It is so quiet in here that I can hear the books pulsating on the shelves. People often times whisper too loudly and almost always a person will turn to them and say “shhhh.” In the distance I can hear muffled laughter, a cough or two and the surround sound of pages turning. This place appears to be a nondenominational respite from the corporate, commodity driven outside world. A holly place of sorts. I have come here today to get some writing done, to dwell in silence and sort through some issues that I have been avoiding. Instead of doing all of this, I have been reading a book about the cosmos and watching other people. When I look around me there are mostly men over the age of sixty with graying hair and wrinkled skin. They all are absorbed in books or newspapers. The clock tells me that it is two o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon and I can not help but wonder what I am doing here? I still have a few decades until retirement age but I sit here reading my book. Should I not be “out-there” taking advantage of my youth and life rather than “in-here” stuck between the pages of a book? Should not I be erecting an empire, earning a decent living so that when I am the men’s ages that surround me- I am not spending my afternoons hidden away from the world in a library?
I came home last night and found my wife frozen in the backyard. She was lying on her back, lifeless, with one arm in the air. It looked like she was reaching for something. At first I was not really certain what was going on. My brain was unable to make sense of what I was seeing. In a state of denial, I asked my wife why she was laying down on the wet, cold earth. As I walked closer to her I realized that all the color had drained from her skin. Her eyes were open but nothing on her body seemed to move. Standing over her I said, “Honey?” and I gave her a little nudge with my foot. She did not respond. I then reached out for her arm, which was stretching towards the sky. I was wearing gloves so I could not feel how cold her hand was but I did notice that her arms and hands were completely stiff- as if hardened into place by rigor mortis. It was at that point that I realized something was really wrong.
“Honey!” “Honey!” I shouted as I bent down beside her. I could feel the cold earth on my kneecaps. I put my hands on her chest. I could feel her slow breathing but I could not feel a heartbeat. I then placed my ear up against her heart and my ear felt like I had just pressed a piece of ice against it. My ear began to freeze as I searched for her heartbeat. Finally I found it and with a great sigh of relief, I took off my gloves and ran my hands over her face. There was a thin sheet of ice that covered almost her entire body. I took off the frozen glasses that she was wearing and when I patted her face a few times to try and get her to react, the sheet of ice that covered her cheeks, cracked. “Honey!” I kept yelling in an attempt to get her to wake up. I sat beside her for a second or two trying to figure out what to do. I looked into her eyes, which stared up into the dark and murky winter sky above. Her pupils were dilated. It was at this point that I realized my wife was frozen.
In a panic I began to shake all of her limbs. I took her arm that was pointing towards the sky and moved it back and forth. I shook her other arm, her legs and when I did so I could hear the delicate cracking of ice. It sounded like the separation of polar ice caps. My intention was to break the sheet of ice that entrapped her. I wanted to get her limbs moving so that blood could begin to flow into the frozen parts. While I was shaking her limbs I kept saying over and over, “can you hear me? Can you hear me? Come on wake up. Wake up!” I took off her shoes and moved her feet around in my hands in the same way that someone would rub a stick when trying to make fire. And then the miracle occurred. My wife very gradually moved her eyes and face towards me and said, “honey?”
“I’m here baby, I’m here,” I said as I scooped up her frozen body in my arms and carried her into the house. I set my wife down on the couch as she continued to say “honey?” over and over again. She was disorientated and the only word she was capable of saying was “honey.” Once I had her on the couch I grabbed all the blankets off of the bed and I placed them on top of her. “You are going to be okay baby, your going to be fine, you just need to get warm.” I turned on the heat, and boiled some water in the kettle on the stove. I then kneeled back down beside my wife, took her still frozen hands in mine and massaged them. I kissed her ice-cold face, trying to warm her skin with my lips. I whispered into my wife’s ear that I was going to take care of her and there was no need for her to worry. There was a slow pulse on my wife’s face and in her hands, which I knew meant that blood was beginning to flow back into these areas. I then got up and took the boiling water off the stove.
As my wife was defrosting on the couch, I was amazed by how well I was responding to this very scary and strange situation. I wondered how it was that my wife ended up frozen in our backyard? I poured the boiling water over several dishrags. I then let the dishrags cool down a bit before I placed them on my wife’s forehead, chest, hands, feet, legs and stomach. I knew to do this because I had remembered reading somewhere that it was best to do anything to warm up the body of a person who was suffering hypothermia- hot towels and heating pads were recommended for this purpose. As I was placing that hot rags over my wife’s body she seemed to be gradually thawing out. Her vocabulary increased from one word to many. “What happened to me?” she would continually ask. All I could tell her was that I cam home and found her lying on the ground, frozen in our backyard. She was able to reach out for my hand. I could feel the life being reborn within her. As the minutes passed by, her speech sounded like it was coming from a mind that was no longer frozen.
After awhile of kneeling by my wife’s side and waiting for the hot rags, the heater, the blankets and my own massaging hands to defrost my wife- I was very relieved to hear her say that she needed to go to the bathroom. “Are you sure you want to get up just yet?” I asked. “I’m fine honey, I feel much better now. I just really need to pee.” “Ok,” I said and then told her that I was going to make a large pot of hot vegetable stew for dinner. “Sounds good,” my wife replied as she attempted to make a half smile and slowly lifted her self off the couch. She made a few pain filled grunts as I helped her get up onto her feet. She stood up slowly, like someone who was getting on his or her feet for the first time after surgery. I held onto her arm and gave her support as she very slowly put one foot in front of the other. It seemed as if she had bricks in her legs. Every step was very hard for her and I told her to take her time. “It feels like my legs are asleep,” she said. “It is ok, that is just the feeling of blood rushing back into your legs.”
Gradually my wife’s legs loosened and became stronger. She did not need to lean on me for support and was able to walk into the bathroom on her own. “Yell for me if you need anything,” I said as my wife shut the bathroom door. I could hear her put down the toilet seat and then I heard the torrential flow of urine into the toilet. I wanted to give my wife privacy so I walked back over to the couch and cleaned up the heap of rags that were all over the couch and floor. I noticed that the couch and blankets were soaking wet. The pillows on the couch were like a very wet sponge. I was surprised at first. Why was the couch soaked in so much water? I gathered up the rags and put them in the kitchen. It was then that I realized that the couch was soaked because my wife had defrosted there. As the ice melted away from her body it turned into puddles of water, which were now being absorbed by the couch cushions. I heard the toilet flush so I went back over to the bathroom door where my wife appeared. “How are you feeling honey?” I asked. “Cold,” she said. She shivered and still seemed weak, so I told her that she should get into our bed. She agreed. Slowly I helped her into bed. I took some blankets out of the hallway closet and covered her body and neck in them. I kissed her forehead as she looked at me with a smile on her face. “You are my hero, you know?” she said to me. “I’m no hero,” I said. “I am just glad I came home at the right time.” “Me too,” my wife said and then she shut her eyes. I kissed her again on the forehead. I felt so grateful that she was alive. “Get some rest, when you wake up I will have a hot bowl of soup waiting for you,” I said and then I left her alone.
I count everything. There are 17 dirty dishes in my sink. My bed has 3 unmade sheets on it. I have 7 pair of shoes in my closet, 11 pairs of pants, 4 jackets and 16 black t-shirts. This morning there were 403 oat grains and 82 almond pieces in my bowl of oatmeal. Outside my window there are 9 trees and one of the trees has around 674 leaves on it. Two days ago I sat by the window of my house from 9am until 6 pm and counted how many people and cars passed by. There were 1,209 cars and 11 people on foot. This is how I keep myself pre-occupied during the darkest time of year. I do not know how my need to count things developed since I never particularly enjoyed mathematics. I prefer words over numbers but for some reason around this time of year I have this very deep desire to count things. When I read the New York Times in the morning I will count how many times certain words are used or how many stories there are about violence or the economic recession. Maybe counting is a way for me to feel informed. I am a solitary man and it could be that counting is my connection to a world that exists outside of me.
Every morning when I awake I do a twenty-minute meditation. I count my inhalations and exhalation all the way up to ten. When I get to ten I count backwards until I reach 0. I repeat the process until twenty minutes is up. My therapist believes that my obsessive counting is the result of my morning meditation. She says that the practice ingrains in me a connection between peace of mind and numbers. Maybe she is not wrong because it is true that right before Christmas, when the skies turn black- I notice that I begin to slip into a slight depression. My anxiety seems to be more active than any other time of year and counting everything maybe a way for me to calm myself down. When I finished the therapy session the other day, I told my therapist that she had 94 books on her shelf, 17 pictures on her wall and 12 wrinkles on her forehead.
Yesterday I killed over 3,035 ants that were crawling around in my bathroom. I had no choice. I am not a violent man but ants all over my soap, my towels, my toothbrush and the toilet paper is intolerable. I felt guilt after I killed so many ants so I set a limit for myself today. There are still ants all over my bathroom floor and ceiling but I have decided that I will not kill them all. I will exterminate 2,000 of them. I will spend the afternoon counting and killing. Once I reach 2,000 ants I will let the rest go for the day.
For dinner last night I ate lentil stew and managed to eat 1,023 lentils. It takes longer to eat when I have to count every lentil that enters my mouth. But maybe, just maybe this is why counting is good for me. Whether I am killing, eating or breathing counting forces me to slow down, to become present in the moment and be completely focused on what I am doing. I can not say I dislike this about counting. Normally I go through my life with very little awareness of my present moment experience. I am pre-occupied by what I need to get done, where I need to go, how I need to be- like a hamster chasing its own tail. Counting seems to wake me up from this never-ending dream and forces me to be here now.
My wife has been exercising in the other room for 41 minutes. I have been writing this for the past 28 minutes. I am using two fingers to type. The electrical heater by my feet has been on for 92 minutes. I have tried to count the rain drops that are falling outside of my window but so far it has been nearly impossible for me to get an accurate count. There are just too many rain drops to capture. Today I plan on going for a walk. I will walk for 80 minutes and during that time I want to count every single thought that enters my mind. I will divide these thoughts into two categories positive and negative thoughts. I want to know how many of my thoughts are negative and how many of my thoughts are positive. I can not take credit for this exercise- my therapist had the idea. She has observed that I tend to be a pessimist who sees the glass as half empty. Her idea is that possibly if I can become aware of the flow of negative thoughts through my mind I will be better equipped to turn these negative thoughts into positive ones. Since I want to be a positive person, who exists in joy rather than despair, I have been doing this exercise for the past few days. Yesterday I had 609 negative thoughts and 98 positive ones during an eighty minute walk.
I am assuming that once spring arrives I will no longer have the obsessive need to count- but for now I am surrendering to the obsession. I enjoy counting in the same way that a person enjoys their work. Counting keeps me preoccupied and distracted from thinking about too many other things. Like the Hindus, I also believe that thought is one of the most toxic elements that exist within a human being. Thought torments us and drives us around in the same way that a motor controls a car. When I am fully immersed in counting I am no longer thinking. I am in what certain scientists refer to as a state of flow. Clarity, peace of mind and focus take the place of habitual thought and it is habitual, unconscious thoughts that cause a person to lose control of their life. So I will continue to count. There are 13 unpaid bills, 8 pens and 2 notebooks on my desk. There are 9 plants in my writing room and 11 sticks of incense on the table besides my desk. There are 6 strings on my guitar, 1,902 dollars in my bank account and now at the end of this narrative I have written 1,083 words.
A few evenings ago my wife made a gigantic pot of lentil stew. We have both been very low on money and we were trying to find ways to save money. My wife had the idea of making a large pot of lentil stew that we could feed off of for days. Lunch and dinner for at least three days was the initial plan. My wife added potatoes, carrots, onions, cilantro, peppers and kale to the stew, which seemed to grow as it sat simmering on our electric stovetop. When my grandmother lived in Communist Russia and suffered through the food shortages and poverty that was an epidemic in the 1940’s and 50’s, her mother would make a massive pot of lentil stew to feed the whole family with for a week. Now that my wife and I are living through an economic crisis of equal proportion, we decided that it was a perfect time to use the recipe for this lentil stew that my grandmother gave to us on her deathbed.
As the lentil stew simmered on the stove I stood over it in the same way that a man would pray at a shrine. I had my eyes closed, hands clasped and I breathed deeply. I was reminded of a time when food was more plentiful and economic woes were no place to be found. Another way that my wife and I are trying to save money is by not using any heat in our house, so I also used the simmering stew as my heater. I would grab a book or a magazine and read by the stew. My grandmother’s recipe said that the stew had to simmer for eight hours and I spent every moment by its side. I read an article about the thousands of people who have lost their homes and gone bankrupt because of medical bills that they could not afford to pay. I read another article about how the richest Americans are living the high life, “rolling in economic prosperity” while 97 percent of Americans are in some way struggling economically. The article talked about how the main consensus amongst the wealthy is that they would like to see Julian Assange jailed or assassinated because he is exposing the lies and corruption of the American government, whose job it is to work for the rich. I read all of this as I hovered over the simmering lentil stew, longing for the time when it would be time to eat.
That night at dinner I consumed three bowls of lentil stew quicker than my dog plows through a bowl filled with kibble. My wife and I did not talk much since she has been struggling through a wintertime spell of depression. Since we are trying to save money we no longer buy much wine and beer. We go a few days a week without a drink but that night at dinner she nursed a glass filled with some whiskey that was donated to us by a friend who owns a successful restaurant in San Francisco. My wife is in her final year of graduate school and the stress of her program, and the worries that coagulate in her mind (worries about what she is going to do when she is done) sometimes cause her to become quieter than a silent film. When I got up from our small dinner table to get a fourth bowl of lentil stew my wife suddenly blurted out, “how many lentils can you eat?” I turned to her and said, “I am so hungry that I bet you I can eat more lentils than any other man in the world.” She chuckled and said “no way.” I reminded her that our economic woes have caused me to have to go days on end with very little food. “The recession may cause a lot of economic despair but it also creates a lot of hungry men,” I said with an upturned grin on my face. It was at this point that my wife lifted her wallowing head, pointed both her wide eyes in my direction and said, “I have a challenge for you.”
I have always loved a good challenge, especially in times of despair. Challenges distract my mind; take my consciousness to another level. The last good challenge that I had was a few years ago. A friend of mine bet me one hundred dollars that I could not walk in a straight line for one mile through downtown San Francisco. I took the challenge and with my friend following me I managed to walk in a straight line for more than three miles. I walked through stranger’s homes, through gas stations and office buildings. I had to walk through a police station and several restaurants, but somehow I managed to walk in a straight line through the heart of the city. Sitting at the dinner table with my fourth bowl of lentil stew in my hand, my wife challenged me to eat 5,000 lentils in one day. She told me that there where at least that many lentils in the stew that she made and she would give me until 7pm the following day to eat the lentils. “Do I need to count every lentil I eat?” I asked. “Duh,” she replied. “How else would I know if you ate 5,000 lentils?”
Since I myself am unemployed and on winter break from graduate school- I had nothing to do the following day. I woke early to prepare myself for the challenge. I boiled a pot of hot water on the stove to get warm and I then did thirty minutes of meditation, where I visualized myself winning the challenge. I saw myself jumping up and down after I ate the final lentil, a victorious smile upon my face. My wife would not be home that day but she told me that she trusted me enough to not lie about the amount of lentils that I ate. I may be a poor man but I am no liar, so I appreciated her faith in me not being a cheater. When I was done with my meditation I took the ten-pound pot of left over lentil stew, warmed it up on the stove and began to eat one lentil at a time. Each lentil I ate I counted out loud and every fiftieth lentil I would make a note of on a pad of paper.
I spent the afternoon in my kitchen. I was hovered over the simmering stew pulling lentil after lentil out of the pot. On the busy street outside of my house I could hear the sounds of cars, busses and people. I heard the mailman drop of the daily mail. The symphony of commerce and daily toil was in full swing as I sat in the solitude of my impoverished kitchen eating lentils. Every hour or so I had to take a break. I would go into my living room and stretch out on the fading green carpet that I inherited from my grandmother. I would lie on my back and remember a time in my youth when my days were filled with tennis lessons, private tutoring and three large meals a day. I remembered my heated bedroom, the white carpet that I would often lay down upon, the large swimming pool in my backyard and the feel of economic prosperity that ran through my childhood memories. “Now I am living in a cold house where I cannot afford to pay the heating bill. How things change overtime,” I thought to myself. Rain came down outside, I stared at the ceiling and tried to find a way to eat more than 5,000 lentils.
Psychologists often suggest that in times of distress the human mind distracts itself with the most superficial preoccupations. This is often referred to as the denial syndrome. The idea is that often the real reality of a person’s life is too large and troubling for the human mind to comprehend. So the mind has a built in mechanism, which allows it to focus on things that are not as threatening to its survival. I realize that spending my day focusing on eating 5,000 lentils was a way for me to avoid thinking about more pressing concerns. I had bill collectors I needed to call. I needed to contest inaccurate charges on a medical bill. I needed to look for a job and register for my next semester of classes. I also needed to clean out the birdcage, exercise, clean the bathroom and check in on my 90-year-old neighbor who spends her days staring at a blank wall. But I managed to avoid all of this and more by focusing all of my attention on getting that number 5,001 lentil into my mouth. I got my lanky body off the floor and continued to eat lentils.
Time has a way of passing without my awareness when I am deeply immersed in a task. When my wife came home at around 6pm it was already dark out. I had not noticed the transition from light to dark because my head was buried in a pot filled with lentil stew. I heard my wife complain about how cold and dark the house was and I answered by saying, “welcome to our America.” In my attempts to save money I insist upon keeping as many light off as possible and my wife does not like living in the dark. When she came into the kitchen she noticed that I was still dressed in the clothes that I slept in. She asked me how close I was to eating 5,000 lentils. As I put a lentil in my mouth and slowly chewed it- I pointed to the piece of paper that I was using to keep track of every lentil that I ate. She began to count up all of my markings and when she was done counting she let out a small, victorious laugh. “Ha!” she said. “You have only eaten 2, 203 lentils?” she asked. “If that is what it says than that is how many lentils I have eaten,” I replied. She came up close to me and said, “well your still my champion.” She grabbed my penis and then gave me a kiss on the cheek before walking away.
It was at that point I knew that I had lost the lentil challenge. I may be one of the hungriest men in the world- but there was no way that I was going to be able to eat 5,000 lentils. If it took me the whole day to eat 2,203 lentils then it would take me all night and some of the morning to reach 5,000 lentils. One of the virtues of growing older is that I have learned when to accept defeat. I believe that it was the essayist Montaigne who wrote, “a wise man is able to smile when they have lost and congratulate the victor.” I nodded my head and walked away from the pot of lentil stew. Slowly I walked to the bedroom where my wife was changing into several layers of thermal underwear, sweaters and socks. “It is going to be cold tonight,” she said as she slipped a sweater over her head. I swallowed and then suddenly felt sad that this had become my life. I never thought that things were going to turn out this way. “What’s wrong?” my wife asked as she put on gloves. “Nothing,” I replied with a superficial smile. She came up close to me and took my arms in her gloved hands. “You did the best you could sweetheart,” she said looking me in the eyes. I did not want to talk about it so I asked, “what’s for dinner?” My wife chuckled and as she walked past me towards the kitchen she said, “lentil stew.”
I have just been made aware by an astute reader of this blog that five weeks have passed since my last post. I was not aware that it had been that long since I have a tendency to get caught up in the gusty winds that swoop through my mindscape- often rendering me unaware of the rhythm of passing days. Weeks blend together and before I know it a month has passed. My five-week absence from this blog is simply the result of a bout of writer’s block. My friends and acquaintances all seem to be fortunate enough to be suffering from minor colds and flu’s, while I have had to suffer the long-lasting pangs of writer’s block. I imagine that not being able to come up with any cohesive piece of writing for a writer must be akin to the suffocation an asthmatic feels in the middle of an asthma attack. However, I have every hope that soon this block will dissipate and I will be re-immersed in the process of story writing. For now I thought it appropriate to post a short story that I wrote a few years back on the subject of writer’s block. I tried for a year to get this story published, without any takers (after just re-reading it I can see why, but it holds a dear place in my heart). So for the past year or so it has sat in the darkness of my desk drawer, until now.
I have been staring at a blank page for most of my life. I have done all I can with not just my left hand but also my right. I have tried yoga and long walks. My therapist recommended to me that I take up singing. So I have done this each day. I have taken cooking lessons, taken up meditation, started burning incense, moved to the woods, eat vegan, and participate in S&M parties. I do a head stand every morning for thirty minutes and chew sugarless gum throughout the day. Still there is little evidence of a writer on the paper before me.
Since the age of six I have dreamed of becoming a writer. My parents took my sister and I on a family outing in Napa Valley. As we were driving along a desolate country road I noticed a small cabin. A man sat smoking what looked like a pipe on the porch. I asked my father about who that was and he said, “probably a poor hermit or failed writer.” From that day forward I knew what I wanted to do with my life.
Thirty-three years later and I am still unable to write. People ask me what I do and I use the noun, writer. When I am asked if my work can be read I utilize the pronoun, aspiring. It is a course that I navigate with trepidation. “Will I ever write anything?” is a question that lingers in my head like a chronic migraine. It hurts. And every so often I take aspirin. Days before my father passed away I assured him that I would one day be able to make a living as a writer.
“But you don’t write.”
“I can’t but I will.”
”I try every day.”
”Son, when will you see?”
“When I write.”
“But you can’t write.”
“Son you can’t be a Writer if you don’t write.”
“I will write.”
My father passed away with a knot in his gut tightened by my incapability to pragmatically reason. Every day I look at a blank page and am reminded of my failure. I see emptiness and small circuitous hints of a letter. I have become so acquainted with the color of a blank page that I can tell time by the way it reflects shadows. Each morning, I sit at my desk to write my unfulfilled potential off the page. Still nothing comes. I sit there and breathe deeply. I straighten my back as if that will help awaken an idea. “Maybe, it will slip through my spine and out onto the empty page, and then there will be the story,” I think. A narration so profound, that my career as a writer will be unleashed. But my spine is tight from all my hunching and my right hand has been waiting to write a word since my left hand refused to wait anymore. “It is a lonely heart that has no hope,” my father once told me.
I visit my therapist in town twice a week. She is a skinny woman who suffered from anorexia most of her life. Years of struggle have carved lines into her face and make her an asset to those who face similar struggles. She slowly eats a banana while we commune. I am confident that she can help me because of her past. She always allows me to stay longer then my allotted fifty minutes.
“Have you been singing?”
”I sing every day, mostly in the shower or on a walk.”
“How does it make you feel?”
“Good, I forget about my Writer’s block.”
“Have you been thinking about new ways to live your life?”
“What have you decided?”
“To think less.”
“This is why I thought singing would be good.”
”It helps me to stop thinking.”
”It is your thoughts that keep you blue.”
“Do you still do head stands?”
“Do you still think about your father?”
“All the time.”
“One day you will change the story you tell yourself.”
“I want to write my story.”
After therapy, I drive my old truck back to the house in the woods feeling renewed and hopeful. The story that I tell myself is slowed down. The thoughts in my head are not as filled with failure and doom. There is space for better thoughts to appear. But the page remains blank. It sits there upon my desk like a neglected pet awaiting my return. I tell myself only a matter of time and I go to work doing other things. I keep myself busy with household chores and I keep introducing myself to strangers as a writer.
“Want a good story,” she said to me dressed in leather straps that barely covered her holly trinity (breasts, thighs and ass). I pictured it happening differently but decided to go along with it anyways. The party was filled with middle-aged voyeurs gathering around small dungeons set up with enough equipment to imprison the primordial god Eros. I followed her into a section called The Den Of Inequity and felt the air around my head grow warm. She told me her name but I have since forgotten. All I really remember is a small hole on the bottom of her foot that she told me was the result of an accident.
“You want to play, right?” she asked me, wanting to assure herself that I was certain about the consequences of my decision. “I want a story,” I replied with a hint of fear in my voice. I took off my shirt, pants and underwear and was dressed in leather briefs. ”I’ll give you the story of your, life pervert man,” she said as she strapped my wrists and ankles to a disinterested wooden board. After being lashed, electrocuted, stepped on, spit on, spanked, tied upside down, laughed at, called coward, whipped, humiliated and then applauded by a group of spectators- I got dressed and anticipated the story I may finally have to tell. I drove home quickly so as not to forget.
Nothing wanted to come out, despite the sores and bruises, which I hoped would help me to remember. Not even and, if or but. I struggled to remember any words that could describe the feelings that I experienced. All I seemed capable of thinking was “its got to be good.” There was once again no story to be written on the blank page. No words willing to lend themselves to the perfection that I demanded to describe my experience. It was as if words had renounced the man before he could even give them an opportunity to live. I was not frustrated but becoming hopeless again. In my head I wanted to live but on the page I could not exist. For one hour that evening I lay on my couch with ice over various parts of my naked body feeling like a failure.
“Why did you let her do those things to you?”
“You are my therapist, not my mother.”
“I understand but it is important that I know.”
“Because I wanted a story.’
”You wanted a story?”
“I thought that an experience would give me something to write about.”
“And did it?”
“And why do you think this is so?”
“I am not sure.”
“Maybe its because you can not stop telling your self the old story.”
“What old story?”
“The one we talk about here.”
“I do not understand.”
“The story of hopelessness, failure, guilt, worthlessness.”
”Maybe when this story goes away you will have a new story to write.”
That afternoon I went to my cooking class and then stopped at the market. In the evening I went to a yoga class and a bookstore. I purchase a popular book about water. The premise of the book was strange and had nothing to do with anything I had ever thought. It was a book written by a Japanese scientist who studied the ways that water molecules responded to thoughts. He photographed water crystals and studied how they formed in relation to various thoughts or words. He observed that positive thoughts or words formed beautiful water crystals while negative thoughts or words created ugly and deformed water crystals. His conclusion was that since human beings are mainly a collection of millions of water crystals, the thoughts we have and words we use create our health and disease.
For dinner I made a pizza and read the book by candlelight. Outside the silence was loud enough that I could hear it vibrating in my ears. I chewed my food without the sensation of eating and quickly made my way through the book. I thought about the story I told myself and noticed the scenes from my life that lined up in my mind as if on paper. It was a story of unfulfilled potential that went all the way back to my fathers remark: “probably a poor hermit or failed writer.” It was a negative unraveling, a self fulfilling prophecy that was born in me the moment that I decided to become a hermit and a writer thirty-three years before. My water crystals were destined to grow deformed. I went to bed that night thinking that my father had unknowingly put a curse on me. I talked about it the next morning in therapy.
“Do you think this realization is true?”
”Your writer’s block is the result of your fathers curse?”
“Maybe not a curse, but a negative imprint.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I am toxic water.”
”Yes, I am polluted and filled with deformed water crystals.”
“You read the book about water?”
“And what did it reveal to you?”
”That I can change.”
“So you see how the story you tell yourself creates your life.”
“Creates deformed water crystals.”
“Yes, and these deformed water crystals are you.”
“Change your story, change your life.”
“Easier said than done.”
I don’t know if the writer’s block will ever go away. I stand on my head every day and I try to think pleasant thoughts. Rather than seeing the block as a silence that is permanent I see it as an opportunity to express potential. Recently, I have been experiencing a strange phenomenon. When I wake in the morning and sit before the empty page I look into it with the determination of an artist. I am fascinated by its depth and dimension. Outlined in vague print is a vision of my new story, fully realized on the blank page. There it is before me, a story written in the most beautiful prose. It is a story that will continue on indefinitely until the end of all blank pages. Every writer that has ever lived and failed to write is apart of this story. It is the story of my entire life.