“I’m your vehicle, baby, I’ll take you anywhere you want to go…”
The Ides of March
Chaos surrounds me these days.
Within my head, this is a more or less constant state of affairs. My thoughts and emotions regularly pursue one another in no clear pattern. But during the past month, they have found a counterpart in the material world: I have moved from a city in one state to another city in a neighboring state. Weeks of packing, arrangements with moving companies and loading companies and storage companies, financial arrangements, home purchasing arrangements, school arrangements. Each step depends on the ones preceding it, but we haven’t the time to wait for the outcome of the previous steps before we plot the next ones. Events fly forward. I not only face the unknown; I feel propelled headlong into it.
About a week ago–though it feels both more distant and more recent in time–boxes sat on the counters, on the floor, cardboard mouths gaping open, partially packed, crumpled newspaper and bubble wrap trailing from them like slobber from a slack-jawed fool. I felt myself from time to time on the verge of panic. Would I ever be finished before the movers arrived? What if I wasn’t? What would happen? I knew intellectually that in a month or two at most, the move would be over, and we would be settled in our new place, in a different home, in a new daily routine. But between the present and that imagined future, an impossible indeterminate fog–blank and all-enveloping–drew closer and closer to me.
Naturally, it reminded me of writing, specifically of the writing process.
Because I had packed the same way I write. I avoided it, thinking hopefully that everything would come together. And in the packing, as with my writing, a fear of chaos drove my avoidance. I looked at the boxes and the articles to be packed and knew that I should have pulled everything from the cabinets, made everything visible, much earlier. That would have told me how many boxes I needed, how much packing material, what needed to go where. But it would have meant plunging myself into the chaos whole hog. Instead, I had tried to nickle and dime my way into it hoping that I could keep from being overwhelmed. Sooner or later, though, everything has to come out, even if it’s going to go to Goodwill or into the trash. Sooner or later, all the drawers and cabinets and closets have to be laid bare.
The only way I’ve found to face that chaos is a robust writing process. Because chaos is the energy that powers my writing. However much its power frightens me, nothing happens without it. That chaos might manifest itself as an urge or impulse, as a vague idea about a character or a line of dialogue or an object or a moment in a story; it might appear as a persistent question or a seemingly irrelevant but nagging detail. But however it reveals itself, I have to allow this chaos in.
I also know, though, the power of that energy to consume me, to draw me into the morass of obsessive thinking, or rumination about my life, my identity, my mistakes. My process is the vehicle that directs that energy and transforms it into creative motion. It gives me courage to face what my chaos might tell me about myself, what truths it might reveal. And it gives me the means to find the transcendent writing and reading experience in that truth.