It’s obviously been more than a day since my last post. Quite awhile. And while I’m usually a quick writer, I began to feel incredibly stuck with writing a significant last post. Usually, my writing process starts in my head. I mull over what I want to say and organize my thoughts all in my head. Then I set out either writing an outline or just going for it. For this blog, I usually just write quickly whatever may come to mind. There have been some posts that have been planned, but I’ve felt no obligation to be deep or even grammatically correct. I knew when I began writing this blog, I wouldn’t have the time nor interest in aiming for perfection or deep insight.
But my last post? The end of my year of thanks? I knew that should be deep and mindful and even inspiring.
So I started thinking and reading some old posts, and then I froze. I just didn’t know what to say. So much happened in the past year and I was overwhelmed. I didn’t even know where to start. Every day I thought of a story to start this important blog post. Perhaps I’d write about the time I started a photography class and then quit. Perhaps I’d start with an early story from my childhood, one that elicited when I broke, when my emotions shattered from disappointment and how I built myself up from that. Maybe I’d start with how hard I worked to put myself through school, all the late nights spent writing long essays about, oh, say, Tennyson and how much I’d grown from those experiences.
But I didn’t write a thing. I developed paralysis by analysis. I couldn’t put into words how I was felling or how much I’d learned. I spent over 2 years reeling in the muck of my life, beating myself up for past failures. Then I spent a year building myself up, working diligently to change my viewpoint by chronically what I was grateful for and delving deep into my insecurities through therapy.
I didn’t know how to record the changes, the deep, deep changes I’d made in myself. Plus, I wondered how much of these deep changes were even tangible. Again, paralysis by analysis.
So I did what I always do when I’m stuck. I went for advice in the best, greatest minds. I perused my bookshelves and reached for the first book that called to me. Surprisingly, it was a book of poems my T.S. Eliot.
I can’t even remember the last time I read T.S. Eliot. Probably in graduate school. And I don’t know what drew me to this particular book, but I grabbed it and sat on the couch. I turned to my favorite Eliot poem. And while I know “The Wasteland” may be his most famous, I can’t help but love “The Love Story of J. Alfred Prufrock.”
I read. And I thought. And I knew that while I had healed myself in a number of ways, I had also turned slightly into Prufrock. My life had become Prufrockian.
Case in point: I read this stanza at least 20 times:
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair–
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin–
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
For I have known them all already, known them all:–
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?
Is it even more prophetic that I was actually reading this as I stirred the sugar into my coffee with a spoon? Oh Prufrock, you may be a man, but you summed up how I was feeling, as a woman.
Had I over-examined my life?
Had I stopped living?
Was I dealing with the same overwhelming life question of Prufrock: How can I live a meaningful existence within a modern society and within my own mind with walls built so high that I can barely see over them?
Have I been a passive observer of my own life?
Finally, who is the intended audience of my life?
Paralysis of analysis.
I have accomplished so much in the past year, the least of all actually staying committed to writing for an entire year. I have looked backwards and forwards and mostly stayed in the present. I have felt some old wounds heal and watched new ones grow. I have become stronger, more dedicated, and less prone to self-doubt. I have realized the wonderful and devoted friends that surround me in all aspects of my life. I have felt loved and less lonely (when, truth be told, I didn’t even realize how lonely I had been).
But I hadn’t really put all of that analysis in action. And I got stuck with the question of NOW WHAT?
I looked back to the “About” section of my blog in which I hastily wrote on March 4, 2010 as I was just learning how to put together a blog:
After 3 relatively messy, lonely, boring, and thought provoking years, I am attempting to re-center myself. First step? Taking a year to note what I am thankful for. From there? Live and move on.
I believe I made a commitment before I even started writing to finish the blog and then to “live and move on.” Good advice from over a year ago. Wise advice. Live and move on.
Gratitude has been great, overwhelmingly good for me. Living out my life, not passively but actively, will be a bit more difficult. Difficult and unsure, I will live life, full of gratitude and composed of action. Yes, I will observe and record, but I will also write my own story.
So let the adventure begin.
But first, my birthday. It was a grand day.
Starting with hearing my best friend Sofia tip toe into my house at 5:15 a.m., driving from San Diego all night after she got off work. Then at just 7 a.m., coming downstairs, wide-awake and ready to walk downtown to take me to coffee. Sofia, I’ve decided, doesn’t need sleep. She may be a vampire. But she’s my best friend, my love, the woman who constantly inspires me.
(walking downtown with the kids, Sofia, and Sofia’s daughter Isabella)
(Isabella and Maddie: happy best friends as well)
Then we came home and my brother-in-law was cleaning up my yard and my friend Jenn was cooking in the kitchen. We talked, cleaned a bit, and waited for Jill and Ryan to arrive, my best friends coming from Orange County.
They arrived and Sofia, Ryan, Jill, Luke, and I all went on a hike. Taking a hike was the one thing I really wanted to do on my birthday, and I even chose a path I had never been on before. Having my best friends there to accompany me made the hills, the sky, the air even more magical.
(Jill, Sofia, and Ryan: they make me so happy)
(I glow with happiness to be with such great friends, on top of a mountain, surrounded by my beautiful town)
Once we returned to the house, we were on a quick run of cleaning the house and getting ready. Kids were gone and bottles of wine were opened. I had wanted to take picture of every one of my friends who came, everyone who helped mold and change my life in some way, but I was having too much fun, and the following photos don’t capture all the dear, dear friends who came and helped me celebrate turning 35, but for everyone who was here, and for all the friends who couldn’t make it, I am incredibly grateful to have you in my lives. Truly, this was more of a celebration of them than me.
(My sister and Jenn. Without them there would not have been a party. They did everything!)
(Sofia. She may be a vampire, but if I was a lesbian, she’d be my wife.)
(Colleen, who helped cook and get the party ready. She is an inspiration to all who know her)
(Mike: the kindest man I know)
(Sofia and Grace. Grace is the epitome of her name. I love her so much.)
(Mike and Reese, the best musician I know)
(Michelle, Jill, and Grace. I’ve known Michelle since I was 15; Jill since I was 17. I look up to these women and aspire to be like them)
(Malik, the best DJ in town and Tim, a wonderful food-savvy friend)
(My very, very best friends)
(All of us together)
(A party in action)
(My beautiful birthday cake, brought by my best friend, my soul-mate, Denise)
(That’s a lot of damn candles)
And so it ends, the year of thanks. It’s been a good year, a healing year.
A year that I already miss, but am thankful to for.
And yet, surprisingly, I’m missing writing.
So there will be more.
Thankful Tuesdays will start next week. And while I know Thankful Thursdays sounds better (that great “th” alliteration), Tuesdays I don’t have Luke and so I have more time to write.
I will still be thankful, but I promise I will also be active.
Because as Mary Oliver says, “”Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Oh, Mary Oliver, I plan to do it all.