do not have to keep waiting for vague fantasies of rescue to come pulsing to life. No one is coming. It’s all me, and I get to do this in any way I see fit. No more clutching, grasping, longing, and struggling to endure this in order to get to that.
What a relief!
The reason I am stuck is not because I do not work hard enough. The reason I am stuck is because I am stuck. The only way to get un-stuck is to lift the needle, remove the worn-out composition, and replace it with music more to my liking.
I am ready to make my own happy.
I understand that “happy” is not a steady state nor is it a fixed target. I also know that whatever form it takes, it is an ingredient required for that elusive success I feel is so far out of my grasp. Without a little pleasure, I am just stuck in the same groove. Revolve, skip, repeat.
Depression, exhaustion, and a worst-case-scenario mindset have done far more damage than all of my professional and relational decisions combined. Or, another way to say it is this: feeling bad makes the universe of options constrict so completely that I make poor, short-sighted choices. And I generally choose inertia over bold steps.
So, “happy” may be an insufficient condition for getting un-stuck, but it is certainly necessary. Career success, inspiration, intimacy, and health all demand this one thing. Not harder work, no. I have been working myself hollow. Instead, it is throwing open the curtains and maybe humming a little good-morning tune.
That’s how this all started. I decided to right then and there to quit kvetching and start taking in the good, as Rick Hanson advises. It was a simple decision to begin the daily practice of seeking out a more positive, loving perspective. To calm my reactions and smile the tension down. I figured that doing this with any intention would require turning the good experiences over in my mind, rolling them around the tongue. First, seek moments of engagement, then collect them, and finally, describe them.
For these 100 days, I give over to the possibility of neuroplasticity, and let these practices do what they can to rebuild the tendencies of this long-suffering brain. This was the promise I made to myself when I wrote that contract with joy.
I will let in the light. I will find the new song. I will not shy away.
I will write it all down.
This final practice, I have discovered, kills two birds with one stone (or plants two trees with one seed, as the case may be), because writing makes me happy. Writing about happy things makes me doubly so.
Let the signs come. I may not believe, but I will keep my eyes and ears open. If they do not materialize, well, then, I will just have to go and cobble them together from whatever is on hand. Which is, after all, everything.