six years later, i still think about this a lot:
he [my writing professor] also said that everyone has at least one epiphany every single day, and it is the job of the writer to remember those epiphanies, even the tiny ones about grocery lists or bills or movies.
this weekend i had two epiphanies.
it’s an established fact that i’m very good at the beginnings of relationships but not always as good at the middle or end. recently, someone who knows me well put forth the theory that it’s a self-esteem issue: i find someone i want to be with, but eventually i can’t understand why they would want to be with me—in other words, i “don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.”
that never sounded quite right, and i figured out why. on friday night i was in houston on my way to the harp. the freeway was closed, so i was running late and listening to the southland and trying to drive fast without driving too fast and then it hit me:
i’m good at the beginning but bad at the end because at the beginning i throw myself in wholeheartedly, so much so that i lose myself a little. when it gets to the middle and i realize that i’ve lost myself, i resent the other person and spend the rest of the time until the end trying to get myself back. the resentment’s misplaced, because it’s something that i’ve done. it’s my fault.
and apparently i’m not always as independent as i think i am.
when i used to write on a regular basis, i kept a list in my head of the things i might want to write about. sometimes the list contained simple ideas or words to remind myself of ideas, and sometimes it contained entire sentences or paragraphs to be recorded later. sometimes i’d write these things down on the slips of paper in my books or in the margins of my notes for school. i spent most of my days trying to answer the question, “when i sit down tonight to write about today, what will i say?”
(“‘when i sit down’?”
“well, i guess it was more like ‘were i to sit down,'” i said. “it wasn’t really about pressuring myself.”)
this habit of mine peaked in 2002 and then dropped off gradually before disappearing entirely in 2003. i still wrote sometimes, but thoughts of writing didn’t frame my day the way they once had.
(“incidentally, i never felt like my focus on writing took me out of the moment,” i said. “i could experience things and think about what i might say about them at the same time.”)
in the past few years i’ve felt like the writing part of me has gone missing. somewhere along the way i’ve lost my sense of wonder (i’m not fond of that term, but it applies here), my ability to notice and reflect on all things interesting and beautiful and strange and sad. my writing muscles have atrophied, but i don’t know how to get strong again without becoming the person i used to be. an impossible task, to be sure.
on saturday jess and i were at the mall making some last-minute reunion purchases. we took a break for lunch and i went to the restroom. i was sitting on the toilet, staring at my bag hanging on the stall door, and then it hit me:
i didn’t lose my ability to write and then my ability to reflect; i lost my ability to reflect because i stopped writing. my so-called sense of wonder has been there all the time, hidden in my habit of writing in my head, buried right there underneath the “what will i write about today?” question i used to ask myself.
i stood up and the toilet flushed behind me. if i think about writing again, the writer i used to be just might come back.
on sunday night’s drive back to austin, it was humid and raining. in giddings all the gas-station windows were fogged with condensation, giving the neon signs and fluorescent lights inside a blurry glow. black tree branches were stark against the pink light pollution of the sky. so far, i’d say it’s working.
epiphany 3, just now:
i’d forgotten how much better my writing is after excellent conversations. after all, what good is reflecting if you don’t have a mirror?
(thank you, f.)