The blank page is like a white wall that must be adorned. Words and symbols and art need to fill the void, cutting a door or window through the opaque white fog of not quite consciousness. Otherwise we’re all polar bears in a snowstorm, unconnected and hopelessly lost. The simple act of typing letters, then words, then sentences claims the void and brings purpose to the blank. A horizon is seen and the brain can find itself in space. It seems to me that the empty page is comparable to a bare canvas for a painter or silence for a musician. It’s a space and time to be filled with expression.
I don’t begin with a destination or an agenda usually. It’s fairly apparent if you’ve read my blog for a while. I hop in, turn the ignition, and back out to the past or pull away into the present. Depends on the mood and circumstances of my life. Once I’ve gotten warmed up, I think of a destination. It works for me. I’m not an engineer of words or an architect. I just write like I think and speak; at least I think I do.
My day job, as you may have gleaned, is a counselor. I listen to folks for 8 to 10 hours a day. I enjoy it immensely because I genuinely like my clients. Very few of them have to be there in my office. They come of their own free wills and remain as free agents. They don’t have to put up with me. They choose to pay me for each expensive hour and believe that value is added to their lives by engaging in the counseling process. I find the whole deal to be very gratifying as well as highly accountable for me. If I don’t do my job well (and this is completely subjective on my clients’ parts), I lose. No explanation is needed. The client just does not show up again. I don’t need a committee report or a state investigation to determine if I’ve done a good job. Clients return; it’s that simple.
I try not to think of the high stakes of my business. I’m not much of a business guy anyhow. I can’t afford to expend the energy necessary to worry about things outside of my control. Instead, I try to focus fully on the person(s) in front of me at the moment. I block out the phone ringing in the next room, the mailman popping in and out, the townsfolk noisily shuffling by my first floor window. There is always someone suing someone else, but I can’t worry about that either. If I remain focused with my client, I’ll be okay legally, morally, ethically, and financially. Why? Because I believe I will be and my life’s experience confirms my belief. I have been blessed thus far in life that the risks I have taken have not blown up in my face.
Writing is an outlet for me, I suppose. Back when I was a teacher, I used greeting cards as a creative outlet. I’d spend an intensely absorbed two hours drawing and painting little greeting cards. It worked for me. However, I noticed that as soon as I left the stress of teaching behind, I had no desire to make my cards. In some weird way I suppose this blog has replaced the cardmaking for creative expression and resetting the psychic balance. Listening to others intently for 40 to 50 hours a week can turn your mind into a mushroom if you don’t push back with exercise, good diet and sleep, love and creativity. So this therapeutic alliance with words is at play behind the musings and wonderment of my posts. And sometimes it is just play, dodgeball with words and ideas, trying to hit some idea with the right set of words.
This week I’ve spent with my daughter and brand new granddaughter in Tucson, Arizona. Every day has started without any agenda. Newborns don’t permit agendas. They are for older, controllable folks. Newborns are iffy about sleep. Sure, they sleep more than cats do, but it can be two hours here and three there, and you don’t get to pick which hours. They eat and wet and cry and poop when they’re feeling it, not on your timetable. So it would be futile to maintain a timetable. Baby Leah took her first bottle last night, which was unexpected and somewhat magical for her dad. Her mother Grace took a picture and sighed a mom’s proud and sad sigh, “My baby is growing up!” Underneath that comment was perhaps the first sense of her separation from her baby. It’s an odd mixture of joy and loss, thrill and melancholy. A healthy person feels both; accepts both; and then focuses on the positive emotion.
All of us think about what is best for this eight pound glow worm. I guess that is the agenda after all. How rare it is to stay so focused on the needs of another for so long. But that other is nothing but needs wrapped in cute outfits. Something about her totally innocent clinging dependence reminds me of marsupial babies that live in pouches. But there is the glow worm body as well. Hmm… here is one of those dodgeball ideas. Imagine Lowly Worm in a pale green swaddling blanket tucked into the pouch of a soft bellied Velveteen Rabbit. Percolate for a moment. The little worm’s face glows, though it seems asleep or drunk on mother’s milk. Happy light shines out of slitted eyes. Put a wee little cap on her head– yellow and pink. Paint the whole picture with colors not in your paintbox– warm yawning lavender, snuggly nose pink dawn, dusty cheek rose. There you go. That’s better than a laundry line full of white sheets in a snowstorm.
I’ll close with lyrics from Johnny Mercer’s “Glow Worm”. You can follow up with a visit to YouTube to hear the melodious Mills Brothers sing it.