Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sometimes What You're Not Supposed to Do Teaches You the Most

It's well known that I despise narratives that contend that there are positive things that can be learned from the "school of pain." Stories that contend that pain is some kind of device meant to teach patience and grace, to be overcome in favor of goodness, sacrifice, and martyrdom. I can't say that this isn't the case for anyone, but I can say what pain has taught me over the past year. It has taught me fear.

Today, I was lucky enough to have lunch at Café Pamplona with a certain author who sometimes plays tamborine for his wife, who is a rockstar. As I waited for him, I remembered the last time I'd been to that particular coffee shop. It was on an OkCupid date with a guy whose profile mentioned that he was writing a play about being a person with a disability. This intrigued me, so I asked him about it early on in the conversation.

"Oh, that," he said. "Yeah, I want to get back to that. I just haven't had the inspiration since I left college, you know? I just haven't had the muse hit me."

"Mmm," I replied. The converation continued in this vein--I'd mention one of his supposed interests, and he'd say yeah, he kept meaning to get back into that. Theatre, reading, music. As far as I could gather, all he did was hang out in is apartment with his cat. And he had been a theatre major. I'd never met more a dispassionate theatre person, and when he told me he'd started the last Harry Potter book but never finished it, I realized I'd never met a less passionate person.

I am passionate about writing. The kind of passionate that means I think about it constantly, almost always have queries out, and want it to be my future. But my modified Nanowrimo plan to spend an hour a day on something new hasn't panned out well. It's easy to blame this on my back. I am, after all, essentially on house arrest until December.

"Does writing hurt?" my lunch companion today asked, with a sympathetic wince.

I quickly agreed that it does, and it's true. Every time I think I've positioned my myriad cushions in a way that keeps the pain away for an hour and is condusive to using my laptop, a different pain crops up to hinder this. But then, there I was sitting up painlessly at the coffee shop table for an hour and a half. I'm not meant to sit up much, but with my brace on I can for an hour or so a day. For meals and such. But I haven't been. I've eaten on the couch, or in my room. Surely I should have been using that hour, then, to sit at my desk and pound out an hours' worth of words.

My head floods with excuses at this thought. My desk covered in pajamas, because I can't bend over to reach the pajama drawer. The weird PT said I shouldn't sit in rolly chairs. I don't write at my desk when I'm well--why start now?

But the truth under all of these questions is that I'm afraid. Afraid that it will hurt? Yes, a bit. But I'm not stupid. If it starts to hurt my back, I'll give it up. I want to heal. But I think the true fear comes from the fact that I haven't written anything truly new in a year and a half. That I still don't have an agent. That I'm never going to make it. The kinds of fears I never used to listen to, because I knew they'd turn me into the kind of dispassionate person who gives up before they even begin.

I know what it is to give into fear. The fear of pain kept me holed up in my apartment for the majority of this year. It cost me opportunities, self-esteem, and probably a lot of other things I won't even realize I lost for a while.

I walked home from the cafe. I'm not meant to walk farther than the distance from my bedroom to the couch, but it was a gorgeous fall day, my favorite kind of day, and by the time I'm off house arrest, those will be lost to the snow, of which I have proper reason to be afraid. The walk isn't far, but before the surgery, my lower back would have been hurting by the time I got halfway home. This time it didn't. To me, that's a sign that all this is going to be worth it. That I can make it through this period of house arrest, because on the otherside there will be a life where fear of pain won't dictate my every decision.

In the meantime, I'm not going to let another type of fear take away my passion.