Everyday, I prepare my armor to face what’s coming. I can’t have any gaps in my chainmail.
When conditions are ideal, like venturing outside when the air is perfect, everything is in balance. I wake up and perform maintenance: Prayer, hygiene, meditation, stretching and journaling. Then, I ingest some sort of egg creation with meat accompaniment. I brew a pot of creativity juice, black, unsweetened and preferably a dark roast. It’s bitter and potent for a higher creative yield. Then, I’m finally ready to face the unknown. Either it’s the radical chaos hurled forth by the world or, preferably, the positive unknown of picking up the instrument.
“Blank paper, the curse of the writing class” is one of the most valuable Hunter S. Thompson quotes I may have recited ad nauseam for you, poor reader. However, it remains a constant summation of life for me.
The curse isn’t and shouldn’t be a burden — whatever the blank paper may be in one’s life. For many years, this was not my feeling. In fact, this year has been the unsuspected cocoon to eventually begin the next stage of life.
For nine months I was trapped in there with no way out — or so I thought. Before this, my mind was a speeding car on a foggy highway at night. At any time, I could see whips of it forming, pierced by my headlights, I’d jam on the accelerator, afraid of slowing down.
Slowing down means not arriving at the destination. Once the car delivers it’s passenger, it’s too late. The store is closed. Eventually, it’s always closing and you are always speeding. It’s hard to see through the fog, but this had to have started somewhere mid- to end of college. Love and fear often live hand in hand. Due to the incredible love I have for creativity, there was an equally growing fear to succeed, confused with hunger.
Without complaint, there’s the initial famine period everyone must enter. The inevitable beginning period where one is starved financially, dutifully, creatively or all of the above.
Then, there is a transition. Work picks up enough to just make ends meet. The diameter of your social circle becomes wider. The carrot on the end of the stick grows. It’s the stick you will be whupped with if unable to reach the carrot, also grows. Strike while the iron is hot. Make hay while the sun shines.
It was easy to mistake fear for drive. They both give you the same spring to get out of bed the way a crazed jackrabbit darts across a busy road. However, drive only moves forward and fear only slows down. It came to me that I was only honing craft for fear of not missing an exit and not arriving at my destination.
There was fear of making up for lost practice time. Once society was locked down, it was like being dropped into a molasses jar made of fun house mirrors. The will to move forward and progress in my creativity felt impossible.
So, you may be asking yourself, what in God’s name does this blather have to do with Christmas? Why has this long haired, lanky freak thrown 794 words of bah-humbug back in my face?
Well, it wasn’t until the week of Christmas that I had been gifted an epiphany. It’s not about me. It’s about service: My musical endeavors, writing, maintaining relationships, health, community. I am of service to all of these elements. Ultimately putting in the maintenance and care those need, they will serve you without forcing a garden to grow quickly. When the maintenance is done, the work can begin. When the work is happening, I am happening. When I’m happening, anything is possible. I’m grateful I didn’t try to leave the cocoon before I earned the wings. Fear only slows you down.
In some warped Charlie Brown type of way, this is what Christmas is all about — not worrying or complaining about what you can receive but what you can give.
How can you contribute? How can you do your best when no one is looking? How can you make someone’s day because it’s the right thing to do?
So, along with the hand-me-down PlayStation at age 10 and the first knock-off guitar at 12, this perspective is by far the greatest gift I have ever received.
My family is healthy. I am healthy. I am alive. I am alert. I’m able to pick up the pen, plug in the guitar and do the work. What else could I possibly ask for?
Today, I woke up, performed my maintenance and stared down the blank paper. The fear is gone and what’s left is the reflection of an old friend. I smile and then begin to type.