I dreamt I was shuffling around Pearl Street, carrying two pairs of shoes but wearing none, with a wet towel over my shoulder. I circled the same block twice, trying to find my way home, then went up the stairs at the bus station to find my old editor sitting in an office. “I’ll have a story for you, I swear.” Then I went back downstairs and outside and returned to trying to figure out where I lived so I could get started.
In the seven years I’ve been writing this column, that’s possibly the most apt metaphor I’ve stumbled across for what it feels like to write. The only way it could be more accurate is if there were a moment in the dream when I blew a half-hour unsubscribing from political emails, making a sandwich, or cleaning my room instead of sitting in front of the computer.
I remember thinking years ago that writing this column would get easier. I don’t think it has. Every week, there’s that moment when I have to figure out what I’m going to write about. And every idea gets the Who Cares test. Most ideas never make it past that first hurdle. Then there are the other questions: Does this make me feel something? Will this make someone else feel something? Can some good come out of it? Am I showing someone out there they’re not alone? Am I helping someone forget for a moment about their troubles? Is this at least mildly amusing? And then I feel like Sally Struthers. For a paycheck that covers the price of a cup of coffee, I’m going to give some relief to all my fellow anxious people. Pretty sure I spend about 40 minutes every Sunday driving myself crazy.
I don’t see a point at which I’m going to have it all figured out — the column or the stuff I’m writing about each week.
Remember being 16? And then thinking about what it’d be like to be 20? Or 30? Or 40? I totally thought I was going to have this being alive stuff figured out. But I don’t. I go through life feeling surprised a lot of the time, like I’m constantly finding furry, motionless things in the grass and poking them with a stick, and every one of them springs to life. At least I’m not bored.
I do know this: The things that make me happy are the things I have to tend to: the garden, the dog, my friends. And I guess if you’re feeling a little directionless this week like I am with this column, then my advice to you would be to focus on the things that make you happy. And maybe make sure your stick is long before you poke that furry thing in the grass.
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