I am working on a book. It is the book of my right-now heart, and it’s where most of my writing energy is going these days — including my blogging energy, which means I’ll be blogging less frequently again for awhile. I will sometimes share here what I’m working on for the book, and will welcome your thoughts and feedback.
The life I want to live is the life that has writing and books and love and the natural world at the center of it: this means that when I’m done writing, I don’t want to spend more time at the computer; I want to go outside, for a walk with the dog, or time in the garden, or to run and dance by the bay. That’s the life I have created, and am living into. That’s my fairy door.
Last week a new friend died. He was with me on Tuesday afternoon for a surprise short walk. About an hour later he had a brain aneurysm and went into a coma. Five days later he died. Last week was a week of presence with his community of good and close friends. It was a week of presence with my beloved: this man was one of her two closest and oldest friends, her son’s godfather, one of her roots in this life. It was a week of thinking about what matters. This is the terrible root of the cliche of my this week: his death has me thinking about how we accomplish what is most important before we die.
My friend was quite young, just fifty years old. He had vast amounts of life still to lead. He told me, during that last conversation we had, that he was accepting himself as an artist.
I have spent much of my adult life afraid of dying. I have been terrified that I would not complete the work I was put here to do, the work that matters the most to me — terrified I would not heal, would not ever get to write, would not get to be free before I died. I have been debilitated by this fear for years, so overwhelmed that all I could do was drink and watch tv to get out of the panic. That particular state of being isn’t exactly living — my body was alive, but I didn’t take any enjoyment or satisfaction from that fact. I was afraid that if I lived my life fully, my stepfather would find a way to take away what I had finally let myself love: life, friends, work, children, relationships… he had promised to destroy me, don’t you see? He promised. So, to forstall against the inevitable, I kept myself from living fully into my life. The end result is the same, of course, only I just did his work for him.
So now I am writing my book. On the day my friend died, I took a walk from my apartment to Jack London Square, and looked out at the San Francisco Bay. I had planned to sit there and cry for awhile, missing him, thinking about my beloved and what it means for her now to reconfigure a life so shaped by and around this particular friendship, what it means for her son to live the rest of his life without the physical presence of this man’s exhuberance and delight and struggle and joy.
I sat on a concrete piling and let the hard breeze ruffle me. I cried a little. And I thought, then, of how much work I still have to do before death comes for me — which could be later today. I felt him urging me back to my desk: Go do what you love, he might have said. Make this the life you want right now. There’s not be enough money, you might be afraid, you won’t do it perfectly. Who cares? Go do it.
I walked home quickly and sat down at my kitchen table and opened up a new notebook and started to write, and have been working on this project for more than an hour every day since.
What matters most to you? What are you afraid you won’t get done before you lose the ability to do it? What has fear of death kept you from doing? What has fear of living kept you from doing? Any one of these might be prompts for this day. Take 20 minutes — they’re yours to do with as you wish. Write longer if you feel so drawn.
Thank you for how you risk loving, risk living. Thank you for your work today. Thank you for your words.