E-mail flooded my inbox, and much of it looked interesting or required a response, but life (people) needed attention, and there was writing and editing to do, so the virtual stack of mail grew into a mountain.
Just the existence of all that information, all those questions, all those updates from friends, was enough stress to make my brain shut down.
Nothing to do but deal with the most pressing messages, compose responses, and then (sigh) toss the rest.
Cold, aren’t I?
Actually, none of my friends or colleagues were ignored, but newsletters, blog posts, industry news, reports — all jettisoned to lighten the load.
As a result, I may be less informed, less inspired, but, wow, do I feel free!
Bizarre, but I have been laughing out loud for no reason other than sheer freedom and joy.
Sounds cheesy, maybe a little old fashioned, but joy is the word.
A person can write wherever he chooses. I am not bound to a place.
A person can write no matter who loves him. I am not bound to a person.
A person need not write to find creative expression. I am not bound to a pen.
In my quest for freedom — not for license, but for true freedom — I have discovered that I have been my own jailer. I chose my chains and wrapped them around myself.
I sought comfort and safety, and erected bars around myself to keep out anything that interfered with those two gods. I wanted never to be hurt again, and so avoided rejection and conflict by telling myself lies.
If the truth were going to set me free, I had first to acknowledge that it is true, and then allow it to do its work.
But truth-telling — and truth-allowing — requires humility, patience, love, and even a sense of humor. If I have nothing to prove, no chip on my shoulder, no axe to grind, the truth has elbow room: it can roll up its sleeves and do its job.
Amazing how much room joy has, too, once I decided what I really and truly want; once I knew what matters most.
One certainty: there’s no use wasting time beating against what I cannot change. My efforts, thoughts, hopes, and creativity are better spent in doing those things that are within my scope to change and to accomplish.
In Hamlet, Polonius said to Laertes, “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man,” to which I add this saying by martyred missionary Jim Elliott: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
I know who I am. I have nothing to prove. I am free. The world lies yonder, waiting for me.
For the confused among us, no, this is not a blue chair. It’s quite yellow, in fact, and it’s nowhere near as fancy as the one described in the poem below, but this is a favorite photo of mine, taken on a hotel balcony one autumn while I and a friend were on a writing retreat. The cropping is odd because there was clutter on the balcony, but the light was perfect.
The Blue Chair
It absorbs my attention
like a black hole vacuums light –
a lone blue chair
amid dull grey and faded black,
a flamboyant woman
attending a black-tie affair
in a periwinkle gown,
delicate scrolling arms
swirling in metallic mazes
The sky is hazy, a gray veil over pallid blue, as if dreaming of spring but not yet ready to leave winter.
Like the sky, I miss the sun, and strain toward the new season, knowing it will bring storms as well as sunshine, but longing for change, for newness.
My mind has been occupied with preparations and what awaits: a new house, a new state, a new church, a new city. For someone accustomed to small-town living, I have enjoyed living in the suburb of a city. It breaks the metropolis into manageable pieces. Makes the city not so scary.
In fact, since I’ve been here, I’ve not seen the city proper, just my small radius of comfort.
It’ll be much the same in the new place. However, I’ll be challenged to explore there: old friends live nearby, museums beckon, a memorial stands silent and compelling, history soaks into the very bones.
Once this frenzy passes, and preparation yields to action, then action to settling in, perhaps my mind will quiet enough to see the way back into a novel too long set aside by the expediencies of life. Perhaps I can sit in silence and play the story as if it were a movie hovering in the air before me, and once more populate empty benches with imagined characters.