Have you ever been struck by an idea but unable to write it down? Found yourself saying one thing but doing another? Become inspired by some unknown force? Read something you wrote years before and suddenly gone, “Aaah. Now I get it.”
I’ve been struggling a bit lately with the idea of living in integrity, of walking the talk so to speak.
I find, and have often found, that when I write about something, it doesn’t always resonate with me right away. It comes to me as more of a realization, a lesson that I still need to learn, a bit of prophecy that I still need to self-actualize, an intellectual idea that hasn’t quite reached my heart yet.
And then there are those things that I write that I want to achieve and maintain but find am not able to for one reason or another, like following my passion rather than taking a job just for the money it provides, something I still can’t quite seem to manifest in its entirety.
This can be quite frustrating. As can having inspiration strike at an inopportune moment.
Before I made the decision to move across the country to change my life 9 years ago, I wrote a poem called “The Moment”. I’d been walking through Union Station in Toronto. It was rush hour. I was on my way to work the hockey game at the ACC.
As I fought my way through the crowd of people rushing to catch this train or that bus, scrambling in every direction, bumping and pushing their own way through the clustered crowd, I got inspired to write.
Luckily, during most hockey games, the guests in my private suite were so enthralled with the game that I had whole periods to sit at the little bar in the back and work on my personal projects. One regular guest even said to me, “You’re going to be famous one day. You’re always working on something.”
It’s true, I usually did have my pen and notebook or printed papers sprawled out on the bar during my shifts. In fact, I’ve done some of my best writing to the sound of a hockey game: the swooshing of skates and clacking of sticks on the ice; the commentator’s muffled voice resonating in the background; pucks bouncing and dinging off goal posts and the sideboards.
And during this one particular hockey game, I wrote “The Moment”.
“The Moment” basically foreshadows my decision to move out West, an idea that had not yet reached my consciousness when I wrote it. I knew I was unhappy with my life as it was in Toronto and that some sort of change was needed, but the thought of moving hadn’t occurred to me. Then I wrote this:
Cell Phones Ringing
And up against
Bags & Backpacks
To Miss the Bus
To Catch the Train
To do this tomorrow
All Over Again
A Nameless Name
A Faceless Face
Of Mice and Men
It’s a true Rat Race
But so Unaware
Could you imagine
What it might be like
To have wide open spaces
And mountains to hike
To stare at the Stars
To sail out to sea
To catch a big fish
And then set it free
To feel sand through your toes
Breathe fresh air up your nose
Dance with a whale
While you slowly exhale
Take a walk in the park
Snuggle a bear in the dark
So many things
So easily forgotten
Like sweet candied fruit
That’s suddenly gone rotten
Eat while it’s ripe
But don’t miss the boat
Watch out for the deep end
Learn how to float
Life is too short
To lose sight of the now
Live in the moment
Let us show you how.
Looking back on it, this poem is a call to action, an invitation from a source beyond my immediate consciousness to learn to live in the present moment, something I have been dedicating much of my life to these past 9 years, thanks to the time I spent out West with its “open spaces”, “mountains”, and “fresh air”.
This happens quite often with my writing. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, a means to self-actualize, and where the inspiration comes from is still a mystery to me.
In her TED Talk about nurturing creativity, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat Pray Love”, talks about the ‘elusive creative genius’ that we all have access to. She speaks of the “utter maddening capriciousness of the creative process… which does not always behave rationally and can sometimes be downright paranormal.”
One of my favourite clips from this talk is when she tells us about her interview with musician Tom Waits. He tells her that inspiration once came to him while he was driving and that he didn’t have the means to write it down. Instead he stopped, looked up at the sky, and said,
“Excuse me, can you not see that I’m driving? Do I look like I can write down a song right now? If you really want to exist, come back at a more opportune moment.”
I like this analogy, this idea that inspiration and creative genius come from an unknown, outside source and can strike at any moment. It makes sense to me, especially in light of my poem.
I’ve also recognized that, when inspiration comes from a life event or another person, which has often happened for me, what is written is not necessarily for or about that event or person. In fact, more often than not, what I have written about is a message for me, and the person or event that inspired it was merely a catalyst for that message.
To think of all the poems I once shared with boyfriends and lovers, family and friends, poems that were meant for me and me alone. Poems that could have been misconstrued by the reader and taken very personally when, in fact, those readers were merely muses and had absolutely nothing to do with it otherwise.
It takes me back to when I made my decision to move West and the many responses I heard in response, namely the negative ones:
“You can’t do that.”
“You can’t run away from your problems, you know.”
“What are you thinking?”
I was seeing a counselor at the time and when I told her about this she said something I’ll never forget:
“When people say these things it has nothing to do with you. It is a direct reflection of what they would say to themselves in a similar situation.”
I loved this and also recognized this to be true when it came to much of my own writing. Even if it took me years to recognize it, the message was meant for me and I was merely projecting it onto that other person.
That’s not to say that the message can’t be shared, especially if it’s a universal one, just that sometimes it can take a little while to catch up, to match up what we inherently know or are being guided towards with actually DOING and LIVING it.
I have no doubt I’ll get there with a little patience and a lot of perseverance, and as my one friend so gently reminded me, “You’re doing just fine. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Change comes gradually and integrity takes time.”