Unexpected. Honestly, how old does a person have to get before the lesson is learned? The imagined future, especially the imagined future following a big surrender or victory or bravery, that future is never what was expected. Ever. The new reality is always unexpected, and that has to be okay with me because the alternative is to stay here. Stuck. Wondering if. Wondering when. Wondering, imagining, making a more and more unrealistic future to look for.
So I'm moving. I've sent off a short piece to Brevity (short pieces are the only kind they take) and I'll send out another piece when another one is done. I'm going to send out everything I do for my creative nonfiction course because if I stop now, the hole will fill back up again, and I'll have to pick and chisel another way through the blockage. Instead, I figure I'll keep the channel open by dumping things through it.
What's so hard about that? Right? What's so danged hard about sending out writing I've already done and I know perfectly well is good writing?
And for that matter, what's so hard about attending the course every week? Why does my chest contract and my breath come more shallow and quick? Why do I avoid my other coursework when I want this degree so badly? Why do I put off the things that give me the most joy? Why do I refuse to dance?
You can't dance with shackles on. In Martha Beck's surprising follow-up to the surprisingly practical Finding Your Own North Star, Steering by Starlight, which, as I said, I was very prepared to poo-poo, there is a concept of "shackles on" and "shackles off." (Click on the words to see the exercises. Martha has made the exercises from the book available online.) This concept is a way to tell yourself quite plainly how you deeply respond to a situation or course of action. It's a way to tell yourself the truth. (Note: this is not "spiritual direction" in the classical sense. This is just human psyche stuff, and it's universally helpful. Thank you, Martha.)
Now, I know perfectly well that school and writing (and yes, even efficient house keeping and (dare I admit this?) physical exercise) feel like shackles off. Definitely off. My life is a dancing life when I face these things and do them. I love them. Dancing is happy making. And yet, I put them off as if being sent to the firing squad.
Right now, today, I would rather do anything - anything! - than get ready to leave the house and go to class today. Writing class. Writing class that's going really, really well. This is the third session. The first time, I showed up with no paper (to a writing class!), and the second time with no pens. Yes, really.
Today I will have packed for a three-day stint away from home, because Friday and Saturday are my course days for Interpersonal Neurobiology, and that makes everything worse. I do know what will happen this weekend. I've been reading the book. I will get "unstuck" and I will have more shackles taken off - I'm sure that in the course of the course, I will take shackles off for myself. And I'll be free. Free to dance more. Free to write and move through all the places of stuck-ness. And the thought makes me panic.
See how I talk all around the edges of the thing? See how I don't just come out and say it - or better, start doing it? I want to write and sell what I write. I want a pretty house, all organized and organically happy, attached to its past, ready for its future. Metaphorically and corporeally, I want these things. Instead, with the clock ticking away the morning, and an essay to revise, I sit here and talk about it. And panic.