Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Write for life

I feel the need to write more often, to give that atrophied part of myself more of a workout. My physical body is doing quite well and gets worked all the time. I need to have that same level of diligence for my writing self. And why don't I? I'm sure there is an interesting answer buried in my psyche.

Somehow physical exercise is simpler for me than the mental, spiritual effort that writing demands. Working out is hard work, but it has less potential to really bite me and cause long-term pain and suffering. Maybe because I don't have high expectations for my physical fitness. Yes, I do push myself during a workout, and I really think I have become more fit than the great majority of 40-something Americans!

But I realize that I will never be the fastest, the strongest, the best in the physical arena. I have been thoroughly unathletic my entire life, so I know that's not the area where my gifts lie, ha! To quote my chiropractor: "You're quite knock-kneed, aren't you?" That was actually a revelation to me -- so that's why I could never get my legs in the same alignment as those impossibly thin yoga and Pilates women. I have trouble touching my ankles together -- my thighs get in the way! Nevertheless, I really enjoy good health, good nutrition (with a daily sweet or two thrown in), and physical fitness.

How writing is such a steeper mountain for me than weightlifting or jogging is a bit hard to explain, other than the reality has never lived up to the dreams.

I kept a diary starting when I was 8, because Mom thought it was a good idea. (This was the reason for most of the things I did as a child.) I remember having these vivid and recurring thoughts of becoming a famous writer, and so I would write about that as I got older. It's a strange, narcissistic feeling to write about the writer you think you are, or could become. And here I go again with it. Ah well, bear with me for one entry, anyhow.

I used to think narcissism of any kind was completely wicked and wrong. The word has such a negative connotation. But then someone explained it to me better, in one of my readings (Perhaps Father Rohr again). Narcissus was a beautiful young man, at the very peak of physical perfection, when he discovered an image in the water's reflection of such surpassing beauty that he was captivated by it. Eventually, the myth goes, he turned into a flower, forever bending over the bank to gaze at its reflection.

Narcissus did not identify the image of beauty as himself. It's as though he remained forever blind to his true self, as I think real-life narcissists must be. I think this self-discovery phase, where he got stuck, is typical of growing up. We catch a glimpse of our most beautiful selves but don't always recognize and internalize that love as self-love. But we must learn to love ourselves before we can effectively love anything or anyone else in the world. Everyone has to be a Narcissus before they can grow into an effective human being. "Love your neighbor as yourself" does not work if you don't love yourself.

My muscles are sore today from a full-body workout yesterday, then a 25-minute jog this morning at the track while watching concrete being poured for a new building at La Vernia High. I like having achy muscles, because it's a tangible reminder that I pushed myself physically.

How to get achy spiritual muscles? Hmm. I want to start journalling my dreams again. I did this once, and became good at remembering at least parts of a dream every night. Normally, I don't remember my dreams, which means that my unconscious is locked away. I think writing draws so heavily on the unconscious mind that it helps to awaken it and draw it out a bit. I think of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, dreaming (in no doubt a drug-induced state) his magnificent poem, "Kubla Khan." What a tragedy that he was interrupted while writing it, and then forgot the rest!

For a future post: is human contact essential for good writing?

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