April Love prompt,”favorite color”: the green and purple in jade, in the trees and the fruit and the blooms, shades both pale and deep; the blues of the sky and water, reflecting off butterfly wings and feathers; the yellow of early spring flowers and golden glow of the sun; the jet black of ink on the page, how it swirls against the white.
April Moon prompt, “Knowing what I know now, I would tell my ten-years-ago self…” To answer this, I got out my date book from 2005 and found a journal I’d written in (although not much, because at the time I didn’t have a daily writing practice). I was 37 years old. It would be two more years before I’d begin therapy (again), or start practicing yoga and meditation. Obi was only three years old and Dexter was only one and a half, which means the summer before we’d spent a month in Waldport in the yellow house on the hill where I’d stayed up late every night watching the Independent Film Channel while eating Hostess Marionberry Fruit Pies. I had been working a new job for a few years, but was already noticing it wasn’t the right situation for me, and yet trying so hard to make it work, assuming as I always did then that I was the problem. I’d applied for a teaching job where Eric works and made it to the interview phase, but no further, which was a blessing in disguise because that wouldn’t have been the right job for me either. I was binging, drinking, watching a lot of tv, and shopping in an effort to feel better, trying to numb the underlying sense of anxiety and despair that I didn’t quite understand but never went away.
My friend Sarah’s new book had just been released, The I Ching for Writers: Finding the Page Inside You. In the journal I was writing in that year, I responded to a prompt from the book, “Write five or more truths about how to be a good liar.” My response was:
- Keep it simple — when the lie is too complicated, it is hard to remember and maintain.
- Only lie about what matters to you most — again, when you lie about something that doesn’t really matter to you, the lie is hard to maintain and remember.
- Be truthful in other ways — develop your reputation as a credible, trustworthy, honest person and it will be less likely that the lies you tell will be discovered.
- Don’t tell a lie that will require a follow-up action or any change to your routine — if you lie and say you have cancer and are receiving chemo treatments, but don’t lose your hair, become run down and experience a change in skin tone or color, who will believe it?
- Don’t lie to the people who matter to you most — these relationships rely on the ability to trust you, even in the worst of times. A lie discovered in this context will destroy the relationship.
I ended the writing exercise by saying, “wow, who knew that I knew so much about effectively lying.” And yet, it’s what I was doing all the time 10 years ago, lying to myself about what I wanted, what would make me happy, and in that way lying to everyone else. I ended that journal entry telling myself, “Don’t beat yourself up about being an unfaithful writer, but rather persevere, be serious, continue to take it seriously, don’t just go through the motions.”
The person, the writer I am now would be more gentle. I’d tell that ten-years-ago me to not give up. To not be so hard on herself, about that and everything else. 10 years ago I couldn’t understand why it was so hard for me to write when it was the only thing I’d ever wanted, but I can see now that my life was very complicated. I was bewildered, trying to do what I thought I was supposed to even though it wasn’t what I wanted. I’d tell her it’s going to get worse before it gets better, but the better is going to be really good, totally worth all the waiting and hard work.
Everything else I know now isn’t worth telling ten-years-ago me. She wasn’t ready to hear it. It wouldn’t be helpful to tell her to enjoy her dogs because they’ll both die too young, to spend more time with Kelly before she moves to Kentucky because she’ll also die too young, to love her body and eat what she wants, to move in a way that makes her happy, to not let her boss treat her so badly and to not take it so hard when he does, to do yoga and meditate, to not get so worked up about the family stuff because it’s going to get so much worse, to start running because she might really like it, to write every day, to stop drinking, to skip applying for the teaching job because it’s not what she really wants either, to find her tribe sooner, to trust herself.
It’s okay that I can’t tell her that, or that if I could she probably wouldn’t believe me, wouldn’t listen to me. It’s okay because she gets there eventually, because I’m here now. She didn’t give up.