THE INEVITABLE TROUBLE WITH INSPIRATION

Nothing but trouble comes when we think we know ourselves. Or each other.

It doesn’t seem to me, in love/life/friendship/work, that any good comes from feeling like an expert on something so fragile and malleable as someone.

Think about the moments in your life when everything changed for you. When you lost your job. When your brother died. When your best friend died. When your father died. Death has a way of changing things. When you dropped out of college and ran away to join a circus. When you quit a corporate career of ten years to follow a dream. When you fell in love. Those are my big moments. But then there are the other ones. The really big ones disguised as a blip on the screen, an 8-legged ant, a sneeze.

When, for no reason at all, you decide to overhaul one aspect of your life while on a routine drive to PetSmart, for instance. This kind of big change always comes without fanfare. Without sudden disaster to immediately prompt it. Just because.

Because you looked at the sun too directly and it physically made you cry because you’re not supposed to look right at the sun (it could blind you, they say, and normally you don’t stare and you really didn’t mean to this time, but you did — it caught you so here you are, crying in a way), and just then, a breeze tickled the nape of your neck and gave you goosebumps that ran down your arms and sent a shot of purple electricity up your spine. You had to shake your head to get the ghost off your back. And your eyes were already wet from the sun, and it had been so long since you’d felt anything real, anything surprising, anything hopeful, so that such an ordinary combination of accidental physical responses to nature planted a miserable seed.

You might resent that seed of change because it grows like a weed you know you’ll never get rid of. You buy a notebook and a felt tip pen. Blue this time, not the usual black. You wonder what is happening to you.

Before you know it, you start drawing something, a future for yourself — a future you, that looks nothing like anything you’ve ever thought you really wanted before. Except now you really want it. Now, it keeps you up at night and wakes you up come morning like a stuck alarm and it makes you believe in the possibility of doing something you wouldn’t have dared to dream of doing before. Of becoming someone or something new. Someone you haven’t practiced for or saved up for or planned.

This is the bravest you will ever be. And the equally brave ones we keep in our lives cheer us on when we fall down and rub our bellies when we get scared and give us food when we need to eat and help us plot longitudes and latitudes until we get to where we’re going. They give us hugs when we think we ought to give up. Sometimes getting there takes a very long time.

A while ago, I met a couple of people who suffered a painful divorce after one partner lost a lot of weight. Both had packed it on over the years at an equal rate. These things are so gradual, it’s hard to notice in a way. Then one day, for no good reason, he changed his whole lifestyle. He’d had enough of the way things were going in his life. And then, when he lost all the weight, they split. But it wasn’t that he no longer wanted to be around her because she didn’t lose weight right along with him. She didn’t want him around because he had changed. Whether it made her face fears about her own well-being, or because she couldn’t pinpoint/box/understand him anymore, she left him and felt better off. She felt he had failed because he failed to stay the same. At least when they were unhappy together, they knew what to expect of each other. Consistency is a brutal prize.

And change can be a real bully. Sometimes change leads to equal parts barbed wire and rotten meat. But, to me, it seems worth trying like hell in order to find out.

I like to believe that we are all doing the best we can. That in every decision and every moment, we are acting with compassion and care for ourselves and each other — maybe that’s too optimistic but just because I *like* to believe it doesn’t mean I always do. But I guess I wanted to post this today because I needed to think about my own decisions and judgments lately. I wanted to set this as a reminder, not just for other people, but for myself. To be brave in every good way — to be inspired, for sure. But to remember to be kind to the bumblebees for trying to make a hive even though sometimes they sting. To be patient with the slug for dragging along and leaving a gooey mess in wake. To believe in the people who are out there hopelessly and tirelessly looking for a cure, whether or not they’ll ever find it.