A Heartbeat Away from Broke

Just so you know… You are beautiful

Original art by @anna_e_hiller

The Instantaneous Regret of Moving On


Last night I dreamt that I bought a sporty new car—something far above my pay scale with a “Q” in the name—much to everybody’s chagrin. I didn’t understand why everyone around me was so dismayed by my purchase until I went to load it up for a road trip and realized that it had no cargo space. I instantly knew that I had made a mistake, and began the process of trying to recover my Subaru, which, by then, was already gone.

Gambling Your Heart Away

I like to play the pennies, I admit it. There is something very satisfying about feeding a twenty into the tragamonedas (Spanish for slot machine, literally “coin-swallower”) and watching that money wax and wane with each spin. It is a heady pleasure, a guilty pleasure, and an expensive one to boot.

Slot machines are fun only when you have infinite resources. Otherwise, they just chew up your heart because you can never win enough to banish the shame of having played at all.

My whole life I have bet on capital-w-Writing, that it would be my money-maker. And it is, as I am (by day) a technical writer. That means I make a living off my writing, technically… However, this second career of mine—writing stuff about the things that make the stuff that go in the shiny, ubiquitous stuff that we use to numb our souls and fill Verizon’s coffers—was not what I had in mind when I went all-in on Writing.

I put my chips on Writing because it felt like a sure thing, a safe bet, low risk, high reward.

To say I was wrong—merely wrong—when I placed my bet would be an understatement. I invested all my cash and all my ego in Writing and Being a Writer. I invested more cash and less ego in getting a Ph.D., biding my time until the right moment, when the perfect idea for a novel would come to me, ignite, and torch my drab academic life.

It didn’t happen. Writing didn’t happen. And that is breaking my heart.

I retreated from the green felt with my few remaining chips after the defeat—after realizing that I can’t do it, can’t write, not at all—and decided to look for a different horse. A dark one.

Now I make art. I traded my worn-out computer with a busted screen for a month’s worth of gesso and a dozen metallic paint pens.

I don’t see people shaking their heads yet. I don’t hear any sad horns in the background. But I keep wondering if—like the dream with the forfeited Subaru—I won’t regret this decision further down the line. I know you can’t take it with you, none of it, not even the paint pens.

Now that I’ve gambled away almost my entire heart on Writing, what will I do with the paltry remainder? Can I regrow a heart when the soil of time is thin, thinning, thinner now than it was just a heartbeat ago?

I don’t know. I’ll keep making art for now. It’s not like I’ve got anything riding on it… not yet anyway.

I guarantee that once my ego has stopped licking its wounds, it will look at my art, gnash its teeth, and have me for dinner.

Because that’s what ego does.

I don’t want ego.

I want spirit.

I see my spirit in art, and I see Ego devouring Writing like Goya’s Saturno from the black paintings. Look it up; it’s too ugly to post here.

Will Ego come for my art?

Maybe. When it’s time.

….When it’s time, when it’s time, wake me when it’s time…

Emerging

I’ve been underground for thirty years. Knowing the Sun is rising, about to shed light on All that Is, fills me with hope and terror. This is the story of why.

Last Night I Dreamed of Russian Soldiers

They were wounded, many hundred of them, as they tried to cross a frozen river. An unknown adversary—the one that had wounded the oncoming soldiers as they marched over the ice—found a way to make the ice start to shift, melt, crack and drift. The soldiers collapsed on the crumpling surface, feeling the water start to seep, frigid and ruthless, into their heavy wool coats, the same wool coats that would certainly be dragging them to the bottom of the river. They moaned together, hurt and frightened, and too exhausted to fight for their lives. I watched them slowly sink as the ice shattered, and they slipped under the broken water.

Where I’ve Been and What I’ve Done

I’ve been hiding, mostly, and from most things, but mostly (so mostly) from myself. I’ve been hiding from myself the knowing that my creative block comes not from post-academic fatigue, but from the disempowering and/or grandiose stories (read: untruths) that I’ve been telling myself since I was about twelve years old.

I’ve not gone anywhere, except to hide even deeper, alone in my car, racing through the desert with music and my thoughts blaring, but reduced to a small speck in the vast swoop and silence of the Great Basin floor. Gliding over the remains of the prehistoric Lake Lahontan, I discovered inside me an entire Universe.

So I set about to plunder it.

I dug and I dug, each time deeper into the hurt surrounding my core, learning more about myself each time, coming back up from each deep dive stronger than before.

Stronger, but still unable to write.

…Or, at least, unable to write the things I wanted to write.

I have remained in this stage for four and a half years now: perpetually aroused to write, and write well, about—as Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset would say—“myself and my circumstance,” and failing to produce anything worthwhile, let alone complete.

And this has been my daily struggle: applying the force of will and the thrum of passion to try and shatter the obsidian wedge—enormous—between me and my creative calling. I have had plenty of energy, but of the kind that any object has when it is positioned at the edge of an abyss: potential energy.

Now that I am producing, I have to wonder: Have I finally fallen into the abyss?

If so, then I finally have momentum, at least until I reach the bottom, if an abyss actually has a bottom. All I know is that I am moving, things are happening, the ice is cracking. I wonder if I will drown.

It seems more likely, though, that I will float.

Today’s Step Forward

I drew these three tarot* cards today before writing this piece. The Chariot (Past): Force of will, passion, forward motion. The Empress (Present): Fertility, abundance, creativity. The Sun (Future): Joy, enlightenment, inner child.

I think that what I am supposed to hear is that my long struggle to express myself, all the hard work that I put into understanding and knowing and fighting my Block, is starting to demonstrate its worth. I am entering a period of abundant creativity, and I hope not to squander it.

But whatever I choose to do, in the end, happiness will come if I walk myself back into my past, to the things that brought me happiness when I was a child, and re-encounter them, repurpose those delights for my adult life.

And so what now?

Well, now I go have a chat with my inner child, see what she feels like doing today. My guess is that she is going to feel like talking, and all I need to do is jot down whatever it is that she has to say.

And that will require some courage. Let’s be on with it.


* The cards in the photograph are from The Wanderer’s Tarot (Solar) by Casey Zabala.