21 November 2011
2 this is a pep talk
three months ago, i spoke with a biographer whom i barely knew but whom i had, nonetheless,- in a move requiring balls i do not possess- asked to write me a recommendation for the levy.
in a singularly devastating conversation after i had donated blood, he turned me down. lesson learned: do not make emotionally grueling phone calls after giving blood.
but it wasn't his denial that was so devastating. it was the fact that, in offering his advice on how i could strengthen my project, he hit upon every insecurity i have about this whole jackie thing.
which is quite an accomplishment given that they number in the millions. i've so, so many and, in an hour, he hit every single fucking one.
this led to the first time i've ever questioned what i'm doing.
the first time i was brought to my knees by the notion that what i've spent the entirety of the last year working at is maybe a colossal mistake.
the first time i begged god to show me if what i've been putting 3/4ths of my income towards was really just a fail that i've had the cockiness to blog.
it was the first time i felt i cannot do this.
i cannot be a writer.
and that scared the fucking shit out of me, because i have to do this. it's not that there is no other option but that there is no option. and yet...
this happened on august 13th. it's been three full months and yet still, much like the career of mike tyson, it surfaces every now and again to give me a good battering.
the thing is, everyone has an idea of how you should do whatever it is you want to do. whether that's writing or marriage or kids or your career or your whole life. everyone thinks they know better. they want you to write or see or do whatever it is they want to read or see or see you do. and the one thing of which they're absolutely certain is that you need to do precisely what they did because that worked so well for them.
the most valuable lesson i've learned in the last year is that these well-intentioned people, they do not fucking know.
they haven't seen what you've seen. they don't know what you can do. you have to show them. you have to write it or do it or be it or go there or do whatever the hell it is that lights you up. you have to bring the whole fucking world in line with where you are, with what you see.
i'm being melodramatic. ridiculous. i see what i'm doing as a crusade of sorts and i also see that seeing it that way is both pretentious and preposterous. because it's just jackie. just biography. just a book. and i am fumbling, flailing. moving heaven and earth for an 82-year-old dead woman i never knew and who has only twice in twenty years deigned to appear in my dreams.
the second most valuable lesson i've learned in that last year is that dead women aren't particularly good company. but, in spite of that, there's a rightness about this whole thing. there's a rightness in moving forward, particularly when you come to grips with the fact that forward motion doesn't have to be easy or linear and it most certainly doesn't have to make any sense.
i like to think that's why the legit biographers- the people with published books- don't seem to get what i'm doing. that maybe that's the reason they look at me all what huh? when i say i'm doing podcasts and going to conferences and that i have all these silly little columns that pay nothing.
they don't know. they don't see.
there's value in that if you embrace it. because, really, why the fuck would we want to waste all this energy on something everyone already understands?
what we're doing here- writing, living- is a process of constant revision. i think there comes a time when our expectations need to be pared away so as to make room for the possibilities, but i also think there comes another time when, in the jagged circuitous route towards those possibilities, we must confront the sheer impossibility of them.
stare them down, let the acknowledgement that maybe even we don't really fucking know what we're doing bring us to our knees before we put hannah montana pen to paper and keep plucking along. for in that- the simple, subtly rebellious act of continuing to write not because you know where you're going but because you know you are not done- there is a whole world of wonder in which the possibilities become real. and that is the world in which i want to live.