Sometimes, your batteries just run out of juice. Living in Alaska, these last many years, I’ve become attuned to how much I need to recharge my spirit. In the winters, it’s the long dark nights of coldness that drain me, leaving me always dreaming of sunny beaches, of places far away from the sleeping mountain views of my home. There in the winter, you have to find activity to keep yourself going, almost as an act of sheer will, because if you give in to the mood, a depression sets in. I’m one of those people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder. My emotions are solar-powered, apparently.
And this idea isn’t limited to sunlight or the weather, it also extends into our social lives. I’ve met people in Alaska who live way out in the bush, who seldom interact with other people, save when they need to come into town for supplies or just to check in and see if the world is still going on. I’ve often dreamed of that kind of seclusion, all the books I would write, the time playing guitar, wandering off to climb mountains in a meditative silence, just me and the great expansive world surrounding. But I don’t think I’m made for that kind of experience as a lifestyle. I crave noise and people and moments, new experiences.
I think it’s important to find new things in life to embrace, it keeps you growing. I’ve always been the kind of person to throw myself into any situation with all my heart, not wanting to take a single second of it for granted. But moments end, situations change, and people head in different directions. It’s easy to become nostalgic for things you have experienced in your past, but when you think back on them too much, you dwell on those fading memories and then life starts to slip past you. This is how people lose their dreams and fall into routine.
The trick in making your present stay full of that vivid life is to first embrace it, and then allow it to change, and if the direction of that change is aligned with the compass bearing of your heart, you follow. And if not, then so be it. And when I find myself at a point that the present no longer provides me with what I need or want, I have to seek out something else to keep my spirit alive. Are we all like this, or am I just a malcontent after all? But then, letting go can also be a trick when your emotions are involved and people in your life play an active role in shaping your design, be it from the will of love or the malice of lies.
That said, the circumstances of my life took me away from the road, which has been a good thing, because it’s also important to take time to reflect, to evaluate, and to find what it is that is or is not working in your life. From there, you gain a certain sense of clarity. The problem with being in the moment is that it’s easy to be swept away in it all, but you have to keep your senses about you. Nevertheless, this time away from the road has afforded me some good time to write, reflect, and see things more for what they are as opposed to what my emotions had me believe. It’s strange that the brain and the heart often do not communicate well with one another.
But once you get to that point, it’s easy to then slip into the dull comfortable lull of the mundane. Then, in my case, I start to over-analyze everything. Which is okay, to some extent, so long as there’s something to keep feeding the think-machine in your brain and a way to channel it out afterwards. Once you run out of fuel though, all that thought can turn destructive, make you slip, like with seasonal affective disorder, into that negative state of your mind or your heart.
For me, the road is where I find salvation. I love the world, and I love the people that I meet. Even some of the crazy messed up people of the world have some kind of story or some kind of insight. For every person that you meet, you are given an opportunity to learn more about the world, and about yourself. My life path is one of discovery. I want to know who is behind the curtain, what is behind all three doors, what the answer to the riddles are. Why? Well, why not?
To me, a fate worse than death is living a life where I go to work, go home, pay bills, watch TV, eat shitty food, save for tomorrow, and go to sleep. Wash, rinse, repeat. I’m not saying that this way of life is bad, it works for some people, but certainly not for me, not unless there was something truly amazing to make that experience worth the compromise. But then, I have yet to find anything worth it to me to do so. If I had it my way, I would live on permanent vacation. Having seen the possibility of the last living breathing moments of my life once before, I feel it created in me a vivid perception of the world. But when things turn to a lackluster shade, my discontent begins to grow inside.
And in times of solitude, like now sitting here in Mississippi, spending my days writing, I can also run out of that proverbial juice that feeds the world in my heart. In a way, it’s almost manic in the sense that when I’m lost in a moment, everything is so rich and vibrant, I get carried away by the river of it all, but when the moment ends and I take the time to reflect on it, eventually that spark dims like the last drops of an oil lamp, flickers dully, then extinguishes into another ghost of a memory. Those memories will always live inside, of course, but in them, there is only thought, no longer filled with the great emotions that cultivated their creation, a fading cathartic distance.
But when your focus is on writing about them, you have to revisit those places. In a way, it’s like trying to have a conversation with a dead relative. You’ll always have those memories and love for them, but the dialogue is no longer alive. So, in my case, I find new experiences to fill that lamp with, to stoke the flame, and superimpose them over the ghosts of my reflections. In a way, it’s also kind of like relationships, and how some people will mend the wounds of one relationship by taking on another. In this case, when there is nothing left to feel for those memories, I go out and take a new bite out of life, and like the bolt of electricity that brought Frankenstein’s monster back to life, it gives me the energy to send surging through those moments and make them into the polished prose I hope to write.
Here lately, after a great rush of inspiration and subsequent writing, in weeks of endless flow, I feel as though I’ve run out of steam, hitting a point of writer’s block. Perhaps it’s because I’m hung up on one chapter that I’m trudging slowly but diligently through, perhaps it’s because I’m debating on how honest to be with my work (whether to portray characters as my heart believed them to be, or as they really were), I’m not sure, but this process has all but zapped the energy out of me, and I’ve become distracted, spending more days piddling around the house thinking about writing instead of actually writing. If you’re a writer, you know this pain – it fills you with doubt about your ability to write, makes you question your work, your thoughts, it is a long inner struggle that in tiring coffee fueled nights seems unrelenting.
So when these moments come to pass, my instinct is always to get out and recharge. However, in my case, I came here to MS to seclude myself in order to write, but now that I feel as though I need a break, there’s not really anywhere to go around here. I could go meditate in the woods, throw stones in a creek, watch another sunrise (I drink coffee all night and never fall asleep until morning these days), but really, I need another fix of people and places and sounds. I’ve already written about this in a previous blog, and perhaps this is nothing more than a solipsistic ramble, but it helps to extricate these thoughts, because thinking about thinking can be a thought process in it of itself, one with nowhere in particular to go.
The truth is, my mind is awash with a thousand thoughts a second, because in my head, nothing ever really fades, all thoughts overlapping in a great ringing noise of washed out detail. So, taking time to relax and be among friends and have some new experiences gives me the ability to sort through those things. And not that there’s really anything to sort out anymore, because all of the recent experiences of the last few months are nothing more to me than a story to be told, written, edited, published, and finally put on the shelf to collect dust so I can move on to the next thing.
That said, I’m getting very excited at the prospect of heading out on the road again. I’ve had some very interesting offers and am debating whether I’ll finish this work here after a short jaunt to Chicago, or if I’ll follow those cues from the world and see where they take me. It is, however, difficult to write with the level of focus I need when I’m swimming in the river, so the disciplined side of me tells me to go have some fun and come back and finish the last part of this book. But then, I have it mapped out already, and I feel like I should make my way back to Alaska and finish it there, among friends, and in a place I love and miss dearly at this point. Of course, we’ll see how much I miss it once the winter comes again.
I like the idea of not knowing. Questions are where we are driven to grow and learn in life. We don’t always like what we find out when we question, but it teaches us those things to learn and grow from. I set out on this journey with great hopes for one thing, and found something entirely different, though twice as beautiful. I found my life again, and I’m grateful for it. Your life is just a sojourn through time, don’t waste a moment of it on anything but that which brings you love and joy.