I’ve lost my center, my focus. My muse has packed her bags and disappeared, leaving a scribbled note that said something about being sick of all this fucking cold and that she’d be on a beach in Aruba until the weather gets better.
I’m left feeling churlish and sour, hoping I can find some direction until spring, when the muse calls me from the airport for a ride home and we can get back to work.
It’s been about four years since I last used the I Ching as a divination tool, but when I woke up this morning I happened to look directly at it on a shelf across the bedroom, so I thought I might as well give it a whirl.
Normally, I rely on the wisdom of Bob for occasional readjustment to my mental well-being. See, when I’m in need of guidance, I plunk myself down in front of Bob’s Burgers for a half hour. By the end of the episode, most of the crusty flotsam that was covering my brain beach has washed away, allowing me a moment of absolute clarity that lasts long enough for me to choose a new path or attack my problems from a different angle.
But today I thought I’d give King Wen a chance to show his mettle.
After throwing on some sweats and making coffee, I sat down at my desk with the I Ching book, and the three coins I had taped to the inside of the cover (I don’t use yarrow sticks - mostly because I don’t have any yarrow growing in my yard).
Twenty minutes of coin-fumbling later, I had my hexagram: Li, representing the Clinging Fire. King Wen’s Decision was thus:
Favorable to be steadfast and upright.
Prosperous and smooth.
Raise a cow:
Uh, yeah, okay. Confucius had nothing helpful to add to this, so I looked at my Moving Line and its Yao Text, and interpreted the whole mess as a message of persistence. Keep doing what I’m doing, and things will improve.
Not exactly the insight I was looking for, but I’ll take it at face value, such as it is.
So then. I will grind through another cold day with my pens and my notes and my research and my keyboard and my addled mind, and keep writing, like my hexagram seemed to suggest I do. But at the end of the day, I’m shelving the I Ching, and popping in a Bob’s Burgers episode.
"My policy: if someone complains that they want a cookie, and I give them a cookie and then they complain that I gave them a cookie that they didn’t like… I stop handing out free cookies."
-someone wise said this to me yesterday, and I think I’m adopting it as my new policy as well because of reasons.
1) I am severely lacking the amount of confidence necessary to finish CoA. I need a couple of small victories to help boost that confidence, hence the number of side-projects I’m working on.
b) My lit agent is a master at leaving passive-aggressive voicemail messages.
✔︎) I’ve had so much caffeine today that I can taste colors. Whoa.
iv) I suck at ordered lists, apparently.
五) I feel the need to record a reading of something, just for the voice exercise, but I have no idea what to use as source material. I was thinking one of my own stories from the Ministry of Apostrophes, but meh, I dunno.
I am terrible at living in the moment.
It’s urgent that I get better at that.
After sitting here for six straight hours feeling my fingers move instinctively over the chicklet keys and watching black pixels assemble themselves into letters on a display, I have little choice but to feel that I have become completely and utterly disconnected from my writing voice.
It’s not a sudden or knee-jerk conclusion; it’s been building for a short while. And it’s not to say that I’ve lost my voice entirely, only… forgotten it, in a manner of speaking.
I’ve read the words and sentences as they’ve spilled out and then re-read them and it’s all so unfamiliar. The syntax, the beats, the grammatical tics. All of it sounds natural but it’s not of my making. It’s a difficult sensation to describe, but I would say it’s akin to that odd and alarmingly detached feeling of depersonalization, if you’ve ever experienced it, which I’m sure you have.
My voice will come back. It always does. But in the meantime, I am writing someone else’s words, and I don’t like them.
I was the smallest guy on my college lacrosse team. Shocker, right?
Anyway, in my freshman season, my coach said to me, “You’re going to get flattened by the big guys ten times every game. But so what. You’re also going to beat them to the ball twenty times every game because you’re quicker. Agility trumps size.” (emphasis mine)
I normally hate sports metaphors, but I still think that holds up as a great piece of advice about life in general.