This post marks a change in the way I plan to write. In the past I’ve focused on “facts” and “content” but there was something that bothered me about these writings. They seemed a bit phony and empty. Some are well written, sure, but there’s something missing. I figured it out finally after writing my last Christmas letter to my clients. My wife always reads these letters and gives me a “pass” if they make her cry, or at least give her a few goosebumps.
So I get back to work and sure enough, I’m writing and feeling this surge of emotion and before I know it I’ve discarded a completely serviceable piece of prose in favor of a less complex & creative but more emotionally moving, spiritually charged one. I’ve realized that this is just what I want to do with my writing. I want to write less words and more power. Here is my first attempt. It is about a feeling I get lying in bed at night trying to make my impending death “real” to me. (An excercise spoken of by Carlos Castaneda called “using death as an advisor”, not just something weird I do in bed at night!)
…I was lying in bed the other night thinking about my death. I do that sometimes. Not in a morose way, but sort of as a test to see if I’m ready to die. I am not. I lie there thinking how I raised my voice at my little girl because I was impatient with her. I made it “all about me” and my frustration with her. Sometimes I do the same thing with my beloved wife. I let pettiness, smallness, and self-importance rule me instead of bringing life and love to the people around me. It’s so sad. It’s nothing we don’t all do, I’m sure, but when I lie here, and I allow my death to become a possibility, to use it as my “advisor,” it advises me to stay alive….I’ve got some shit to clean up, some songs to still sing. And I think, oh, God, please don’t let me die tonight. There is so much I need to be and say to people. Don’t let my daughter’s last interaction with her father be to have him frustrated with her because she wasn’t “getting” his clumsy explanation of prime factorization. I’ve lived a pretty good life actually, and brought a lot of smiles and joy to many people. But I’ve lived long enough to also hurt people, ignore some pain and suffering that I could’ve eased, and settled for less from myself…so many times. I have to clean these things up somehow, and I need more time. Please, just a little more time.
I thought about how when some people die, the people left behind harbor a secret feeling of relief instead of grief. I think we’ve all known or heard about someone, who when they died, it was no big deal. They were a pain in the ass, and now they’re not around. “Remember when that asshole did this…said that….” People struggle to canonize them a bit anyway, because that’s what we think we have to do. It’s the right thing. He was one of “God’s creatures” after all. They remember the funny, the good, but the point is, they really have to try. They struggle. And they don’t really mean it. And then they know it…that it’s no big deal, and that the world will barely hiccup with their passing…and then they feel guilty. That’s my worst fear. That the world will breathe a guilt ridden, secret sigh of relief when I’m gone and I just cannot let that happen…I can’t leave people “trying” to be sad and then feeling guilty about it.
And I am confident that I will not. It is by using my death as an advisor, to bring me the horror of a song unsung, a tear undried that I have caused…that will set my life to flight.