A Great Deal of Maintenance Required
“You don’t know me very well, but if you get me started I have a tendency to go on and on about how hard the writing is for me.” — “Californication”, Hank Moody
The trouble with summer is that I have time to write. To sit for long periods of time, wringing my brain like a shammy, squeezing out every word on to the page before wiping the next thoughts away like water droplets on a newly washed car.
Which seems ideal. Being a writer and all. The problem — and there is always a problem — is the wringing. The squeezing. The wiping.
The process is a daily deconstruction. An exploration through the parts of myself that are, at times, quite unpleasant. Not simply remembering the moments of rage, of desperation, of love, of joy. Re-living them. In slow motion. Rewinding. Stopping. Examining. Repeating.
That is the process. The relentless repetition of the days that are gone. Like the choppy ocean, lapping against rocks as the sun peaks over the horizon on an overcast fall day.
I joke — in the way that we joke about those uncomfortable thoughts that creep into the back of our minds, but not so far back that we can hide them without the occasional geyser burst — that the process has become so part of me that I log my life in a series of chapters, pages turning through plot lines moving to conclusions. Adding dog ears to significant events. Underlining important passages.
This is not without its merits. Because some moments are worth the slow motion. The rewinding. The stopping. The examining. The repeating.
My first kiss, in middle school, in 1984. The evening, at a dance, my soon-to-be first high school girlfriend ran up to me to introduce herself. The night, outside the Miami computer lab, when I told me friend I’d just talked to the woman I thought I’d marry. The day, in the coffee shop, when my long-time love came in and sat down next to me.
The moments when anything, everything, is possible.
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time/Till touch down brings me round again to find/I’m not the man they think I am at home — “Rocket Man”, Elton John
But sometimes, in the process, I get lost. Out there. On the rocky shores. At dawn. As the water laps up against my feet.
The memories that don’t play like they’re supposed to. Or how I thought they were supposed to. That I can’t cover my eyes for. Avoid.
Those moments — the devastating, the heartbreaking, the fleeting — are more. For my writing. For my soul.
The moment in 1994 when I told the woman I wanted to marry that I’d cheated on her and, without a time lapse, her eyes died; or the moment in 2000 when my on-again, off-again girlfriend, the woman I’d been with nearly four years, told me she needed me out of her life if she was going to move on; or later that year when, for just a second, I had the chance to kiss a girl, that girl, on New Years Eve but didn’t.
Those moments, the regrets, last. Stretched out. Longer.
Thousands of those moments flutter through my head when I write, an emotional rolodex of mistakes, missteps, wrongs. Maybe more so these days as my writing has turned more personal, more immediate. As my mind has cleared. As the worst parts of who I am, was, resurface.
The things that are lost. Gone forever. End. Those things tend to linger on the shores unaware that the sun is pushing up into the sky.
He tries not to worry so much anymore/And he knows that time is too short for the task at hand/the smallest thing is a distraction/the smallest thing is a distraction oh yeah — “Pastoral”, Plow On Boy
There is a peacefulness in all of this. The Writing Process.
Unwrapping the moments. Looking at them. Living them. Feeling them. They are real to me. In a way my life never was before. My life exists. All of it. Together, simultaneously. A book with settings laid out, characters developed, but unturned pages still to come.
That I can love someone today because I loved before. That my friends, while imperfect as I, are a story; not simply a random series of events. The hurts we suffer on each other, the disappearances in Act II fixed by Act III, all minor plots twists in our tale. That even those who have done me harm are part of this story.
The characters aren’t erased because I find them flawed.
And when I sit down to write, all of these things exist for me. The people. The moments. The feelings. The sounds. The smells. The environments.
The blue happiness of a life lived.
This is hard on the people around me. The people close to me. Intimate. Because for me to let go is to end up adrift in the sea, floating, un-tethered. At the mercy of the relentless, fickle tides that shift and change with the moon. To lose all of the moments that are me. All the stories.
But that is the tune of my song. The way of our story.
I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the
beginning and the end,
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.
There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.
Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world. — “Song of Myself“, Walt Whitman