30 December 2012

The Things We Leave Behind

Dear Reader,

I'm not much for New Year's Resolutions.  To quote Dangerous Liaisons, they're "humiliating if you fail, and commonplace if you succeed."  Better, I think, to make resolutions--and thereby to engage in self-work and self-improvement--all year long.

But this year feels especially weighty in its exit.  2012, as evidenced by the amount I've written, has been an especially rough year.  In many ways, it's been a year of endings:  relationships, jobs, over-identifications, illusions, wishes.  There's a part of me that is entranced by those endings.  I want to fetishize them.  That's something we all do--just look at the (disappointing) drama around the Mayan calendar.  We're obsessed with endings, and we insist that they be literalized in the outside world.  I'm not immune to that, and in some ways it's easier to focus on the ending (as an abdication of responsibility), than to consider the profound power and implication of a beginning (unlike endings, we're responsible for beginnings and for all the future paths they embody).  And I recognize that each of this year's endings allows for beginnings of a different kind.

But here, Dear Reader, your valiant writer is going to intervene!!  I'm going to take a stake, and make a stand.  I will propose for us a distinction between an 'ending' and a 'leaving behind.'  In one, I have agency, choice, and power.  In the other, it happens TO me.  So as I've reflected on it these last few days, I've come to think of 2012 as a year not of endings, but of leaving things behind.

And that, Dear Reader, is where you come in.  For one of the things I'm going to leave behind is my silence. This new year will be about writing.  So you'll see more of me here, and more of me in other projects as well.

That's right:  the choice I made for my career and my life has given me more time to write and to focus--at least for a while--on what it might feel like to actually chase my dreams a bit.  What, you say?  Haven't you been doing that, you Crow?  You've been having a wild good time chasing a big career around and splashing around in the bird-bath of its rewards.  "Are you not entertained?  Is this not what you came to see?"  (Points if you get the reference.)

No.  And healing from the experience of the last few years will, I think, involve going INSIDE instead of acting things out in the outside world.  And that means more writing.  More thinking.  More breathing.  Leaving behind the chase in order to work on the soul for a bit.

Speaking of the chase, let's talk romance for a bit, shall we?  I wonder, Dear Reader, if you'd tell me about what it means to love?  I'll tell you what it's been for me over the years.  Love has been obligation, responsibility, imbalance, dependence, power differentials, resentment, and sorrow.  The best love has been that of my friends, and I've chased it in romance unsuccessfully for years--in fact, almost two decades since I came out of the closet, and dreamed what it would be like to find a man to love, who would love me in return.  Dear Reader, I AM LEAVING THIS BEHIND.  I know that's a bit of inflation--that my ego is getting a little too big for its britches when I make a statement like that--but I feel it's important to take a stand, lest this damaged version of love set the stage for the future.  NO! Says the Crow!

Love will be about relating authentically with myself, and taking responsibility for my feelings, defenses, violence, and anger.  That will be the foundation for relating to someone else.  Love will be the act of valiantly and bravely standing up for myself, and stoking the flame of my own gay identity and self--of that Promethean flame that's burned in me for nearly 20 years.  Yes, 2013 will mark 20 years out of the closet!  And I owe it to that young boy, that daring and wonderful little boy who looked inside and saw something different in himself than in anyone around him; I owe it to him to embrace the possibility that he (that I!) deserve love, and deserve to be treated with respect, and with dignity, and with joy, and with bravery equal to the challenges ahead.  And if I cannot find this in the outer world, then Dear Reader, I WILL EMBRACE IT IN MY INNER WORLD.  And that will be no compromise, no meager substitute--for I am coming to realize that my love is my own, and it is my experience.  It lives not in some other man, but in me.  I love.  I do not ask permission from someone else to love.  My love is my own, so I am leaving behind the belief that I need to find it, and embracing the belief that I already embody it--damn my defenses.

I'm using a lot of caps this time, and you'll note that's a different tone than I've had in the past.  To this I say, DEAR READER, YOU AINT SEEN NOTHING YET.  As I've worked to become more related to myself, and more connected to my feelings, I am choosing to leave behind the politeness, and to embrace the REALNESS.  This is my fucking, messy, angry, light-filled and shadow-laden, joyful, unedited story.  This is the feeling I'm going to work to bring into my life, my writing, my love, my inner work, my career.

I am leaving behind the over-identification I've had with my external accomplishments--my high-profile job (from which I've derived a considerable amount of borrowed unjust power--and have secretly REVELED in that); my community engagement (which--like a hot boyfriend--has such overt and tempting and toxic social power); my beautiful possessions (which, I am coming to see, have owned me more than I, them).  These things I wish to leave behind.

O Reader, now that I've been so inflated, the shame comes up and tells me that I'm being silly.  "You'll never be able to do this, Crow.  You'll fail.  You don't deserve love.  You'd better just focus on making money and buying things that make people envy you.  That's the real love.  You're a failure.  Look at your life:  single, unemployed, bereft, unattached, powerless, worthless.  Get a big job quick so you can buy yourself something to prove your value."

To that demon I say, "Fuck you, and the shade you rode in on.  I leave you behind as well."  My defenses will come up, and I'll no doubt act out (consciously and unconsciously) in ways that I cannot now predict, but that are sure to be violent, anti-self, aggressive, and shadowy.  But I'll face them--and their consequences--in due time.

The intensity of this year has created many occasions to face demons of this sort, where I've acted violently against my own interests and had to deal with the consequences.  And--here's the magic part--it turns out I'm quite capable of facing the challenges these situations present.  And more  than this, Dear Reader, more than this!!!  It turns out your Sagittarian Crow actually LIKES IT!  Isn't that crazy!?  I love this adventure, and this exploration of my own subjectivity--even my own shadow.  I hesitate, and I attack, and I resist, but at my core, your Sable--like some warrior in a fantasy legend--likes the journey.  That's a core ethic of mine--to explore and to improve and to be brave.  In this way, I will invoke gay spirit and the very energy I tapped into when I came out of the closet--that's the energy I'm invoking here, of irrepressible spirit and a sense of self and the belief in truth--my truth--however hard it is.  For if it is hard-won, then all the better to win it.

And that, Dear Reader, is the story of 2012.  It has been a hard-won year.  Your Crow is tired, and his feathers are ruffled, and there have been storms.  But he's undaunted, and is flying away from those things that, in his heart, he's needed to leave behind.  And he's flying toward the dawn.  The solstice is passed, and the days grow longer, and 2013 will be a profoundly good year.

And here's a song about resisting the things we want--of struggling for the breath of life while, at the same time, hearing the voices of our defenses.  What happens in a life where we leave that behind?  What wonders would that life have?  Let's find out, shall we?  ;-)

10 April 2012

On Writing

I suppose a little is better than none.  I can't believe how long it's been since I've blogged, or written anything, for that matter.  About the middle of last year, I started blocking time for writing each week.  I've written about a page.

It used to be different, I think.  Writing is like any art--talent helps, but practise makes the product.  And for me, the experience of writing--of filling these blank pages with my thoughts--it's just too painful.  Well, almost too painful, since I'm drawn back each time.

I have a copy of Julie Cameron's "The Artist's Way" next to me as I type.  I haven't read it yet.  I wonder what it will say.  I wonder if it will inspire.  I wonder if it can hold a tiny candle against the monsters in my mind, that twist and rage and croak their indignation at my writing.

"You're awful, Sable." they say. "You're a shitty writer when you write, and a shitty writer when you don't.  Stay focused on other things.  Your career, your life.  On filling your closet, or your home.  You're better when you're buying, not creating.  YOU HAVE NOTHING TO SAY."

Those voices are, of course, coming from within.  They're related, I think, to a part of me that never recovered from being gay in this awful world.  I learned at such an early age to hide the most important parts of me, to keep them safe, to protect them, that I struggle now, as a grown and 'empowered' adult, to let them go a little.  To give myself space to write, to be, to love.

Writing and love, it turns out, are one and the same.  They take the same determination.  They require the same sacrifice.  They a leap both into and out of ourselves.  They are both terrifying. 

Even as I write this, the defenses come up.  "Don't put this online, Sable.  Someone might read it, and what will they think?  It's embarassing, showing this kind of vulnerability.  No one is interested.  Stop being so narcissistic...so selfish."

These voices have no idea that I've started to catch on to their game.  I'm learning where they come from--the secret places.  I'm hunting them down.  Not to kill them, oh no, for our shadows cannot be killed--they're part of us just a surely as a breath or a heartbeat.  I'm hunting them down to understand, and to integrate them, and to hold their hands as I bring them into the light.

This blog is one manifestation of that light.  And in the time I've been away--a time of relationships, of buying real estate and gut-renovating it into a thing of beauty, of trips to Mexico where I fantasize about writing and come home with blank notebooks, of taking a writing course (lo!) and of having my professor die just weeks after the class ended (you must write, she said to me), of nights alone with a dull ache in my chest like a kind of disappointment or grief, of nights with friends where I hide my true self and play the good game--in this time I've been growing, like all of us.  And I've gotten stronger as I've grown, more empowered, more perceptive.  Perhaps, just perhaps, even more receptive (wouldn't THAT be nice?!).   And all along my shadows have been watching warily, fearfully.

"What will he do?" they ask each other.  "I like it when he focuses on work," says a tall, thin one with a gold pocket watch and a monocle.  "I like it when he buy things," says a smiling one, grinning through three rows of sharp little teeth.  "I don't care what he does, I can't stand this!" says yet another, a sad, hunched thing with bleary eyes and ink-stained fingers.  "Madness," says a deeper shadow, steepling its long, thin fingers, "This is merely madness; there is no profit here."

To them I say, perhaps I am doing all those things.  And perhaps I will show you to the world, and give you out--air you like a dirty shirt, smelling of cigarettes, beer, and sticky sweat.  Perhaps I will begin to acknowledge you for my own, my little secrets, my precious.  I'm not sure I can expend all the energy needed to keep you silent, and contained, and still have any creativity left for me.  So I will take you with me, shadows.  We are one.

And then, it occurs to me, Dear Reader.  You and I are one, as well.  As I write, it's me I imagine reading when I think of you.  It's my imagination that has to stand in for you, since you are not actually here to see me writing in the dark, in my underwear, with a belly full of eggs and cheesy tuna casserole.  And you are fearsome to me, Reader--most fearsome of all my shadows.  When I turn the final page, I imagine my Reader looking up, and saying: "Is that all?"

So mostly, I hide, imagining that in hiding I can avoid the question.  "What do you mean, 'Is that all?'," I ask with mock innocence.  "I'm not a writer.  I'm a banker.  I'm an activist.  I'm a psychological adventurer.  I'm no writer.  So how can you judge me?"

But it's not you judging, is it?

It's me.

And there we get to the finest pickle of them all.  I am artist, arbiter, audience, and executioner.  The white page is my death, but to stare is down is scarier still.  To hold my ground, when the shadows close in, taken courage.

"You've done enough damage for one night," they say, even now.  "Imagine who will use this against you.  Imagine who will judge you for what you've said, for how you've felt, for how you feel even now with your fingers flying across the clicking keys.  You cannot do the task you've set before yourself.  You will fail."

And I listen, and I do not start the journey.  And even now, I'm lost a little, Reader. I don't know where I've taken you.  I'm worried that I've failed you in the promise any writer makes--to show a little truth about the world.  For I'm scared that there isn't much truth inside, and I have to resist the urge to erase the last paragraph.  Or this entry.  Or my feelings about what it means to me--what it FEELS like to me--to be a writer.

I tell you this, Reader:  It's scary.

I have an outline for a novel.  The shadows I described are busy tearing it apart, telling me that it will fail, that it's silly, trivial, meaningless drivel.  They do this before a single word is written.  Like assassins, they suffocate my characters as they sleep, they paint whole cities black, they unravel plots as quickly as I weave.  And most of all, most sinister of all, they push the hands of the clock forward just a bit each passing moment.  Like an indecisive coach running out a clock while the players grow anxious on the field, time passes unfazed and unfeeling while I dawdle.

This is a lonely journey, Reader.  It's my own Inferno, my own journey inward and within.  Dante knew the right of it.  He had the shape of it.

I wonder, then.  I wonder if I could use this blog to document my FEELINGS about writing as I begin this journey--as I struggle to get out my first novel.  I wonder if it would help me, to let my shadows have some air-time as well.  It has not worked to try to keep them in check, for they have only grown in that time.  More than a decade.  I promised myself that making money was only a way to have the freedom I'd need to write, but it hasn't worked that way.  Making money requires a blood sacrifice--it doesn't give it's fruit willingly.  It requires just enough to keep you weak enough to resist it.  But I cannot blame money or it's making.  Comfort also is my siren.  "Don't write," it sings, "relax.  Take an evening off, or a month, or a year, or a decade.  You've earned it."

I've earned something, you devil.  I've earned the sense of fear I have now.  I've earned the whisperings of characters I've never met, but whom I've glanced in a darkened mirror, or between the pages of books, or just beneath the varnish of centuries-old paintings.  That is not comfortable, but it is magical.

I'm afraid, but most afraid of failing.  Ironically, that's what's kept me from writing all this time.  It's what keeps me here, writing about writing, rather than one application over, writing a story that wants to tell itself through me.  See?  See what a tricky bastard I can be?

I hear singing.  Don't despair, Reader.  It's iTunes, not some dark fantasy.  I hear the words of the Bard put to music.  I hear Prospero's speech--the ultimate appeal by a writer, dreamer, and poet, to his audience.  But also, I think, to himself.  It is as much a guide to one's own Reader as it is to one's Audience.  One is a worse critic than the other...or so I understand.