My Third Novel's Conclusion, My Heartbreak

My heart begins to break when I think about completing this particular book -- because this narrative has sustained me like no other story I've known. It's both more personal and more universal than my other works. But beyond memory and archetype, it's a cri-de-coeur about needing to become the person one is destined to be. And in the writing, I have met my own life's work, my own fated journey -- having the sense all the while that the pages are suffused with a resonance, an energy, an electrified field that defies explanation. Writers hope and pray to be overtaken by a work in this way -- to be conscripted into passionate service of a profound story. To experience it even once in a lifetime seems a great privilege. I still have perhaps six months before this novel is complete, and this constitutes my reprieve. Because I'm not ready for the beauty to end.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Prometheus Inside

"There are four questions of value in life, Don Octavio.  What is sacred?  Of what is the spirit made?  What is worth living for and what is worth dying for?  The answer to each is the same.  Only love." -- Lord Byron

I feel love for two people who don't want to love anyone -- who abhor the idea of "love" per se -- who much prefer to view life in transactional terms -- deals -- exchanges.  One of them is a relative -- and the other, a friend.  Given that love is present in my very breath, in each surge of the rivers and tributaries that map my veins, these relationships are mysterious to me -- and surprisingly powerful.  On some essential level, I possess something that these two men want and need from me -- and I feel this hunger from them almost like a magnetic pull.

I have glimpsed their suffering at times -- because I notice everything.  I know how empty their experience can be -- how detached and bored they can feel without being able to know true depth of emotion for other human beings.  It's like having their noses pressed up against the glass of life.  On the other side, they can see people experiencing love, fulfillment, gratitude, delight, pure joy.  It's quite painful to be separated from all that.  They're cut off from the kind of deep and rewarding connections to which I have unfettered access -- and this must feel prejudicial to them -- even wildly unfair.  I'm sensitive to their predicament -- and the ways in which they try to fill the internal void.  I see the terrible ennui that sometimes fills the space that love might occupy -- and the game-playing that helps them feel connected, albeit in a superficial way, to others.

The problem that occurs when we approach one another is that I can't be played or diminished in my relationships with them.  I merit something more interesting, more powerful -- a meeting of equals.  My insight is too developed -- my character is too valuable -- to become smaller on request.  Because love insists on authenticity.  It disdains deceit or retribution or trivial power gambits.  In the face of love, all detours become child's play.

In the most secret room of my soul, there's a bright fire burning -- incandescent, luminous. I don't know how it was kindled or who lit the flame -- but it can't be extinguished.  It emanates an ever-increasing amount of heat and light from one day to the next, and, despite my own desires, I'm incapable of doing anything to destroy that fire.  I'm forced to keep it burning because of my elemental connection to it.  The white light burns as the source of my spirit and it can't be diminished, by me or by anyone, really.  It renews itself from a limitless source.

If my sacrifice of myself would help these two men receive love in its entirety, I would give them everything -- even to the point of my own destruction.  That's how much I care about them.  But I know my demise wouldn't serve them.  They need to light their own fires within their own secret rooms -- to kindle their own source of love and character -- and I want more than anything else to support them.

What do I know of the feelings these men have for me?  They hate me and they love me, both -- even though they don't believe in love.  They feel I've withheld the one thing that would sustain them -- though the "one thing" is different for each of them.  I know I've deeply wounded them both by not giving them everything they've wanted from me.  By their own measure, they've lost the original game they hoped to win.  Will there be another?  We all know I have the potential to help them heal in some way.  I hope one day, in loving them generously, I will have the chance.

I long to let them know I understand everything -- the pain they have suffered, the things they've done to try to alleviate it, the shame that has followed in the wake of their choices, the blame they've cast outward, the rage over not feeling like "enough" -- and I love them anyway, in their entirety.  They are enough.  They are worthy.  They are beloved.

In the meantime, I uphold their well-being in my heart and mind.  I visit the room in which the incandescent fire is burning and I long to give them a part of it -- a white-hot torch they can carry forward -- with no cost, no strings, no deal required.  I feel such inexplicable connection to these two men -- I hope they can draw strength from that somehow -- I hope they can draw meaning -- sustenance -- even when we don't speak.  Life is short.  Deep connections are rare.  But I love these two people beyond the measurable.  And I won't desert them.  If they ever ask for my support, I'll be there to render it.  If they ever need to talk to me, I'll be there to listen.  Perhaps they'll read these words, so perhaps they'll know.


Monday, February 12, 2018

Music 6

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!  In celebration of the main event this week, I'm listening to the following tracks:

Dreamer by LaPeer (a Valentine for dreamers and creative spirits everywhere)

I Can Only by JoJo, Alessia Cara

Fix You by Coldplay

Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol

Magic -- Live at the Enmore Theatre -- by Coldplay

Strange & Beautiful (I'll Put a Spell On You) by Aqualung

Never Knock by Kevin Garrett

Yellow Lights by Harry Hudson

Brighter Than Sunshine by Aqualung

Yours by Ella Henderson

Fire and Rain by Birdy (in honor of impossible reunions. . . See my Dancing With the Universe post.)

Retro pick:  Something -- Remastered -- The Beatles

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Dancing With the Universe

One of my favorite actors, Jeff Bridges, likes to refer to some of the most powerful experiences in his life as "dancing with the universe."  The coincidence that is too miraculous to be happenstance, the epiphany that retains its power over time, the transcendent feeling that accompanies the impossible reunion -- all of these are part of the dance to which he refers.  And I know just what he means.

On Friday afternoon, while getting ready for the Viennese Ball, I was overwhelmed by the presentiment that I would reunite that evening with someone important to me -- someone I hadn't seen in a long time.  I had no idea who it might be -- but I felt a profound sense of anticipation about the Ball as a result.  I chose my dress, my shoes, my jewelry with the excitement of going to meet a loved one.  It was an improbable conviction, given that one thousand people planned to attend the event  -- and the odds of running into acquaintances would be staggeringly low.

Still, at 9:00 pm, my beloved and long-lost brother materialized out of thin air.  He lives three thousand miles away -- travels the world on a hectic schedule -- and had fallen out of touch with our entire extended family.

So, the fairy tale of long gowns and tuxedos and the live orchestra was complete when I found myself dancing the Viennese waltz in the arms of my only sibling, whom I haven't seen in over a year.  We had a falling out surrounding my father's death two years ago -- and I wondered whether he was lost to me.  Would it be decades before I saw him again?  Would I ever see him again in this lifetime?  I had been speaking to friends in recent weeks about how terribly I've missed him -- about how much I've wanted to tell him I love him -- ridiculously, devotedly, unconditionally love him -- my big brother -- friend of my youth.

And then, we were together -- impossibly, redemptively spinning around the dance floor in one another's arms.  I don't know how often a magic reconciliation manifests itself in real life -- but, on Friday night, I was part of one.  I'm still airborne with euphoria over this reunion.

All of it makes me wonder -- what if we could summon our family and friends with the strength of our feelings for them?  What if our love for others were so powerful that it wouldn't allow long absence?  These are questions the answer to which is sometimes pure, inexplicable, unmitigated joy.

I love you, dear brother of mine.  I'm so grateful for your return to my life.  Take my hand, and let's dance.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know

In 1812, Lady Caroline Lamb described Lord Byron as "mad, bad and dangerous to know" due to his drinking, his philandering and his generally dissolute life.  The description remains an intriguing one, whatever we now remember of the man who inspired it.

For those of us who are eminently responsible -- entrusted as legal guardian of other people's children,  executor of myriad estates, medical power of attorney for friends and family -- such an accusation would be a remarkable one.  My friends see me as trustworthy in all domains -- conscientious with their secrets, their hopes, their dreams, their progeny, their worldly possessions -- their unrealized ambitions in the realms of life and death.  They know I will move mountains to uphold their desires.

So, what is delightful about the prospect of being called "mad, bad and dangerous to know?"  It sounds a good deal more fun than being called a saint, for one thing.  And, as a writer, it implies a prodigious freedom.  What would I do if I actually were "mad, bad and dangerous to know?"

Fly to Paris tomorrow?  Begin writing all five novels I'm pondering simultaneously?  Go horseback riding?  Direct another short film?  Visit Machu Pichu?  Pick up the Italian language?  Learn to write a stage play?  The possibilities are endless, really -- and I find the exercise, alongside the laughter it provokes, to be exhilarating.

Someone who is "mad, bad and dangerous to know" is a powerful person in the world -- perhaps reckless, maybe impulsive, undoubtedly free.  I might try this on for size in the same way the infamous Lord Byron did.  I might experiment with being a force of nature in the way that he was.  I have the indomitable spirit, the high-flying creativity, the perpetual youth.

As Byron said, "The truth is always strange -- stranger than fiction."  What if being "mad, bad and dangerous to know" were not a condemnation, but rather six words on the path toward freedom from an unasked-for sainthood?  Somehow, the thought makes me smile.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Slalom Rediscovered

The best way to descend the mountain?  Performing the slalom while listening to a favorite rock playlist.  In a word:  exhilarating.  While I haven't been skiing in years due to a shoulder injury, I find that I'm skiing this weekend as though I've had no hiatus at all.  In fact, I'm better than I ever was -- faster than I ever was, somehow -- unencumbered by fear and its detours.

It occurs to me that fear needlessly distorts our path, not only on the mountain, but in life.  It twists our journey into something strenuous, harrowed, dishonest.  Plato said that "courage is knowing what not to fear."

Somehow, while skiing fast, if I don't fear falling, I don't fall.  I move with gravity, in an elegant undulating line that creates its own unique rhythm -- a personal music that gravitates toward a thrilling plumbline.

Fearfulness only leads to unforced errors -- strategic oversights -- needless crashes.  Fear unmakes us -- when all we need in its place is trust that the white slope ahead of us is a perfect canvas on which to trace our slalom line -- effortlessly, elegantly, timelessly.

If we trust and respect our own path, so, too, are we capable of trusting and respecting the paths of those traveling beside us.  There's a perfect line from the top of the mountain to the base -- which is both true to ourselves and protective of others.  We can only find that fearless path by envisioning it -- by creating it -- on the clean slope on which we write the story of our lives.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Gone Skiing

I'm escaping my four walls to go skiing with friends for a few days, as they tell me Tahoe's Mt. Rose has some passable snow.  Yes, I do realize I ought not to be fleeing the scene until my novel is complete -- but remember what Hemingway said:  "I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it."  The breaks renew me, and it's lovely to return to the work with the writer's well brimming.

If you see me on the mountain, please don't report me to the National Association for Writers in the Wild.  Art and life must make their truce somehow.  And this weekend, life wins.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Alone Together

My afternoon coffee shop jaunts give me a rather blissful escape into the alone-together sphere.  I read -- I write -- I run into friends and acquaintances -- I chat with strangers.  Art and life mix together in some seamless, aesthetic way in which writers do not need to absent themselves from the fascinating dialog of life.  I arrive at Hanahaus just when the lunch rush is departing -- and then settle myself for a couple of hours with tea and snacks and books and people.  Almost always, an intriguing conversation -- an unexpected introduction -- a fortuitous visit spring into being.  I've met painters, entrepreneurs, musicians -- I've run into a poet friend I haven't seen in years, and a documentary filmmaker friend of whom I had regretfully lost track.  I leave having steeped myself in the adventure of being alone together, a writer surrounded by people, an artist immersed in the bountiful world.

And all the while, my relationship to the page grows yet more intense.  I'm connected to it by a kind of electric charge -- an elemental force.  The words insist on themselves, passionately, indelibly -- and I bid them to come and meet me.  In mysterious answer, they do.