We’ve spent the last three days on the road in a rented car, rolling down that long strip of asphalt that runs from downtown Seattle all the way to Boston. I’m writing this blog post from the road, propped up in bed in a shitty motel with no wifi, and perhaps if I tell you how I got here, I’ll begin to understand it myself.
That’s how this blogging thing seems to work.
After my last blog post, in which I wrote about my struggle with not-working, my brother in law gave me some good advice. “Go outside and skip some rocks,” he said.
I smiled, because it was a sweet thing to say to someone who needs an attitude adjustment. But even then, I angsted for a few days more, wracking my brain for ideas and coming up empty. Fun… Fun… what would be fun?
It turns out that fun is a heart-thing, not a brain-thing. Thankfully my heart had plenty to say, once I started listening.
Heart: I want to go back to coworking, so I can be around the buzz of productivity more often. I miss that!
Me: Okay, we can give that a try.
Heart: I want to do things with P. Not just exist in the same physical space. Like go on dates and stuff.
Me: Cool! Let’s plan some dates.
Heart: I want to write. But I don’t want to ruin it by turning it into a job. Please don’t ruin it!
Me: Okay, we’ll write. We’ll do it for fun.
Heart: I want to go to Montana!
Heart: Do I need a reason? Let’s go! Let’s go eat some pie and stay in shitty motels like the Winchester brothers on Supernatural.
Me: You’re weird! But sure, if P agrees…
Heart: Montana! Montana! Montana!
Over the last month I’ve added 10,000 words to my novel, gone on a few lovely dates with P, spent more time with friends, and rejoined my old coworking space. It’s been fun, and weirdly productive too.
Somewhere along the way I stopped worrying that I had lost my purpose, and remembered that I am in fact, alive.
And perhaps being alive is enough?
What the Heart Wants
Life has gotten more interesting, since I’ve begun giving my heart what it wants.
My heart brought P and I to Montana, where we’ve seen forested hills, craggy mountains dusted with snow, bears and bison and white-winged magpies. We’ve marveled at the big blue skies, eaten strawberry pie, and even fulfilled my silly demand that we stay in shitty hotels.
We came to Montana because we wanted to, and it’s been a long time since I did something just because I wanted to, and without some secondary purpose.
It feels really good!
The Road to Bozeman
I want to tell you about another thing that happened, but I know it sounds super-weird.
The day after P and I booked our hotels, I plucked a book off my shelf at random because I wanted something to read. And inside that book, I found the story of a man on a mystical journey to Bozeman Montana with his son. The book was full of advice that felt like it had been written for me, personally.
“To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top.”
“When analytic thought, the knife, is applied to experience, something is always killed in the process.”
“To the untrained eye ego-climbing and selfless climbing may appear identical. Both kinds of climbers place one foot in front of the other. Both breathe in and out at the same rate. Both stop when tired. Both go forward when rested. But what a difference! The ego-climber is like an instrument that’s out of adjustment. He puts his foot down an instant too soon or too late. He’s likely to miss a beautiful passage of sunlight through the trees. He goes on when the sloppiness of his step shows he’s tired. He rests at odd times. He looks up the trail trying to see what’s ahead even when he knows what’s ahead because he just looked a second before. He goes too fast or too slow for the conditions and when he talks his talk is forever about somewhere else, something else. He’s here but he’s not here. He rejects the here, he’s unhappy with it, wants to be farther up the trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because then *it* will be “here”. What he’s looking for, what he wants, is all around him, but he doesn’t want that because it *is* all around him. Every step’s an effort, both physically and spiritually, because he imagines his goal to be external and distant.”
“We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with the emphasis on “good” rather than on “time”….”
Friends, I don’t know why I took Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance off the shelf that day. I tried reading it in high school over twenty years ago, and found it incomprehensible. I didn’t know what it was about. It’s as if that story has been waiting all these years for the opportunity to whack me upside the head, at just the right time.
What I’ve learned is this: when I give my heart what she wants, a path lights up softly beneath my feet. And I’m reminded, yet again, that the destination doesn’t matter so much.