Just keep swimming
Every astrologer I follow has been saying since January that this summer was going to be eyeball-popping from both personal and global standpoints. So far it seems so. My personal stuff is less epic, but it’s definitely there. It comes in layers too: we have high drama on the household front, and then there is my personal drama. Housewise, EVERYTHING is breaking. I mean, everything. Is. Breaking. The car has sucked down $1k in less than a month. BOTH water heaters have broken. (We have two because it’s an old house, somebody remodeled in the sixties and added water heater, furnace, and AC units instead of changing the pipes/ducts to support bigger systems.) The AC has broken. There’s something else too I’m forgetting. It’s the sort of stuff that if I put it in a novel I’d get called on it. You notice life is full of bad plot like that? Things stack on top of each other and repeat too obviously, and in a movie we’d scoff and say bad writing. Well, real life is full of bad writing. That’s why we invented fiction.
On a personal level, I have two demons. As usual, there is the body. It has been doing really well, overall, but two Prides have nearly reduced it to ashes. I did okay at both events, but the aftermath has been hell both times. Both events were worth it, though. I would do the Iowa City Pride again in a heartbeat. Still, the piper must be paid, and so I am paying. Achy bits, tired everything. Lots of painkillers.
The other demon is that I am having a hell of a time writing. It’s the sitting down and focusing that is killing me. There is no dearth of ideas. None. In fact, they are becoming part of the noise keeping me from writing. So many stories wanting out, new and old. And I have officially now reached the part all unpublished writers hate to hear about, but I am here to tell you it’s true. The business side kills, and it kills bad. There is little that deflates writing more than editing, marketing, and promo. I think I need to develop some sort of persona in my head that deals with the business end. God knows letting Sam and Randy (two very strong archetypes in my head) handle business is a bad plan. Sam believes if you build it, they will come, and Randy hates everything and thinks the odds are always stacked against him. Put him in charge, and we end up drinking and taking motorcycle rides across the dessert. Take Sam along, and it’s a motorcycle ride through fantasia. So. Auditions are open, universe, for archtypes who are good planners and business-minded. (I think that may be Will from STB, longtime blog readers. Maybe it’s time to bring that one out of mothballs.)
What I can tell you is that my summer has felt like chaos so far. Too much going on, too many directions at once. The ground is never in the same place I left it. The schedule will not stay put. Even the weather is inconstant: all it does is thunderstorm. ALL it does. All the damn time. Every time I get momentum on writing, whether I put my nose to the grindstone or follow the muse, I end up snarled and thrown off track. If I get my body in line, something appears to throw it off track. If I get a day to do things, Anna throws the world into chaos by inviting friends over who are too loud and make huge messes and problems. If I say we’re going to do something as a family, things get in the way and blow that up too. It’s always something. I keep thinking of deconstruction theory from lit crit days back in college, and I walk around murmuring, "There is no center."
I have decided to deal with all this by swimming.
I am both being metaphorically cute and literal at once. It’s still very true that the more I swim, the better my body is, though that helps the mind too. Yesterday we were at the pool with friends, and every time I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself, I put my swim cap and goggles back on and went to the lanes and knocked off a few more. I’ve reached the stamina point where I can do four or five in a row without any trouble at all, and I don’t have achy arms or legs no matter even if I work for forty-five minutes straight. I’m still searching for a magic bullet for my lower half that doing the backstroke and crawl do for my upper, but overall it’s still all very good.
But it’s great for my mind too. While I’m swimming, all I’m thinking about is where the end of the lane is and how odd it is to swim for no real reason. I love equally doing face-down swims where I’m looking at the bottom of the pool, following the black line, thinking only about when and how to get my next breath and on-my-back strokes where I stare at the starburst ceiling of the Ames Municipal Pool and try not to splash water into my mouth or nose. That’s it. I don’t think about characters (except maybe Ed, because he has to do this stuff too), just swimming. For an hour, that’s all there is. Swimming.
And because I like simplicity and consistency, I’m trying to take the swimming approach to life. I have already worked hard to adopt the idea that pain is not something that I need to conquer or hate, that like the crappy weather Iowa can dish out, it just happens. I was going to write all day, but pain has happened, so I’ll write less. This isn’t my special gift or my karmic curse. It just is. That is actually a pretty hard mental place to get to, but once I grasp it, it frees everything. So I try to do the same thing with everything else. I was going to take a small vacation, but the car broke three times. I was going to suggest we all go out to dinner, but the schedule went crazy. I wanted to read with Anna, but a friend called her instead. I suppose this is the Zen thing. Overall I really do like to ride the passion, the ebb and flow of life, but right now that seems to happen on its own, and despite what Derrida claims, I really want the center. Though I think actually he is closer to what I’m grasping than I’m allowing. It’s not that there is no meaning, just that it doesn’t come in the box. Just the pieces. Assembly required.
I don’t feel like assembling much right now. Not with deliberation, anyway. Every time I try it just gets blown over. So lately I am doing what I can, and if there is a center, it is swimming. When the metaphor breaks down, I go get literally in the water. Happily, even the weather can’t get me here: when the outdoor pool is closed because of bad weather, the indoor one stays open. And both are right up the street from me.
At this second there are now three active WIPs. Two need finishing and one needs selling. One more novella is coming out, and after that the marketing stuff can hang itself, because I have no delusion I’m finishing anything anytime soon. So I’m going to keep on swimming, with occasional rides through the dessert with Randy and wishes on stars with Sam, all the while keeping one eye out for the business archetype. But mostly I’m going to be swimming. Down the lane and back again, trusting that even if it’s not doing anything as awesome as I think it is, at least it’s keeping me busy until the world stops going crazy.
And if I can keep being in all this water and not wake up the mermaid book, I’ll be doing very, very well.