How alive are you willing to be?
Got home from Iowa at just after 11 last night. House quiet. Peered into Wally's crib first thing and saw Elmo's face (on his t-shirt) peering back at me. Wonderful. Alex asleep too, though not intentionally (i.e., splayed across couch, street clothes on, no blanket). These days that's the usual "Can't wait to see you" pose that one finds the other in. I'd been exhausted in Minneapolis, running to catch up with gate changes and short transfers, and nearly hit rock bottom on bus from Laguardia to Harlem (every stop was "get friendly, there's more people gettin' on") but once home I felt fully energized and almost at loose ends with a kind of electricity. Don't know if it was just the 20L of Cherry Coke kicking in, or the happiness of seeing Wally cozy in bed (still have that mind set that no one else will be able to take care of him), or something inherited in this apartment -- last call can never come before midnight -- a tradition Alex lately carries on more often than me.
I've been hesitant to post again on my blog, however, and I'm struggling to figure out why. There's this vague irritation with blog Rachel -- concern that it's a separate person from real Rachel (how could it not be?) -- and wonder if the incredible "gift" the blog offered (helping me work through mom identity crisis and general anxiety over others' perceptions) now makes it obsolete. Like a good teacher -- if he does the job well, you won't need him anymore.
I like the questioning on it, people questioning me, asking for explanations, calling me out on one thing or another, "But you said...". I like being forced to come up with another reason, a new one, admitting to an altered perspective, or allowing myself to be grateful even if it feels corny and Midwestern (no offense to Iowa; probably should not have made fun of that state yet again in wedding toast at my second wedding there). And in making fun of Iowa, our perceptions of it, I am really just making fun of myself too. For being surprised that we fly through Minnesota, that it's so close to Wisconsin. For "going to the finest schools all right miss lonely" but not knowing really basic stuff. And there's a part of the general hesitation. Kidding in person is one thing. But in written form, who knows how it translates, or how much I'm held to something I wrote, even if it's in my own head. (But you wrote...so you better...). Then again I'd like to hold myself to higher standards, in terms of creativity and productivity and mom-hood and as a sister/daughter/aunt/cousin/friend/girlfriend, so maybe that isn't a bad thing. Having things written down, and trying to live up to what you say are your ideals.
It comes down to, like Anne Lamott says about writing at the end of Bird by Bird, after talking through all the frustration and aggravation and scariness and disappointment of the craft: "Why again do we write?" And her answer is that, basically, we don't have to, but it depends on how alive we want to be.
And I keep coming back to that, too. Even while I get annoyed, not just at Blog Rachel, but at some amorphous, imagined, amalgam of a reader out there, like an impatient editor, or school child, who says in a testy voice, "But you already said that," or "Well you shouldn't worry so much" or "You overthink stuff". And in my head I have these imagined frustrating conversations, spitting back to that amorphous, imagined, dim-witted reader: "But you repeat yourself all the time", and then a corkscrew, high-pitched, defensive, laugh, "But you worry about so much more than me! You're worried about making money and looking good and ironing your shirt and people making fun of the way you dance-- those are all things I don't care about one wink." And not one person I've ever met who doesn't overthink wouldn't benefit from thinking a little more. Or, that voice: "But you shouldn't second-guess yourself so much." To which I reply: "Well I wish you'd first guess yourself every now and then." And then I hear real live people saying, as of course they do and should, some of that stuff I wrote isn't really that good and isn't really that true. And then I get stubborn and resistant and say "Most of the stuff you're doing isn't really that good and isn't really that true, but you're not putting yourself out there to be judged and criticized."
And except for the artists and musicians and writers and loudmouths and moonwalkers among those real and imagined readers, maybe the answer will simply be "You're right. I'm not. But you are."
But I am. I am just always doing it. Whether it's on the steps of the China Ruby or the high school bleachers (what do you call those things -- that we stood on in chorus -- where I fainted off the back and cracked my head on the stage then slipped down to the rug beneath while the choir kept along singing Billy Joel "And so it goes") or in food court or inappropriate wedding toasts or at Brownies or at CBGBs or in the Music Trivia book or on the blog. In really tiny ways. Really small town ways. And maybe the 125 people who check the blog a day are all really the same person (that raspy imaginary reader, laughing himself sick) checking from different computers.
"Why again do we write?"
It comes up with running too (This feels awful--why again am I doing this?), with kids (Why again do we have them), with relationships (Why on earth would anyone put this much effort into something?), at times.
And then at other times, we just can't not. We're just born to do it -- to run, to have kids, to have relationships, and to try to express ourselves in some meaningful way.
So no matter how many times I really put my foot down in these silent conversations ("Rach, you really do sound crazy"/ "But everyone knows you're 1000 times crazier than me!") and say I'm not going to continue
it's not really true. Cause I just can't imagine not wanting that examined life, that aliveness, that unnameable electricity of being a bit too open--with myself, with everyone--so that I can feel my way through sadness, irritation, and frustration, and find out if there is some way to get better. I just can't imagine being enough alive -- we only have a short time as it is -- without finding the meaning in the events, without pushing and pulling and trying to get more out of it. As long as I'm also able to let go. It does bother me that people think I'm crazy (especially when I know for a fact they're nuts). But it'd bother me more not to be honest about it. Not to stay up and wake up and be alive to it, and look at it in the face. Even if it's Elmo staring back.