Trust Yourself … Except Maybe at 1:00 a.m.

by Rachael on March 30, 2010

I was honored to be included in a reading at the KGB Bar this January. The reading was recorded, and though the video was posted to YouTube quite some time ago, only late last night did I venture to watch it. I watched with a sense of fascinated narcissism and repelled shame, and I was left with a sense of dissatisfaction with my work. So I can make people laugh, big deal, so what?

An hour or so later, at 1 a.m., I was still awake and pacing in our bedroom, trying to settle the mysteriously unsettled Critter in my arms. For some reason (the YouTube video? the fact that I did not write that evening, as I usually do after the Critter goes to bed and before I begin my evening hours of paid work?) all I could think about was that maybe I should just give up poetry altogether, except as a casual thing. Give it up because … the dissatisfaction is too unsatisfying, the longing too painful.

On the one hand, I don’t give up poetry because I doubt that the painful longing would vanish if I did. Quite the opposite: through high school I freely and happily drew and painted on my own, and in college, when I no longer had time to do so, I forgot how; and now, just setting foot inside an art supply store is almost unbearably painful. Surrounded by tools I no longer know how to use, I feel an ache as though from the ghost of a limb I myself tore off.

On the other hand, I see that some part of me (my shitbird, of course) is holding me back. The last statement in Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo” haunts me (and yes, usually in German): Du musst dein Leben ändern. Though I do keep changing my life and giving things up (eating meat, eating sushi, running marathons, holding a regular job, following baseball any more than casually, sleeping eight hours each night), whatever it is that must change seems to remain unchanged.

I am beginning to realize that what must change is actually quite simple and already included in my rules for being a poet: write every day, and trust the process. Like giving myself over to the breath in zazen …

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Genevra March 30, 2010 at 3:47 PM

I wrestle with trust in multiple areas of my life too. Trust in change. Trust in stuckness. Trust in being without judging. So hard to do sometimes. Particularly within the realm of artistic/creative expression. Funny how as we get older we feel more and more pressed to justify what we engage in so easily and freely as children.

I hope the inevitable change that is brings you to a clearer space and that the changes you choose to make mindfully feel positive and productive. I love you.

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raerae March 31, 2010 at 2:46 PM

Thank you for the good wishes! About the feeling that we need to justify our pursuits … it drives me nuts that I feel that way so often, despite my consciously rejecting utilitarian notions about what kinds of activities are valuable.

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Hillary October 31, 2010 at 7:30 AM

Hey that was so great! I really enjoyed watching that and admire your courage in posting video. It’s so intense to see ourselves especially when we’re putting ourselves out there.

I used to write a lot of poetry in my late teens/early 20s and it was a secret dream of mine to read some in public, but I never had enough courage. Thanks for the inspiration.

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Rachael November 3, 2010 at 10:26 PM

This comment inspired tomorrow’s post — thank you! But don’t give me too much credit for the courage in posting the video. I didn’t post the video — the Writers Studio did. I didn’t even know that the reading was going to be taped until after I had agreed to it. Though I suppose nobody made me link to the video….

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