The Yin

It’s an atypical Sunday. And it began that way. I guzzled my morning coffee at a Monday’s pace, determined to squeeze in a 3-mile run before a brief, but unconventionally scheduled work meeting. As I scrolled through emails and checked alerts on my phone, I came across a yet-unreturned “like” from another blogger on my About page. Like other polite and well-intentioned bloggers, I visited her site to return the kindness and discovered that she had written a recent post about The Used Life. The gesture touched me in a way that the author, Linda, surely couldn’t have anticipated. If only because she could never have known the turmoil I’ve been experiencing lately regarding this blog and what purpose it realistically serves (if any) in helping me to move forward in a meaningful direction. There are days when I come alarmingly close to hitting “Delete.” I attribute the creative ebb I seem to have found myself in lately to that doubt-filled thinking. I honestly believe that if Linda had not published her post this morning, I would not be writing this one. I would like to thank her for giving me the gift of encouragement, whether she knew I needed it or not.

abstract black-white write pen

I find myself now, post-meeting, curled up at a corner table at Starbucks, writing long-hand in a new notebook. A catharsis. The feeling of a fresh start. A titillating illusion. It may be said that I am going through one of the darker phases of the creative process, as discussed in Flinch., in which I want to take what I love and destroy it. There are days in which I hate The Used Life as much as—or more than—I love it. Sometimes, I swell with pride when I look at what I’ve produced on this site. Other days, I am filled with disgust, even embarrassment, and feelings of lack—of being “not good enough”—when I see what I have created here.

I have to reconnect, I think. Put pen to paper. Jazz in my headphones. Exorcise my demons. I must allow the writer in me to write in order to exhale, to keep myself from drowning. I write to change. But, am I afraid of change? Of the possibility of leaving what I have behind? But, what do I have—really have—besides the stories I tell myself? Am I too stubborn? Too self-reliant? (I am an only child.) I know that change is imminent. I can feel it circulating in the air I breathe. I know this feeling. The feeling that the walls are closing in. That the present moment has reached a threshold of intolerability. That the best thing I can do for myself is to say, FUCK IT! and take massive, determined action that will propel me into the unknown. Do I even have another choice? I can be impetuous.


Then again, aren’t these walls of my own making? Didn’t I erect them myself? Didn’t I? Am I so reluctant to admit to myself that I am the author of my own discontentment? The creator of my own anguish? And, isn’t that actually good news? I could choose to believe that or not. It’s probably better that I’ll never know what all of my demons look like. To sense them well enough to discern them can create enough in the way of suffering.

Is it a gift—the writing, the introspection, the excessive experimentation, the seeing through to people? I am careless with myself sometimes. The other day, I told a friend he was much smarter than he believed. It’s so obvious to me. His intelligence is one of his most magnetic qualities. It’s in everything he does. But, he doesn’t know it. I don’t think he believed me when I told him that, either. Am I that way? My blind spots are big. I know they are. I have to ask myself, who could I be if I saw the good in myself like I see it in other people?

Why can I not seem to find a direction that satisfies me? Why does so much of what’s out there feel wrong? Why do I make all of my decisions based on feel? Because I don’t know how else to make decisions. Why do I feel my work always exists on one or the other end of a continuum—that it oscillates between the polarities of being “too good” (for what, anyway?) and “not good enough?” Why do I feel that nothing I will ever bring into the world will have a home that I do not make myself? Is it integrity that motivates me? Or fear? Yes. God, I hate being honest with myself.

A part of me wants this stream of thoughts to be beautiful. My mind is wandering to dinner. I am craving elegance. Braised lamb shoulder. Duck. Pan-seared chicken with Riesling cream sauce, chanterelles, and chard. Thank you, Saveur. I want a lavender massage, a long, hot bubble bath, and a glass of rosé. I think I left my heart in Paris.

fantasy of glass

This is how I center myself. I make. When I mold something until I sense it is beautiful. When I immerse myself in the aesthetics of the moment. When life pours out poetry. When my body feels like slow jazz.

Is this what fuck it feels like this time around? How many times in this lifetime will I have to be reborn? How many different people can I possibly become? I am populated by a thousand different souls. They live and die on the page. I am only 35, and it feels like I have already lived and died a thousand times. And what do I have to show for it? A bottle of wine, a chicken dinner, and another new notebook.

9 thoughts on “The Yin

  1. I came to your blog via the link on Linda’s blog (I only recently started following her) and am glad for the connection with both of your blogs. Your work is eloquent and interesting. This piece speaks to things I’m sure many of us have experienced – I certainly have!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the kind words! I would be lost if I stopped blogging, too. Creative projects give me something to look forward to…even when I struggle with them. But, I guess those feelings really aren’t all that uncommon.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Keep going. You’re one of the most insightful persons I’ve ‘met’ through blogging and one of the most analytical about yourself – that will lead you into confusion and making knots sometimes…I’ve done this to myself too – but clarity will come and when it does you’ll see that this current doubt is all part of getting you there. Wishing you happy jogging and blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much, Lynne. And you’re right about over analyzing ourselves. I’m not going to quit. Sometimes, unpleasantness is just part of the process. I appreciate the kind words and the thoughtful comments, as always!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for coming over to my blog and liking my poem.

    When I hit similar feelings, this Ira Glass quote has been powerfully reassuring that it is crucial to continue producing if I ever want to be as good as I could be: “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

    Liked by 1 person

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