"I am going to feed my dogs." It's a simple task. One scoop for the little dog, lots of scoops for the big dog. Fill the water bowl. They do the rest.
A few weeks ago, I walked into my garage to do just that. It was 7 o'clock in the morning. Yours truly was about as groggy as someone who woke up three minutes ago can be.
So there I was, zombie walking to the dog food, scoop in hand.
That was the sound the door made when it closed shut behind me.
That's also the sound that triggered my memory-- the night before, 20 minutes spent locking down my house. Every door. Every window. To the max. I had stopped just short of welding the door hinges.
Why the maximum security? Because my family was out of town. It was just me and the dogs. Just me, locked in the garage with goosebumps and a crusty dog-food scoop. I threw that across the room and felt a little better.
So, "I am going to feed the dogs," turns into, "I am going to break into my house." Not such a simple task. I prowled around, shivering, searching for a door that I might have forgotten to lock, or maybe a spare key.
Maybe a nice-sized rock.
I could blog about it,
"DIY: make your own entrance."
"Breaking and Entering: Smashing Success."
No luck. And I couldn't muster the guts to bust a window, so finally, cold and panicky, I crawled into my car. Looking into my living room window, my dog was framed in the pane mournfully looking back at me.
He was hungry. I was cold. Late for work. Probably fired. No one to help us. I was a failure. We were all going to die.
The tears started.
I opened my glovebox for some tissues. There, nestled in the napkins, was a forgotten set of keys. House keys.
So, we didn't die. My dogs got fed. I got to work. The house was still standing when my parents got home. And it all adds to my experiences of learning not to expect simple things to stay simple. The plainest things can unravel (especially in my hands) into sensational conundrums.
That's what I have been reminding myself now.
"I am going to write a story." I know it well. I have a title. I have an outline. I know the characters. I have written scenes. All I need to do is string them together.
Then I sit in front of the blank page and the distance between my pen and the paper might as well be from upstate New York to Mexico. But that's not the worst of the trouble; my grief is that I know there are words to get me from here to there, but they are shut up. After hours of scribbling sentences, nomadic wanderings of libraries/ cafe's, hundreds and hundreds of pages of good books-- I have not been able to get into my story.
It is a betrayal. My mind. My ideas. My words. And I'm locked out. To the max.
Outside, looking in. How did I get here?
Today, I set up a writing nook in my house.
My desk is a little helter-skelter. There is a rock in one of the pigeon holes. It's oval, slightly flat and perfectly smooth. My childhood friend, Joel, gave it to me when I was 9. I spent a lot of Sunday afternoons at his house, playing with his pet gerbils, writing stories about the gerbils, exploring outside for appropriately solemn places to bury the gerbils.
My books are being held up by a jellyfish paperweight. It was a Christmas gift from my oldest friend, Patrick. We had traveled to Italy together. We went swimming in the Mediterranean-- he got an infection in his foot that crippled him for the rest of the trip and I got stung by a jellyfish.
One of the books is the Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook-- I won it at a family grab-bag, which wound up being useful four months later when I was in college. I didn't have to jump from a roof into a dumpster, or wrestle an alligator, but it did help me connect with the kid I was babysitting. The boy was terribly afraid of hornets and WCSSH brought the intruder down.
Each thing holds its own narrative. They are landmarks on a timeline of people I have known, places we have been, and things we have done. So many stories, all within arm's reach.
And here I find the lock.
Is it worth telling?
Does it deserve to be told?
Will it be heard?
Will it be loved?
Can't say. Not for certain. Standing here, the grey area is cold. The answers could be stillborn dreams.
Or Maybe. (There is that prick of hope.) Maybe. Maybe I can get in. And maybe it will be worth it.
There is no breaking and entering with story telling. The piece would shiver into indiscernible pieces. And now that I'm facing the front door, I think it's so unfortunate that I can't keep gumption in my glovebox. That only comes when I first wake up, in the way I look at the day. It is only in working, pushing, pressing forward.
That's the key. Discipline with courage. It is so simple.