The other day I wrote this, here:
I need to make my writing messier. Shake it up like a salad dressing. Try out words, let them be disorganized, and stop micromanaging them so tightly.
I practice law during the day, and that forces my words to line up like first-graders for the bathroom. Forward, march. I think, though, that it does the same to my ideas, and maybe it would be a good thing if I could also shake up my brain like a salad dressing after a long day of writing briefs, arguments, polemics about doctrine. Because it’s a hard task for my brain to switch to nature and the more mystical things from the ruthless, logical order of the law — like hopping between worlds.
There is an in-between, though — when a friend or two writes for advice, emotion leaps aboard and starts greasing the slope. Logic doesn’t mind, because we’re still solving problems. Emotion plies it with a drink or two, and soon we have a bridge.
So, the lesson is: To go from writing about res judicata to the inner lives of frogs, make sure a friend has a problem.
Today I know this isn’t actually the real problem. The problem isn’t the shift between cold logic and warm nature, it’s the shift between being writing from an emotionally detached place and writing from the honest, deepest, grittiest parts of me.
I don’t want to devalue my career in the law, because it’s part of me and has given me a lot. But the law isn’t the best place to go if you’re looking to become more of an emotional risk-taker, and I think that’s my future. It has to be, because this sack of flesh I’m housed in is starting to split from the pressure of the things I’m not saying and the things I’m not being.
I started a big piece of work five years ago during my divorce, but there’s a huge chunk of it yet undone. I think this job — this ascent toward authenticity — is pressing on me everywhere, in my parenting, in my creative life, in my relationships. A few months ago, after I nursed the guinea pig that couldn’t eat, I had a dream. I was sifting through my belongings when I came upon a piece of Tupperware. I opened it and inside was a small, pathetic, starving small animal. In my dream I knew I had a choice: do I feed it or do I shut the lid again. Shortly after that I was telling my therapist about the dream and she cocked her head in that way she does and asked me, gently, so what are you going to do? Feed it, or close the lid?
That’s been the question of my life, and over time I’ve opened the lid and snuck the poor thing a snack or two, but I haven’t yet found the courage to throw the lid away. That’s all right, we all do what we can do, and then we try to learn more and do more. I’ll keep opening the lid and sneaking it food, more and more frequently, until I don’t need the lid anymore and can toss it altogether. And then that small part of me can come outside the Tupperware for good.