I am troubled all week, off kilter in a subtle way. It is hard to bring myself to my work. I eat too many dates one afternoon, sleep once in the early evening then go back to working. I can’t locate the source of my disturbance, can’t read the pulse, find no one single steady beat. Wednesday I am defensive and mean to my mother. “Well, if you can’t understand it,” I huff. My voice trails off. I cry after I hang up the phone. I feel all alone. In the afternoon, I realize I am having what Mitchell would call a crisis in confidence. It isn’t any one thing alone, but the strange converging of several strands. Friday a good friend leaves me a message for my birthday. She sings to me, her voice sweet and clear. It is a dear message, and it is good to take it in. But she doesn’t want me in her life in any regular way, so it makes me sad, too, speaks to my darkness, the place that asks, “What’s wrong with me?” I panic Monday morning about my blog, the new wide-open structure I have longed for this past year. I stop in the middle of the room, startled into stillness on my way to clean the cat box. “I don’t have anything to write about,” I say. I almost laugh. I am the woman with a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. Tuesday night I dream I am showing one of my online classes to a handful of colleagues. I don’t remember my words, but I know I am making my work less than it is, suggesting my approach is silly, asking them for their advice. They are stiff, unwelcoming. When I wake I can’t believe I think they are better than me. “Do I really think so little of myself?” I say to the room. The cats don’t answer. I shake my head, baffled. “Ah,” I say. “My workshop.” I am afraid people won’t see any value in my ideas, in my creative approach to online assessments. Is it too obvious, too dull? I wonder. I am afraid, too, to continue working on a piece of fiction I began Tuesday afternoon at the laundromat, groping for my first official post to my new blog. I am afraid my whole new commitment to my writing is a wrong thing. I am afraid I’m not good enough.
The sweetest thing is I am not mean to myself. I am afraid and vulnerable, but I don’t kick myself, don’t drag my nails across naked flesh. Instead, I am gentle. I let myself nap. I escape into reading. I eat 22 organic Khadrawy dates in one long afternoon. I let myself read about writing instead of forcing myself to write. Late in the day a voice whispers inside me. “Go take a walk by the creek,” it says. I get myself outside. The clouds have lifted, the air between me and the top of the ridge is clear. The sun has already disappeared, but I can see it shining on the distant mountains that ring my world. I feel raw, fragile. I consider taking my shorter walk, looping around my neighborhood, a way of being easy with myself, of not pushing. I remember the whispering voice and head toward the creek path. My body feels light. I place each foot on the asphalt with a soft step. I breathe air, my arms swinging at my sides. When I get to the creek path, the sandy dirt crunches beneath my shoes. The water cascades over its concrete rim. I soak up the sound of it. I walk watching the band of water move through the green of the ravine. The trees on the far bank reflect and multiply in the creek. For a moment, I am walking in the deep south. I am in bayou country. I touch the wildness of the place, and I am soothed. I feel tender toward myself and the whole world. Twice on my walk I greet a woman, the only two I know to talk to from our traveling these shared paths. I am lifted by our light exchanges. I like them. They like me, too. There is nothing wrong with me. “Get thee to the creek,” I whisper now. That voice knew what she was saying. This walk is what I needed. The sliver of a waxing moon hangs in the western sky, caressing me on my way home. In the evening my tenderness continues. Instead of making myself do more writing, I listen to Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg, A Conversation on the Writing Life. They bring me into their world. I know again I am a writer. I sit in bed, emptied and buoyant, and I listen to their voices in the night. “I am a writer, too,” I whisper. I am a writer, too.