I didn't get a chance to do any blogging this week, as I was both tying off my final week of work and enmeshed in what amounted to writing a turning point scene sequence in Unmortal, one that took a lot more out of me than I expected. The old impulse took over: I'd rather just write than talk about writing, and so I just wrote. But now my work week is over, and so is my work year, and so is almost my entire year, period. Thank god, as I'm sure I'm far from alone in saying.
Still, that exhaustion I felt, I knew that was more than just the phewww of plunging into the holidaze [sic], which conveniently include my birthday as well. For too long I'd been sitting on how much this year has drained me, and it hit all at once. Not lethally so, but it made its mark, took its cut. And once it had done that, I was left -- for days on end -- with barely enough mental and physical energy to sit upright and write my name. I strongly suspect everything I produced for Unmortal during that time will on revisitation prove to be about as expressive as "I walked to the chair / Then I sat in it" (as per Lester Bangs).
My whole life has been underscored by the tension between my need to create and my understanding that the absolute value of one's life is not dictated by one's work. I got into Zen and Buddhism generally as a way to deal with that, and I can say I would be in immeasurably worse shape now if I hadn't. I still have rough days, rough weeks, rough situations. But I know now they're not personal, and I know this in a way that isn't merely theoretical. Perhaps all Zen is, is a formalized way of reaching the grace and wisdom that comes naturally with time to some, and rarely, if at all, or others. I'm fine with that; whatever gets one, or any of us, through the night.
If there's any other great change that's come because of such study, it's a growing appreciation for how much of our lives are about disciplining our responses to what happens. Whatever happens, you can handle it well or badly or not at all, and you have more agency in this regard than you think if you only care to look for it. This discipline is not something you can impose on other people, only something you can discover from within yourself by way of your own diligence.
I got through this year more or less intact, and so did most everyone else I know. For that I couldn't be more grateful. But I took my lumps, inwardly, and I'm still discovering just how many bruises and sore spots and maybe-broken-things there are in my psyche. And again, I'm better equipped to deal with all that now than I probably have ever been. I'll take what blessings I can right now.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind