I’ve felt really stuck lately in how to move forward with this whole memoir thing, and I don’t feel like I’m making progress. I go sit in my office, but nothing really comes to me. I re-read some of the manuscript and I can’t imagine publishing it, even though I saw the path clearly as I was writing it.
I must describe myself as stuck. Maybe you can relate.
I described it this way in a “free association” writing prompt I was asked to do:
Spirituality and the Potted Plant
If there are stages of spiritual development, then lately I’ve been in what I call the “Potted Plant” stage.
No one knows its purpose, and that’s part of its great great mystery. One cannot know. One can only wait it out.
One’s mind wanders everywhere in the potted plant stage, though there are no signs of outward movement. No progress at all. I hope that one day, through time-lapse photography, I will see something worthwhile — maybe the gentle unfurling of leaves, hidden blooms reaching toward the sun. But for now, the plant (me) feels stagnant, stewing in its own dirt, way too close to the nitty-gritty … hopelessly earth-bound.
I’m repelled by the dirt I find myself in. I don’t see it as rich potting soil, the stuff of life. I see it as cast-off worm bodies and long-dead bugs. I squirm internally, my roots anchored in mud, unable to escape the cloying damp ground. Like living in a tomb, I would think.
Except for the scattering thoughts, buffeted by cold wind and rain, I do little but hibernate. I exist on Panera chocolate cookies, TV, bad news, and coffee. If it weren’t for lengthy afternoon naps, I’d barely make it through the day.
Such is my current spiritual life. But everything else is fine! I live like everyone else does. I email friends, read magazines, and hang out with my husband. I sort of cook, pick out paint for the kitchen, dislike it immediately, and then spend several days redoing the whole thing. In other words, I spin my wheels and fill my time with tasks and chatter that feel meaningless.
The problem is, I know there’s more. I’ve been to the garden, and I know it’s there. I have been called, and it appears you cannot be uncalled, try as you might.
Today, my husband and I drive to Panera to get our second chocolate chip cookie of the day. I’m happily addicted, and have dragged him down with me.
The cookies are hot, even though I prefer cold. The hot ones get melted chocolate everywhere, and some ends up wasted, smeared inside the bag. I hate that. Even in the bliss of eating a chocolate chip cookie, my current favorite thing, I find myself dissatisfied, even hostile.
As we silently eat our gooey treats, and to my great irritation, my phone rings.
“Could you see who that is?” I ask my husband. He picks my phone up off the dashboard, careful to keep his chocolaty fingers off the screen.
“It’s God,” he say, and then laughs nervously. He doesn’t believe in God, but he’s still worried about being smited. He counts on me to cover for both of us.
I sigh heavily. The phone continues to ring.
“Shouldn’t you get that?” he says. I ponder the irony of him wanting me to answer the phone when he believes no one is on the other side. A closet believer, I suspect.
“I’ll call him back,” I say. But the phone keeps ringing, and it’s annoying. “Hit decline.”
He does, and the phone goes silent. The cookie’s still warm, and the chocolate is all over the wax paper. It’s almost not worth the mess. It’s so frustrating, and suddenly I feel like crying. Why is life like this? The random thoughts again, blowing around my head like the dead leaves in the parking lot. I make a great show of crumpling up the bag, angrily wiping the chocolate off my hands and face.
“We’ll get you another one later,” my husband says, patting my knee. His eyes are so compassionate, even though I know I’m being ridiculous, my own eyes welling with tears. Am I fucking toddler?
But he’s Jesus right now, though he’d dispute that claim. I feel the love radiating from the deep well of his eyes and marvel at his patience, his willingness to accept me where I am.
“Let’s go home,” he says.
And we do.