My brain’s a bit slow.
I woke up before 4 a.m. after Simon did his usual yowling and trampling over our undefended bodies.
Usually, I pet him and go back to sleep to the sound of his loud purr, but today I was wide awake.
It’s 4:20 a.m. and I have my coffee and writing at the ready, and a vague sense of what I think is the topic of learning, and how I once confused learning with Mozart.
This came about when I was 8 or 9 and my father bought me a Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedia.
I can still see them, those green gods of infinite knowledge.
They were LIFE ITSELF.
And through them, I learned about Mozart.
The man had been a child prodigy, something I’d never heard of, and this information bothered me terribly, because I would never be a Mozart.
I was no prodigy.
I don’t know how or why, but I decided that since I couldn’t be a Mozart, then…no point.
Black and white thinking? Maybe.
Nevertheless, if I was not a Mozart, then nothing.
No use trying, hoping or dreaming.
(And just like that, at this point in my writing process, what I thought I’d be writing about changes completely, and the insights that come to me are jaw-dropping and life-shifting.)
I don’t recall discussing my hopelessness with anyone.
But as I write this, I remember that many personal dreams about music and singing became the source of dinner table lecturing.
Mine were unsuitable ambitions for a girl whose only purpose was to marry and have children, they told me.
Lectures and criticism reinforced warnings of doom – and doom only had one meaning – POVERTY.
Much later, at 15, invited by my band teacher to play clarinet once a week in a college orchestra, I decided that there could be no better career than playing clarinet in an orchestra.
Nothing better than being around music.
With great excitement, I told my father.
His first remark was, “What would a woman do with a clarinet in her mouth?”
And his second, “Who would take care of your husband and children if you had to travel with the orchestra?”
In that still vivid moment, I felt a visceral pain in the solar plexus that I can only describe as a sense of the life force leaving my body.
“What’s the use?” I thought, giving up and feeling defeated.
And with that one conversation, I abandoned that dream and my soul.
The Gift of Writing
Now the miracle of these 3 hours of writing is that I now have a gift that I never expected.
I will now be able to trace many such moments of how I abandoned my soul to avoid the scariest of all possible outcomes – poverty.
And also regret.
This is the tip of that iceberg.
I can feel it viscerally, and I intend to take that life-force back.
And because of all that, this writing episode has stunned me.
I’m going to shower and come back to more writing, and I don’t intend to edit before I post it or send it off on its public journey.
So much about writing is that it happens TO me.
I don’t have to push it.
I simply have to allow the stories and images that show up to be there, and then follow gently to see where they take me.
If you love the process of writing, that’s enough.
It’s enough to love the way something feels to follow it where it wants to go.
What does this story evoke in you?
I would love to know.
And, I am sending tender, gentle love your way.