I once heard Oprah say that she believed there were only two base emotions – fear and love. All other emotions, in her estimation, grow out of those root two.
While I didn’t know it at the time, that statement fundamentally changed the way I viewed damn near everything. I considered for a long time the validity of the statement. That it resonated deep within me was true. But if that resonation warranted root or to be dismissed as a superficial feel good was something I had to ponder. It wasn’t until years later, after countless episodes of employing this “love/fear” filter, that I realized understanding this concept made me a better person. It fostered growth as a better listener, friend, thought sharer, problem solver, empathy giver, and communicator.
It also allows, when I can stomach it, a deeper ability for self discovery. To understand better, I am a person who really, really, REALLY loves self discovery – in theory. In practice, it routinely makes me want to vomit. A lot. The work creates the best/worst versions of nearly every aspect of my character (and there are a lot of them). Whether I come out on the other side a rising sun of badass warriorness or reduced to a quivering paralytic ball is really 50/50.
I used to take that chance, in small doses. However, this toe dipping rarely allowed for any real discovery and still had the same 50/50 outcome. The bang for the buck sucked. So, I hit the pause button and called that “being comfortable where I am” or “settled in my own skin.” Which is all total bullshit. I am built for journey and growth. I am built for movement and dynamic shuffling of all my voices. Stunting that, interestingly enough, creates the exact same 50/50.
So I don’t write, I don’t interact well with others, I don’t grow professionally, my energy lags, my health suffers, my brain tangles up, my heart hurts, my family misses out, my surrounding reflect the mess that is my spirit. I don’t write.
When this gets completely oppressive, I have a few band-aids to get me through. One of my favorite is the bookstore. I have found that I get nearly the same brain yum when I walk into the bookstore as when I am in the presence of big water; my brain calms down, my soul gets big, and my heart opens up. Incidentally, I have a lot of books. This is my newest one, The Writer’s Daily Companion by Amy Peters.
I love writing prompts. I love books on sale. This was both. But I have thrown enough money at useless drivel to know that not all prompt providers are the same. So I put down my 10,000 calorie, $155 Starbucks latte to investigate it a little further.
I didn’t really look any further in the book. It was going home with me and we both knew it.
Flannery O’Connor once said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” Writers do write for those who don’t have words of their own. Sometimes, that includes the writer herself.
The book sat next to the Thinking Chair for weeks. I realize I have neglected this journal for sometime and have not properly introduced you to the Thinking Chair. I apologize. I will. So it sat among the stacks of Thinking Chair hopefuls. Picking it up meant writing. Writing could mean anything. I am not always ready for anything.
As fate would have it, two girlfriends (both exceptional writers themselves – coincidence?) posted this Tennessee Williams quote. (Full disclosure I spent about two minutes vetting the source of the quote and could not find anything concrete, so I went with Mr. Williams)
And I cried.
Yes, I do that. More often than I care for anyone to know for reasons I am not always proud of.
Now what Mr. Williams said, while beautiful and currently being committed to my memory, is not actually what I heard. What I heard was…
Fear is everywhere and will eat you dead. Love is the only liberator. You are compelled to live your love. Write or the body burns down.
It took me another 12 hours to touch the keys. Another hour of fucking around before I made the first word.
Maybe I’ll work it out. Maybe it’ll be another 18 months before I come here again. Who knows. I do know this is the point in my posts where I typically wrap it up real cute like and put a little bow on the idea. I don’t have a bow. I have a burning house.