|Day 7 of my 365 photo project: Three generations of my family did their homework at the big table. This children’s tea set for two still sits at the edge of it, waiting for my childhood self to come to tea.|
Conveniently, Donald Miller expresses the following thoughts (emphasis mine) about writing in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years:
A lot of people think a writer has to live in order to write, has to meet people and have a rich series of experiences or his work will become dull. But that is drivel. It’s an excuse a writer uses to take the day off, or the week or the month off for that matter. The thinking is, if we go play Frisbee in the park, we’re going to have a thousand words busting out of us when we get back to the house. We’re going to write all kinds of beautiful prose about playing Frisbee. It’s never worked for me. Annie Dillard, who won the Pulitzer while still in her mother’s womb, wrote one of her books in a concrete cell. She says most of what a writer needs to really live they can find in a book. People who live good stories are too busy to write about them. Nobody ever strapped a typewriter to the back of an elephant and wrote a novel while hunting wild game. Nobody except for Hemmingway. But let’s not talk about Hemmingway.
Well, then. If Miller is right about this, I should be a champion writer by now because I am embarrassed to tell you when the last time I left the house was. When I wrote about “love, worry and everything in between” last week, I did not expect the “in between” to govern my 2012 so far. Yet, here I am, sitting, waiting, wishing for the visas, and paperwork and permits and boatloads of hope that will bring me to my next project. If you were a college student in the early 2000s, you know there is a Jack Johnson reference in the previous sentence. I have not left the house in long enough to allow Jack Johnson references to ferment. #pleasesendhelp
One of the open tabs on this browser contains an article that tells me how to apply face serum. I need instructions for that, yes. And I have apparently become the kind of restless that is motivated to examine her facial pores and commit herself to their clearing, in an attempt to clear anything, to make space. During the time I spent in northern Uganda, I learned about “boda glow”, a different type of face and body treatment. A boda glow is what you acquired after a day of riding motorcycle taxis (boda-bodas) to the Internally Displaced Person camps. The heat, sweat and red dust clung to you, bathing you in an orange glow. My formerly boda-aglowing self is laughing at the face in the mirror that smells like serum and roses.
Rosy faces free of blackheads need to see the light of day sometimes. My blood has lost the tolerance to New England cold it once had. The transition from the Middle Eastern side of the Mediterranean to the Greek coast and its near-zero temperatures has meant I look like I am about to go caroling every time I endeavor to leave the house, in the hope that I can “strap a typewriter to the back of a wide elephant”, find a story, write about it and prove Donald Miller wrong. I arm myself with the red mittens Katie knit for me and the hat that makes me look like a smurf and that blanket-like scarf Tais bought for Antarctica, but I had been wearing in the Middle East since November nonetheless.
The taxi driver asks where I’m going and I give him the address.
“Where are you going in life, I mean!”, he protests. I could write a book about conversations with taxi drivers around the world.
I tell him about the conflict and post-conflict zones I shuttle between. I tell him about the bureaucracy of waiting for approval, for the stamp that will let you in somewhere and that same stamp that can get you barred from somewhere else. I tell him that tonight, I am going to park myself at a tavern, eat fried zucchini and creamed eggplant, listen to Greek favorites with my favorite Greek women, and wait out the “in-betweenness” with a glass of hmiglyko.
“They should not send women to war zones,” he says when he exhales cigarette smoke into the taxi with the NO SMOKING sign. “The people there… They are brutes.”
I am exhausted from arguing. I always argue, with the taxi driver, with the third great aunt twice removed, with People On The Internet Who Think Things Like That. Today, as we drive by the outdated Santas, I have no stamina. I have no fire for the struggle. I stay silent. He continues to smoke, and the guilt eats me up.
E’s mother has always said that “everything happens for a reason.” As someone who loved Immanuel Kant in college (“can anyone really love Kant, Roxanne?”, Sahil had asked then), I initially found resignation to the decisions of the universe difficult to embrace. Over time, I have realized it is not resignation — it is trust. Perhaps early January was meant to be the time I learned to apply serum to my face and cared enough (/was restless enough) to do it. Or the time I learned to pick my battles and live with those decisions. Or the time I let go of what I do not control, toss the worry in the letting go pile as well, and just wait, exhaling.
It is possible that if the visa and permits come through and I am delivered to my project, and to fulfillment, I will not remember early January. Between powerful experiences, serum that smells like roses and taxis that smell like smoke may not make the cut. But right now, I am still in between. I am still learning to trust, to sleep at night without tossing and turning, to wake up the next day with faith that I can still find life without leaving the house — with the faith that I can maybe even write about it.