Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Time of My Life

I am in a rage against time today.  Time I waste, time that races by too quickly, time I misuse and time that demands too much of me.  Writers have a complicated relationship with time, but then maybe everyone does.  Yesterday was a lost day.  I need an MRI of my hip.  Nothing serious, probably just an attack of old age.  However, for someone with claustrophobia, a session on the rack is preferable to being trapped in an MRI machine for 45 minutes.  I took the prescribed tranquilizer and resigned myself to zoning out for a day because I can’t function on drugs of any kind.  I was woozy when the MRI goddess rolled me into the tube, but not asleep.  I had a little pillow over my eyes to help block out the confined space, but as I felt the sides brushing my arms, I panicked.  If you have claustrophobia, need I say more?  Under most circumstances, I am a strong person and I have confronted hard things in my life.  I have endurance and a certain resilience.  But when I read about earthquake victims, I have to talk myself down.  The Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 shook me until my teeth rattled, so I make sure I live on bedrock.  But there are no guarantees in life and should I get trapped in an earthquake, I want to go straight to heaven or whatever awaits me.  I do not want to be the miracle survivor found under the rubble after several days.  So when I felt the sides of the MRI machine pressing against me, I had to restrain myself from screaming.  No joke.  The pill wasn’t working and I pushed the panic button Ms. Goddess had put in my hand and shouted GET ME OUT.  I was instantly in tears and embarrassed but so relieved when she pulled me back from the maw.  That should have been the end of it, but to understand the physical reaction to panic and phobias read Allen Shawn’s excellent, Wish I Could Have Been There.  On top of waiting for all the stress hormones to drain away and my blood pressure, pulse and panicky thoughts to return to normal (sometimes a 24 hour process), I was drugged.  And I was mad.  The pill didn’t help me, but it robbed me of a day I could have been doing other things.  I was a little high, foggy and useless until late in the evening when I started to wake up and wrote yesterday’s post.  It was more rambling and disjointed than I would like and I blame it on the meds. 

So this morning I’m angry about time.  I couldn’t help yesterday’s wasted day, but I started to think about what I had lost.  And I will never know what that is.  The creative process is 90% hard work and 10% mystery.  Why does an artistic sequence of words flow onto the page as easily as breath one day, and turn into a punishment the next?  I have a chapter to write that will close the first half of my novel, but I’ve been avoiding it.  Suppose fate had decided that yesterday I would have received one of those rare gifts from the gods, a seamless first draft, but instead of sitting at my computer with every pore open ready to receive the inspiration, it rained down on an empty chair while I was sleeping through a Netflix in the next room.  John Lennon said the creative process required that we just show up.  That is what developing a consistent writing practice is all about.  Being there to coax loose those words and ideas teasing us just below the surface.   So I’m frustrated with the Valium for not getting any writing done during yesterday’s fog of a day.  But what about all the days I forgot to write, or decided I would sleep in and missed a session before a day full of appointments, or just put it off because there is always tomorrow and the half finished story or novel isn’t going anywhere.  My days are numbered, as are yours.  And I don’t know what that number is.  Suppose it comes calling before I’ve finished my novel.  Who will I blame then?

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