(Give Me) Something to Believe In

It doesn’t really feel like the holidays.

It’s too humid here in New York. Someone’s forgotten the seasons up there, and they’re hustling clouds and raining buckets like their sole job is to make the city feel as much like Eeyore as possible. I’m not being buffeted by raging winds through the concrete jungle. I woke up last night, bleary-eyed, to open the window so my thighs would stop sticking together. I’m not hugging a cup of hot chocolate to me, wearing mittens (that I don’t yet own) or a beanie (that I’m still looking for) and watching the smoke tendrils curl up to meet falling snow. My lips aren’t chapped, and I’m sweating in my boots as I walk down to my subway stop.

But it’s more than the fact that global warming has royally fucked up what should be a magical time here in the city. I’ll admit it: I’m spirit-less this year. I guess I shouldn’t be. Parts of my life are lining up like little ducks: I’m here to write. And I do write. I can actually say that I’m a writer without wincing*. For the first time I’m running after a goal want – not something the world’s telling me I should. I’m chasing something important, my own Questing Beast, and sometimes it’s so close – I can feel its heart pulsing, right under my fingertips.

But most times I can barely see the dust it kicks up as it dashes away, getting farther and farther from my labored, lagging footsteps. Most times, the more I chip at it, the farther away it seems; obstacles litter the way forward – most of them things I left there myself. Most parts of my life I have let slip from my fingertips; others I have shoved away, as if I thought I could put the puzzle of my existence together if I just threw away a couple pieces.

It’s so hard being alive sometimes. Do you feel it? The way the world is pressing into you? I can feel someone’s hand inside me, crushing my lungs against my heart till I’m like a rabbit, hunted, panicked. How do you fight or fly when it’s yourself you’re running from? I wish I was being melodramatic about how heavy air can be, how you can feel gravity begging you down to the floor to lie there and just watch clouds pass by. It’s a chore to get up sometimes, to paint a smile on your face and shove some spark into your eyes to make yourself presentable to the world. To walk out confidently on the streets, every cell in you gritting its teeth as it wonders if this is what it is to be human, and, well, whose bright idea was this, anyway?

There are so many ways to deal with that. There’s forgive yourself, there’s take it one day at a time, there’s make a schedule to stick with, there’s get a helping hand. Here’s the one I chose: take that life you’re living, the life that’s threatening to suffocate you (or you, it?) and make it into something meaningful. Turn it into beauty. Shape from it something that speaks, that reaches as far into someone’s heart as it did in yours, but to comfort instead of carve up.

It’s silly, so silly, to think yourself capable of that, isn’t it? I wonder if that’s what the greats thought to do, anyways, or if they just had a story inside them that was begging to be let out. Maybe I do have snippets of stories sticking out of my ears; wouldn’t that be great, to just find the perfect word slinking out from under your eyelid. You thought you felt it braining there.

But forget silly, it’s just plain hard. It’s hard because as a writer you are trying to pull the essence from moments. It’s hard because it’s just you and the paper, there. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do, not just because “success” is so arbitrary (even in your own head) and therefore essentially unreachable, but also because it’s solely for me. It’s to make me happy. It would be so much easier to give up, to turn to a job that pays well, that has routine. But it would be so much less fulfilling. Being a writer makes me have to believe in myself, to force myself up, to keep my fingers typing and my brain running. I have to believe that I have a story waiting to be told, characters that want to swim on my pages.

It’s disgustingly difficult, being your own cheerleader. But even as I typed all of this, I can feel that flame burning in me again. And I’m going to keep that lit like it’s the Olympic torch and I’m David Tennant running it down in Britain.

–huge, huge sigh–

*Until someone asks me if I’m published. Then, all of the wincing and decorous backpedaling.


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