The past couple of days I've struggled to find myself. I've struggled to find who I am in my writing, in my self, in my coaching, in my world. It just happens that way sometimes. I wake up in the morning and I don't know who I am or how I got here. I live in this beautiful home near the beach with a beautiful girl and amazing animals that give me unconditional love and food in the fridge and dishes on the shelf and money in the bank. And I wonder how I got here? I'm sure I didn't just land here. I'm sure I drove myself here. I'm sure I walked myself here, crawled myself here, cried myself here, died myself here. This is all me and I'm okay with that. I'm not here to understand the how, I guess, just the me. This isn't someone else's life happening to me, no matter how much it feels like that sometimes. This is my life and I accept that. I like that. I love that. I am grateful for that and for all that's in it. So if I'm struggling to find myself, just look in the mirror. Like me or not, I'm right there.
After reading three books (ranging from 80 to 200 pages each) in the span of about a week, I got challenged to read one that might take more than just a couple of days. I obliged. And just a month and three weeks later, I've finished this massive epic novel, You Can't Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe. Whew.This book came to me in a box with six other books (two of which were read as noted above), all with little neon green post-it notes attached. Some notes gave a three- or four-word summary, some a reference to why the sender thought I might enjoy it. The note attached to this particular book: "My favorite book."
For the details of the book, you can read it yourself. As for what I got out of it, I'm happy to share. The title of the book is anything but true. You most certainly can go home again. But what you find there is never going to be what you remembered. We tend to go to extremes when we think about our pasts--we glorify or vilify whatever we remember and use it all to our advantage or disadvantage, whichever works best in the moment. The looking back, in and of itself, makes it difficult to move forward. So we spend a lot of time turned around, looking at the past analyzing it and figuring out where we went wrong, all the while we stand still, looking back at something that will never be again. It's not that there's no importance in looking back and figuring out what the hell happened back there, but there's something to be said for not pulling off the road in order to do so. Especially for something that no longer exists, save inside our minds.
There are parts of this book that are written so eloquently and truthfully about life and the way we go through it (albeit written in the 1930's), and the way we use our egos to maneuver through this piece and that and ultimately sacrifice the things we want for the things we think we ought to have. It's these portions that made me contemplate my own ego in this capacity. The idea that I have a past but don't use it against my future in order to "succeed." The idea that I have a future and don't discard my past in order to bypass the trickery of achieving a future at all. The idea that what happens in my reality is not only my reality, but a portion others' as well. That my world not only affects my self and my ego, but that it has effects on all mankind, even if I should choose not to believe so. That what goes on in the world is not just something happening some place else, but that this is all our home, my home and ought to be looked on with familial care. That just because what happens "over there" doesn't affect me over here, it has a great impact on the world in which I choose to live. That my existence, while mostly lived in the solitude of my own head (and briefly spilled out onto the pages of the internet via private journal or public blog), is not just my own (in part, because of these things). There is more to me than just what I see. And just what I say. And just what I remember. Because every time I try to go back where I once was, it is always someplace different, and thus, so am I. And that became clear to me as I read this book, in all its glorious 704 paperback pages.
This feels a little cut off, but that's really all I have to offer right now. I'm trying this thing where I post what I have to post instead of saving draft after draft after draft because it's just not right quite yet and then sits there for three weeks or four months before I delete it because it's no longer relevant. And there you have it.
Just one more thing: I wonder what makes this book anyone's "favorite book"? Not because I think it can't possibly be, but because the things that become our favorites become so because they've touched us in such a way that can never be forgotten. I cannot say that this is my favorite book, but it's touched me in such a way to see that it's possible.
This afternoon I finished my chapter on Acceptance from 7 Days and I feel great. It's crazy to me that writing about something that seemed so depressing while going through it is now so uplifting to me. I've learned so much from my father's death; so many really wonderful things in me have flourished as a result, and it's not that I'm happy about his death, it's that I've learned from it, I've grown, and I've become a better person through the process of it all.
This past weekend I was in another coaching course with CTI and we focused on perspectives. I have more to post on that in a bit, but for now, I'm astounded at how little I've gotten done with my book in the past three years because I've looked at it as one giant step I have to take: write a book. It's not that I haven't done anything on the book, I have. I've even posted excerpts of some portions I thought might end up in the book here in this blog. But I never acknowledged myself for the small steps I was taking.
Every word I've written for this book has been a step that's gotten me to where I am now with it--whether it gets cut, fought for, or printed. It all leads me to whatever will get printed. So I'm celebrating this completion of this chapter by buying myself flowers for the flower box I put up today outside my writing space. I'm proud of myself, and I don't mind saying so. This is a small step. Which actually means it's a big step. Because in the end, any step is a step forward, no matter which direction it takes me.
I've been running around this morning trying to figure out if I like my new writing space. My experience with home writing spaces in the past has not been so great. It's been a tiny desk with a tiny chair--a tiny blue fabric and black plastic and rusted metal chair my father bought me in high school in the hopes that I'd do some homework--and it's always seemed too...childish.
My new writing space is very adult. An espresso wood desk with three drawers and brushed nickel drawer knobs, sturdy, curve lined legs, and a sleek, almost glossy desktop with room for more than a glass of water and half a keyboard. Next to the writing space is my vision board, complete with a million-dollar bill, a house on a golf course, a vacation home in Hawaii, beautiful sunsets around the world, triumphant fists raised in joy and excitement of capitalizing on the moment, sandy beach shores, green grasses of baseball stadiums, and my name on the NY Times Best Sellers List. Now it's time to live up to it all.
As much as the space I have to write in is exactly what I've created, it's a little intimidating. Now I have everything I said I needed in order finish this book, and it's time to do it. Can I write what I think I can? Will people even read it? And if they do, will they see what I mean for them to see? I guess that's not what the writing is about anyway. It's more for you to pull whatever it is that means something to you out. Isn't that what we do with books, anyway? We always have the freedom to see something other than the author's intent, and maybe only then have we really gotten something out of the book, anyway.
So as I think about it now, yes, I like my new writing space. I look out into the little backyard, and I can see the flowers on the sill (if I close my eyes because I haven't put up the planter just yet), and the desk and the cat perched on the desk, and the vision board, all in my peripheral vision because what's in front of me is the writing. And the writing is all the space I need.
I've been working on a chapter of 7 Days over the past couple of weeks, possibly titled: Acceptance. What began as an exploration into the acceptance of my father's death, both before and after it became reality, has turned into so much more. I'm reflecting on the level of acceptance we'd each held for each other, and the thresholds we each had for such. I could accept that my father was a Christian man and lived his life as such, but I drew the line at accepting any and all words into my ears upon hearing the words "church," "faith," "God," or the likes. And if I stopped listening when he talked, was that really me accepting him for who he was?
We had a conversation just before he died about religion and the ways in which it's affected our relationship, and I came to realize that we'd never have had that conversation if not for his imminent death shadowing his every move. This conversation catapulted us into feverish acceptance, given the "knowledge" that he'd be gone soon(er, rather than later). There were questions like: "Why don't you ever ask about _______ when you know she's my girlfriend?" and "What do you believe about God, Dian??"; then statements like: "She's not my friend; she's my girlfriend--you can acknowledge that even if you don't like it."; and "I don't necessarily believe that you'll go to Hell anymore...".
All this (and more, which I'll leave for the book for now) from the knowledge of his death, looming around the corner, not knowing which corner but being able to smell it if we put our nose to the ground like a hound, in the air like a retriever. And we were not wrong, unfortunately so. I wanted to believe we were wrong about how close his death actually was, but there's a knowing that comes in the form of a gut feeling, a twisted knot deep in the belly that tightens and sickens the days away, beckoning questions unasked and statements unstated to be asked and stated and put out in the open air so they can live and breathe and not die with the man sitting in the sunken couch with cushions that ought to have been replaced years ago, just as these things ought to have been aired.
And what comes at the end, but acceptance? Of the man sitting in front of me. Of the woman standing before him. Of the death waiting around the bend. Of the cancer buried deep in the man. Of the lesbian buried deep in the woman. Of the love for each and all of these things, these people. Of the idea that one can believe what one believes and that belief is not tarnished or broken or made irrelevant by another's belief in the opposite. In the end, there was acceptance of all that we were, all that we tried to be and all that was left over. In the end there was acceptance of a father and a daughter and a death that could not tear the two apart.