Having writer’s block hasn’t happened to me in ages. Sure I obsess about my next article, as any writer would and should. I have notes, fact checks, more notes and more fact checking. Writing has been my best friend.
The topic I was given was the future. Initially I thought, easy peasy. Then my brain went blank.
I couldn’t figure it out. I had to rewrite this article four times. Each time my editor would send it back, I would see a smoothie of words, ideas and sentiments amounting to one great “huh?” Nothing made sense. Each was filled with inane ideas, prescriptive words of inspiration, and hypothetical situations. I cut and pasted it like a puzzle hoping the new flow of paragraphs would work.
The real problem was none of it came from my heart. I begged for extended deadlines. I begged myself to get it together.
After two days of banging my head against the wall I realized what it was: the future is something that scares me. It’s something I don’t want to think about because it often betrays rather than rewards. In the past, I would find ways to somewhat illuminate that unknowable place. Smoking and sugaring it.
One of the offshoots of this fear of the future is the fact that I’m addicted to psychics. I have one in almost every country. I would scrimp on groceries, but give me an hour with my favorite psychic in Ibiza over Skype—sky’s the limit. I’m too discomfited to even say how much an hour with her costs. She says all these vague things, peppering a sharp detail here and there, just enough for me to have signs to watch out for. In reality, I probably bend the truth to fit her prophecies. I know in my heart it’s bullshit, but speaking to her and my other psychics give me comfort.
Every year, the one thing all these women say to me is that I’ll be married soon. If it had actually come into fruition, I’d beat Liz Taylor in the marriage sticker book collection. Today, I am still a certified dog lady, all on her own.
I think it’s human nature to want to control the future. Some make New Year’s resolutions, some refresh the feng shui in their homes, some even time the birth of their children aligning them to favorable astrological signs. Some, like me, burn money talking to psychics. It’s where control meets comfort. We can go all new age and sing praises about the future. Trust the world. Speak to the universe. But when you put that flower crown down and tire of the artificial optimism, the future reveals what it really is—dark and unknown.
If you asked me ten years ago what I thought my life would be, it definitely wouldn’t be this. I used to think 40 was a brick wall, and meant a quiet life, my future held hostage by my children, my husband mildly disappointing, and my former career as a storyteller a thing of the past. I always told myself that I would retire at 40 and learn how to knit to keep myself busy.
Yet here I am. I just started a bold and thriving business venture with my best friend from college, Monette. I started writing again. There’s no husband to disappoint me. And most importantly I haven’t taken on knitting as a hobby. Thank heavens for that. The future is not necessarily the brick wall I’ve envisioned it to be.
The black hole that has engulfed me for a week gave way to a new train of thought. I’ve come to realize that being afraid of the future is healthy. It pushes me to grow and be brave in everything that I do and not leave them up to fate. It gives me something to conquer and challenge. It drives me to create things that are far greater than my imagination can contain. I’ve learned that fear is not something that will cripple me. It is something that I have to get over.
It is also equally wise to know what I can control and what I can’t. I think that element of humility is also needed as I forge through the unknown. I need to accept that there will be good days and horrible days. The most important thing is that, no matter what, I must adapt and not surrender. I just need to keep going. This article is symbolic of that.
I have been tempted to ask my editor to give me another topic to write about. Then I hear a voice in my head to buck up and fire my laptop to life once again. I know it’s just an article, but whatever challenge I face, big or small, I need to own it. Otherwise, I can fall into a pattern of giving up. If I give up on this, it will be a slippery slope. I’ve learned to listen to what keeps me up at night and to remold the frustrating things that make me bang my head against the wall. If I stay with it long enough, I will eventually get there.
From one blank page to another, I get a greater sense of my relationship with my fears, my challenges and the steps I need to take to own it. I will not wimp out. There are no small victories.
Whatever it may be, I just need to draw a deep breath, and show my fangs—if necessary—and keep going. The future, I realize is not dark or unknown. It’s the collective product of what I do in the present. Today is the start of tomorrow.
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