My advice to you is ... just wait

Questions and answers soon, but first: Some new spirit demands to be heard

By Cary Tennis

Published May 28, 2010 12:20AM (EDT)

Well, hello there once again, dear reader.

Some spirit too humble for dispensing advice has arisen within me; some new gentle spirit. At this moment, I cannot conceive of suggesting what you should do about your problems except that you sit with them, as I sit with mine, and let them wash over you, and examine them in detail, and resist the urge to act too quickly, and resist the urge to flee, and simply see where you are and wait for something to happen.

This is my universal advice.

But that will not do, brown shoe. In the long run that will not do. But here is the thing: This new spirit of humility had to arise, because my old way is kaput! I will regain strength and energy but I do not want to go back to the old way of writing in which writing was a way of conquering and getting over. Nor do I wish to return to a way of life in which the most difficult way was the most interesting. (This is an interesting theme. I must explore this!)

I used to bull my way through! How long have I been bulling my way through!? Bulling in both senses: using brute energy and pushiness where some tact and receptiveness might have been welcome, but also spinning, blandishing, polishing, like some frantic attendant polishing all surfaces. That kind of bulling, the b.s.'ing we do to preempt any consciousness of weakness or fear.

So in the lack of the old spirit of b.s., this humility had to arise. And with the humility came the frightening feeling that I just cannot write. Not today. I just cannot do it. I sit at the desk and nothing comes. I see the desk and fear it; I hunch over, I want to flee!

I am too exhausted to write! So what happens? I accept my exhaustion. I ask, What do I do now, and the voice says, Rest. The voice says Rest and I start to pick up a book. No, the voice says: Reading is not resting. Rest. I rest and thoughts of self arise: Why can't people do more things to help me out? Then I start in on me: Why have I not done all the things I have to do to prepare for my trip to Loma Linda?! Why have I not yet made the plane reservations?! Why have I not yet secured a hotel!? Why did I not secure one of those sweet Creekside Court bungalows when I had the chance, even though I didn't know the exact dates I would be staying? What's wrong with me? What's wrong with everyone?

Rest. God says rest. As I rest the thought arises that I might be of help to someone else. So I ask my wife if she would like some tea.

Earlier, while sitting in traffic, on my way to buy a falafel sandwich for my wife who is working feverishly to complete a book design deadline, I had the experience of myself not as someone impatient with the traffic, and somewhat annoyed that I have to do something for someone else, but on the contrary I experienced the pleasure of having a function, being a part of something: I am the one bringing food. That is all I need to do right now. I am not in a hurry. I just need to bring the food.

 Then I come home and sit on the couch and start to reach for a book, any book, unconsciously, and I notice that the books I have been reading annoy me but I keep reading them and then I notice I am annoyed. I am annoyed by the history of punk in the Bay Area that I am reading -- though I enjoy it and admire it, I find myself comparing myself to the others, examining my place in the scene, feeling like I'm back in high school. So I go to the shelf trying to find one book just one book even that will not annoy me and the only one is "When Things Fall Apart" by Pema Chödrön.

So I take this one book and I make tea for my wife and I open the window and sit on the couch and open the book and look in it and it helps me. That is all I can say. I begin to feel connected again.

So I am treated to the gentle paradox of letting go in order to begin. I sit on the couch and I find I really am drawn to write. So I get up and come to the desk and begin to write.

But I'm supposed to write advice! That's what they're paying me for!

OK. I think tomorrow, or even later today, I will begin reading your letters again, and approach the question of writing advice. Yes, I know, on my first week back I wrote advice. So it is not impossible. It's just that some new spirit has taken me. I have to follow it. No problem. We can follow it together.

Cary Tennis

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