This morning dawned in vivid pink. I did not expect to be awake to see it; I have the day off work and, unlike my usual weekend days when I get up to go hiking and watch the sunrise in the woods, I did not plan to get up early at all. The dogs had other plans. I got up to let them out because, in their estimation, they absolutely could not hold it any longer and were, in fact, starving to death, so loudly demanded that I attend to their needs.
Once up, I could not convince myself to go back to bed. Instead, I went into the small room that doubles as a closet and office to write. Every day for over a year, this has been the most important part of my morning. I get up as early as I need to, start coffee, tend the dogs, then head upstairs. Every morning I go, no matter what, to write three pages. Most mornings, these pages are just rambling complaints or hopes or despair of every actually being able to write something shareable ever again, but at least I’m writing, I always say. Which is a huge improvement over the days spent thinking I should be writing and not doing it at all.
At one point, I paused to look up and out the window. There were clouds, but not the gray, flat sort that usually dominate Illinois winter skies. Instead, these were like the waves on an ocean, an illusion further perpetuated by the rising sun, which was being unashamedly flashy, edging the clouds in brilliant pink so that it looked like water meeting the shore.
The sunrise still enthralls me, even after a year of seeing it nearly every day; I used to be a night person and struggled to get up even an hour earlier than I needed to. I’m still fairly slow and generally am lucky to be able to get myself dressed with any real precision. But, sometimes, something is so important to you that you will move your own personal stars for it and, for me, writing is that thing. I accepted, some time back, that I may have to give up writing. But, before I did, I wanted to truly try every single thing. It has become the way I start my day and now the day would not feel right without it. On days like this one, I find more than one reason to be grateful that I’ve learned to embrace morning life; sunrise is worth being up for more often than not.
Thanksgiving – most holidays, in fact – don’t mean much to me these days. I have family, but I’m not completely welcome among them due to not quite being normal. This is fact, not a cry for sympathy. I used to try and fit in, for their sake. That is a thing of the past. The more I’ve focused on becoming a less polite version of myself, the less they want me around. Not that I ever was really one of them to begin with. Without my shroud of ‘here, let me hide that uncomfortable trait for you,’ my wool has become an even even darker shade of black and I stay away. Not just for them, not just because I can’t make them comfortable, but for myself as well. I can feel how much I disrupt whatever vibe they are trying to produce and it pains me. In choosing to abandon the polite version of myself, the one that, even if it wasn’t welcome, was tolerable, I’ve made a total outcast of myself. I’m not sorry. I enjoy my solitude. But this is why holidays no longer hold any real importance to me. It is a day. Like any other day. I’m going to stay home and do me and that is what is best for all of us.
Something about that sunrise seemed to say this day was going to be different, though. I laughed it off; it was to be a day of bingeing Wednesday (Wednesday Addams is my favorite among all my childhood heroes and Tim Burton did NOT disappoint) and I did, actually, do that. It was going to be a day of napping and reading and not one thing was going to change today. I’ve given up on anything changing. I’ve been in limbo so long I’ve started to accept that life really is a hamster wheel. I was going to do my pages and expect exactly nothing else out of myself. How could it be any other way with me locked up in my house, refusing to move from the couch (utterly without shame; I’ve got a pretty comfy couch)?
I admire the ingenuity of the universe and this is why I cannot give up on the idea of a divine consciousness; I see too much humor in some events, too much careful orchestration in others. And, sometimes, you ask a question and get back something so blatantly an answer that you actually can’t pretend it is a coincidence.
I was scrolling through Facebook during end credits and the next episode in the show, not really looking for anything. That is the way it has been for me for a good, long while. I’m not looking for anything; I’ve given up on finding it. For the last couple years, I’ve been broken down to a point of near despair. I won’t go into detail. Those closest to me know the truth – shoutout to the niece who always manages to shine a light on my shadows – and I’ve kept mostly quiet to everyone else. Especially in the last year. I had asked a question, though. It is one I ask a lot, at least ten times a day.
The past week or so, I was to a point where I considered giving up writing for good. Yes, for over a year, I have written a minimum of three pages a day. I have written three books. None of which are suitable for reading. I have come to a point of knowing that, as much as I love to write, I don’t have an anchor – something to hold to, a mirror for my life and an undercurrent which becomes the glue of any good writing. I had begun to believe that I would never do more than my rambling, senseless morning pages ever again and was working hard to accept that, but I won’t pretend that this didn’t raise a very important question.
Then my finger paused on a post. Facebook algorithm usually has about as much intuitive sense as a rock through glass. I look up something on the internet and, immediately, Facebook seems to think I want to see more. I usually don’t. Curiosity does not always mean continued interest. But this page was one of those rare, perfect bullseyes that has struck home and stayed with me. A writer who views the world through the lens of her horses. That is her anchor. A horse who helps her see magic in even the most mundane. The writer is insightful, poetic, and witty and I often find solace in her posts.
Today, she spoke about the nature of a cold, wet day with horses which involves only the most basic of care, the days when, rather than having fun. Horse people understand these days. This is the difference between being a horse person and being a princess who rides; when you own a horse and have to care for it yourself, you slog through the mud and muck to make sure these animals are well tended. Even on the worst of days. In blizzards, hurricanes, and tornados, the horses still need to be cared for and no one else is going to do it. These are the days you drag yourself out and freeze for the sake of another creature before fleeing back to the hearth, hair damp, shivering, focused only on getting a cup of hot something to chase the chill away, knowing you’ll have to do it again that night.
This writer started her post with that; it was one of the between days. No magic. No shinies to be found. Just wet, cold, and miserable for the sake of the horses. “I had no story today,” she said. Then a story, small and beautiful, presented itself and she became suddenly, completely aware that, in fact, there is always a story. Then she went on and pointed out that being a writer means we can sit in a shed with a single, narrow window and find the story in that crack. That is, she suggested, the very purpose of a writer. Find the story in the cracks.
And a crack opened in me. I became suddenly and totally aware that the universe was answering the question I’ve been asking. “What?” I kept saying as I wrote my three pages. “What?” I asked when I realized that it looks like my day job is gripping me ever tighter and starting to look like a forever job. “WHAT?” I screamed when I realized that I can’t go back to the writer I once was that, as romantic and beautiful as those days were, they are gone because that version of me is only a memory. The full question, of course, is ‘What the hell is my purpose and when are you going to show it to me?’
But I need to back up a little. At one point last week, I was ready to admit defeat. Maybe writing is not what I’m meant to be doing after all; I’d just had a moment of realizing that the real difference between the writer I once was and now was that I used to believe in happy endings. I wrote because I believed. I still do, but I’ve been questioning if I will ever have any happiness for myself. If, in fact, there are some people who don’t get to have any true happiness, no matter how hard they look for it and if I might be one of them. This one blog did not change that, exactly. I begun believe that, if I want to keep writing, I am going to have to write about what is in front of me, rather than what I want to believe. I believe that every story has a victory arc (or lesson) if you look close enough. But every experience I’ve had for the last two years has said that a lot of things are just bad without any silver lining. I was, in fact, losing my faith in silver linings and happy endings all together and the problem rises when I also have to say that I’m not interested in happily never after. Certainly I’m not interested in writing about it.
Last week, I realized that I don’t want to write pretty lies anymore, but neither do I want to write the dark and bitter tales that seem to dominate adult fiction; I firmly believe there are lessons in every loss, but those books only look to hurt, not to give you the understanding. They leave me with the sense that I’ve been cheated because, damnit, if someone has to suffer, can’t they at least get something worthwhile from the experience? I detest such endings. In my estimation, stories are a sort of contract between writer and reader. The reader trusts you not to crush their heart beyond all hope and the writer agrees that, while there will be plenty of suffering, there is always meant to be a rainbow after the rain. It won’t last, but that is the nature of life. It isn’t supposed to be all up or all down.
I would not call myself an optimist, but if I have to focus on nothing the bleak and weary, if I have to give up and admit that maybe there really isn’t a sun behind all those clouds, I would rather not focus on anything at all. I refuse to bring more darkness to a world that already has more than its fair share. I refuse to give you the stories that give you the sense that there is nothing at all worth fighting for anyway. Screw that. It is the easy answer. But it is not – for me, anyway – the true answer.
This morning I got up, trying to accept that, maybe, my day job really is all there is for me, this constant struggle to get from paycheck to paycheck like a child leaping from stone to stone over the river all the meaning I will ever have and that would mean I can’t write anymore because I wouldn’t be able to believe in sunshine, but also couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone else to give up. No sun for me doesn’t mean no sun for anyone, if that makes sense. Maybe there wasn’t going to be a win for me, but that doesn’t mean you should stop trying for yours and screw any writer who tries to steal your hope because they lost theirs (huge pet peeve). But I digress.
I would not be writing this if I had not stumbled across that blog two seconds after I demanded of the universe what it wants of me for, quite without exaggeration, the thousandth time. Literally. Two seconds. I asked. And this blog post popped up under my scrolling finger. A perfectly timed answer to me wondering what story I could possibly have left to tell or why anyone would care. An answer to me trying, desperately, to see what I can actually write about without talking incessantly about the extreme wrong turn my life seems to have taken. Two seconds of me wondering if there is anything to share with you that would even be worth reading when all I have are the small things.
“Where the hell is my purpose,” I have repeatedly demanded. “What do you WANT from me?” I have been losing patience with ‘divine timing’. Now there is a phrase I loathe because it is not about clock time. It is about being ready for what is coming. You can’t get the gifts that are waiting for you until you have to done the work to be ready for them. And I have been angry because I believe that I have done the work. I have reached inside and looked at all the ugly bits. I have worked to understand and accept myself, flaws and all. I’ve shed so much skin I feel scraped raw. Yet nothing was changing. I got up, wrote my pages, and felt no inclination to write anything else. I go to work, come home, cuddle my dogs, and do whatever I have to. But there was no fire. No desire to write this post. No desire to try and find a story because if felt like all I could do is either lie about being happy or talk about bitter disappointments and neither appealed to me.
I was waiting to feel ready, but it wasn’t coming. And, even though I believe that getting inspired sometimes means doing the dry writing to stay limber, I was losing hope. And, in losing my hope, I was losing my will to do anything that looked like living. And then, in reading her very short, very honest description of what a writer actually does, I saw the flaw in my belief that I was ready for change.
I believe that true happiness comes not from what you have in material wealth, but from fulfilling your purpose.
I’m going to pause here and tell you about purpose. It isn’t something you don’t want to do. It is something that, once you’ve found it, you feel like you cannot live without it. It is not likely to be another person, but maybe it means being a mother or a teacher or helping abused horses find trust again. For me, I always thought it was writing. I always thought that the mystery of me began and ended with writing and finding a way to feed my muse. A purpose is not some magical stone thrown at your head and, while you might struggle with aspects of it, it is the thing you return to again and again. And, at one point, I was willing to relinquish my pen and admit that, maybe, I was overreaching myself because, let’s face it, not much worthwhile has come out lately. I surrendered myself to whatever force governs such things and waited for an answer patiently (for me). An answer that did not come.
It did not come because I wasn’t ready for the truth.
If you happen not to believe in a divine intelligence, I am unlikely to be your girl because some things just cannot be unseen once you see them. I do not have faith in something more because of a book. I don’t quote scripture and I believe religion is just something created by humans to try and lock others down (because humans work in fear and restraint all too often, and seek to exclude others so they might feel important. Everyone wants to be the chosen one). God, in my estimation, is part of us and the moral code is something written in our DNA that has nothing to do with exclusion or hate and everything to do with love. Enough said; my beliefs are mine and I have no need to argue anyone else over to my side. If you aren’t hurting anyone, then I have no quarrel with what you believe, let’s leave that there.
This question of purpose has plagued me for nearly my entire life, but particularly for the last five years. Then, two years ago, something happened which created a tsunami of destruction within me. Many people, no matter their religion or beliefs, will recognize the term ‘Dark Night of the Soul’. Oh what a beautiful way to say ‘utter destruction of who you thought you were’. I broke. Not in a gentle way or a romantic way. In a very ugly, very intense way. I won’t tell you I’m healed. Half the time, I’m fairly certain that I am lost in a very deep, dark wood and there is no way that I am ever getting out. I question my existence constantly at this point.
I have been playing with certain ideas. Not just ideas of books, but something else. A blog.
The blogs I tend to read are spiritual ones, yes, but they also have their boots on the ground. I have never had – and certainly have no patience for now – people who go on and on about all love and light. Something in me loved the idea of a sunshine and roses world that didn’t know what shadows looked like, but knew it wasn’t the truth.
I have always believed balance is the truth. The sun needs the moon, the light needs the dark. Humans have shadows, all those things we bury and refuse to acknowledge and those who state that everything needs to be positive and sunny all day every day are only digging holes and burying bombs in themselves. Bombs that will one day go off and rip them to shreds, if they aren’t careful. Everyone does it. I certainly was doing it, even when I told myself I was being honest with myself.
The blog I wanted to write would be much like the ones I read. A place for the stories of life, a place for lessons to help others accept themselves and see the beauty around them, even when their tower was getting struck by lightning. But I was lacking something. I knew I had to find something to hold on to or it would just be another thing I abandoned in a few weeks time. ‘I don’t have any stories to tell,’ was always the answer I gave to myself. ‘Who wants to hear about me delivering packages or running off to the woods to watch the sunrise on my days off, even if I do see some wisdom in learning to navigate being me?’
The truth that resonated in me earlier was the realization that I’ve been running around trying to find the big stories. Trying to find Thor’s hammer to build a house instead of using the hammer I have. Every single day things happen and, given how we view the world, they can be good or bad or just an experience. In every experience, there is a lesson. The moment the other writer spoke of finding the story in a single crack of sky, I saw the truth. I’ve been trying to knock the wall down instead of looking out the window. I’ve been trying to create big stories instead of learning from the small ones. Trying to create a million dollars without accepting any small change. I could say this a thousand ways. It all means the same thing.
Sometimes life gives you big lessons and they change you in a big way. A man breaks your heart so throughly you never want to date again. A mother dies or you walk away from a toxic family member instead of fighting to stay. Someone loses a limb and has to learn to live without it. But, more often than not, God whispers instead of screaming. The true story isn’t in the moment of death. That is just the inevitable, inescapable end. The real story is every single day, mixing the feed, being present enough to notice when your horse is asking you to look up through the rain and the wind and notice that, weather be damned, they still expect you to hear them when they speak, that today isn’t just another day, they still have a story to tell and you are expected to listen. The answer is not a million dollar book deal or winning the lottery or the moment when you are financially secure enough to quit and never look back. The real story is how you got there, what treasures you found along the way while you were living your ordinary life. Purpose isn’t just about those big moments. Honoring your purpose is what you do when all you have is a single crack to look through.
I still don’t know if anyone will care about any of it; I do see stories in everything that happens to me, some of them the sort that could be wisdom, if I was feeling inclined to admit it, but will anyone actually find anything worth keeping in them? I don’t know. However, that seems to matter less today. Maybe because the answer I’ve been waiting for reached up and more or less smacked me upside the head. This was never about giving something to someone else. It was only ever about finding the story for myself, in the ordinary hours, and having faith that I’m meant to be writing them down. Just in case someone else happens along and needs them.
I cannot explain what it means to resonate with something. I can describe the way if feels, as if a small, warm bomb has gone off inside you. It strikes deep. It strikes true. And it leaves behind a sort of ringing that fills you from the center out. The moment this other writer spoke of finding the tiny gift of a story hidden in this gray, rainy morning with her horses, between mixing the feed and getting ready to bolt back to her warm, dry house, I understood that this was my answer, that I was being told exactly what the universe needed me to understand. My purpose is to write. Not to question if I’m writing the right way or if I am going to piss someone off. My purpose is not to care about every little snowflake that might take what I’m saying the wrong way or think it is about them. It isn’t to worry about supporting myself with my writing or to care if I ever find a way to make that happen. My purpose is to find the goddamned story and write it.
And so. Today is Thanksgiving. And I am sitting here, aware that I may be committing myself to this today only to discover that I cannot bring myself to write another word for you in the coming weeks. That likely isn’t the case. There is far too much I have to say to fit in to one little post. But. My own self doubt is often my downfall and I have spent a very long time drinking from the fountain of societal expectation. I’m not promising you tomorrow. Tomorrow is going to have to take care of itself. What I am saying to you right this minute is that a new day is dawning for me. Call it radical acceptance; I don’t care if I ever make a cent off this. I don’t care if anyone reads it. My purpose is not to worry about becoming an influencer. My purpose is just to write the damn story. And. If writing is meant to be my purpose after all, then, by God, I am going to chase that rabbit like it stole my cupcake (and I REALLY like cupcakes).
I know that it may sound strange that I talk about messages from the universe. But the honest truth is that we all get them. Most of us don’t listen. In my case, I asked for answers, but did not want to actually see them if they didn’t fit with the personal story I was trying to tell. The thing is, you aren’t communicating with something outside of yourself. If it makes it easier to swallow, understand this: All of this is inside us. We already know the answers. Some, we just don’t want to accept, so we block them out and keep telling pretty lies. The dark night of the soul is the moment when we can no longer believe those lies and have to face ourselves, good or bad, exactly as we are. The moment we surrender to that is the moment when we truly step into our power and can start to really grow.
On a side note, I love Tim Burton, Wednesday is amazingly well done, go watch it.