At first the task seemed incredibly daunting. How would I go about what seemed like it would be the arduous chore of documenting everything about the last 10 years into a fluid seamless narrative? I mean, how do you do that when you have significant problems with your memory and are not really sure if how you remembered events are the way they even happened in the first place?
I started this blog because of the overwhelming encouragement I received about my writing in a Facebook gathering of creative souls called the Creative Group of Bedlam Farm. And so far I’ve had a blast. Over the last few years, it became more and more apparent to me that the sickness I endured that almost killed me somehow left my talent for writing unscathed. I still had the ability to write non-fiction prose and write it well. Over the last few months, I tried my hand at writing poetry and even embarked on an entirely fictional story and I could do that too.
Yet also over the last few months, I started working a schedule with even weirder hours than when I started it a year ago. And perhaps it was of the fact that I worked such bizarro hours that my psyche tumbled down a rabbit hole of skewed perceptions and false positives. I made a few good decisions that I’m very happy about such as choosing a new AA sponsor, himself a member of the same Facebook group and purchasing a piano as part of an ongoing effort to rehabilitate the brain that was damaged by the aforementioned sickness. But I also made some pretty crappy decisions about how much of my twisted psyche I should share both on and offline. In the process, I alienated friends and drove people away that I had come to value dearly.
I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Andy Andrews 7 Decisions over and over again. I think I’m on my 4th time through. My mom gave me the DVD of this man’s motivational speech of the same title years ago. I watched it, but was so ensconced in substance abuse at the time that his message of inspiration and resiliency was pretty much lost on my alcohol-addled mind. This time, though, his message of the handful of simple things one needs to do to truly achieve happiness is as clear and apparent now as the necessity of my sobriety in getting my life together was almost 3 year ago. I filtered the knowledge I gained from listening to the book through the funnels of my newfound affinity for Buddhism, my realization that I had to get my priorities in order and my perception that my personal relationships with my family, my friends and my fellow creative souls in the Creative Group were, at best pretty skewed. At their worst, I was getting evermore jacked up and pissing people off.
So, following the advice of the Buddha himself (you can read about that here) I devoted myself to the simple act of meditating again every day. The simplicity and focus of Zen meditation led me to make amends to a couple people that I had seriously angered, it punctuated the absolute necessity of practicing piano on a semi-regular basis. Most important of all, it saddled me with the yoke of again taking up the task of writing my book. At least, it felt like a saddle at first.
40 pages later, I feel the need, and oddly the desire, to cancel plans I previously made to play cards with my buddies or even go to this or that AA meeting because I had to work on the book. I should rephrase that to say “wanted to work on the book” because now that I am off and running, it feels like an hour a day is not nearly enough time to get straight all that I want to do with this project. In the beginning it felt like a chore that would ultimately be worth it because I would suddenly appear in the upper 20’s of the New York Times Best-Seller list and Oprah would feature me in her Book Club. Then the Andrews book brought to light some stark realities. Namely, that the fears I had about whether I would have anything else to say after this book, whether I would be able to truly and effectively grasp how I felt about what happened to me, what I learned and what I hoped to do with it were just that, fears. They were intimidating, but they were illusion. The painful and pressing reality of “You haven’t even really started the book, Jerkweed” became oh so apparent. And what was the intimidating fact that I’ve heard from a friend and former editor and read in more than a few Acknowledgements about how much diligence and patience with yourself and your manuscript goes in to writing a book has become less an ornery bear its best to avoid. Anymore, I’m learning to hug the bear, give him kisses and let him lick my face. As it turns out, I have plenty to say about the sickness, AA, and myriad other experiences I’ve had in the last 10 years. Or, more simply, this is going to be a herculean task and I’m very much looking forward to it.
Today, I need to apply for a job. I need to respond to an email from the woman who taught me how to play a piano 25 years ago. I need to go bowling with my sister.
And I need to write Empty Calories. I see the end of this tunnel more clearly and definitively every day. It’s not a question of if I will write this book anymore. It’s two questions now. What will I do with it when I’m done and where will I go from there.