The Arrogance of Belonging

Musings

I admit I have been struggling to write for the last week or so. I felt like I had this ah-ha moment of beautiful writing clarity while writing about my forays into ranching and then I became sort of stumped. I felt like I had ejaculated all my good creativity into that post, and wondered if I had any more left? And then I began to sort of belittle my existence and think I didn’t have anything good to say anyway.

My days—though could be constituted as lazy—have been filled with all sorts of experiences, both giddy and slightly gruesome. First off I got hired to be a pizza delivery driver, as this ranching business is more of a learning experience and I am doing it all because I want to learn. However, I still have student loans and car insurance and a cell bill which won’t happily go away because I want to play with horses and cows all day.

At first I was relieved to have a somewhat mindless job, so as not to take away from my writing or ranching. That was until my first day when I had to watch training videos on my new role. Included in training was a detailed video on handwashing in which I mentally rolled my eyes, but then proceeded to fail the handwashing quiz twice, while it boldly proclaimed that I was ‘contaminating the pizza!’ In my defense, being a slight tree-hugger, I shut off the water in the wrong order, according to the quiz.

As the shifts piled up, my morale went down and I begun to feel sort of lousy about the whole thing: being critiqued on my overly chatty phone answering skills by a sixteen year old boy, making less than minimum wage, wearing the pizza tee and ball cap and looking like a husky boy. All this combined with my dwindling bank account and living off of my hosts leftover food supply of canned corn and beans was making me feel like a real life pauper.

But then you see, I snapped out of it. I can only play the ‘oh poor me’ game for about a half day, maybe a day and a half max, before I grow incredibly weary of myself. Because it is always about perspective.

Happily enough I had these things going for me:

A house stocked with a large canned food supply that I could eat until I had more fundage.
Incredibly kind neighbors that invited me over for dinner a couple of times a week. Just because.
A job that allowed me to make money on the side and spend mornings and days having coffee with ranchers and listening dreamily while they said things like, ‘I reckon,’ and ‘that’s life in the far west for ya.’
A girl friend that planned a whole day of adventure for me, combined with off-roading, canyon-carved rivers, a beachy bonfire complete with roasted hot dogs, brews and ice cream, dancing and cartwheels, coyotes howling in the night and a sheer giddy appreciation for Friday’s that didn’t involve delivering pizza.
This fella that I kiss sometimes. Don’t read into it. But after a night spent playing a rousing game of gin rummy, followed by a heated debate on Yankees vs. Confederates, mixed with two vodka cranberries, I burst into tears about my fears of ending up a spinster. He got me tissue and smiled at me when I asked if I looked like Swamp Thing and said no. “Liar,” I said, “I know I look like Swamp Thing… you like that look huh, you weirdo.”
“You know it,” he answered tucking me into his shoulder. And then he kissed my forehead, my cheeks and my lips a whole bunch of times until I was all but simmered down and sort of convinced spinsterhood was far, far away from me.
Having the nicest sisters in the world who don’t think I am a lowlife when I call them to confide that I am struggling and amidst my strife say things to me like, “I will always look up to you,” and don’t judge me, but only uplift and support me. Or who call me excitedly this morning to say, “I am putting money in your bank account today that is strictly earmarked for yummy groceries, a bottle of wine and a treat.” I then called my mom to tell her this and my mom says, “you’re welcome.” I know, Mom, ya did good on giving me my baby sisters. I can’t wait to make it as a really posh writer one day and call my sisters with news that I will be depositing funds into their bank accounts for yummy groceries, wine and treats.
Living in a place where bald eagles swoop, and mountains envelop, and coyotes howl, and cows move freely about the road, and ranchers say to me, “I’ve been praying for you,” when I mention trying to finish writing my book, and a community that includes me like I am one of their own, though I’ve only just begun here, and getting to deliver pizza because if I were truthful with myself, it’s kind of fun and working amongst teen boys with Bieber hair who talk about ‘Twitter being so out, while Instagram is so in,’ makes adult problems seem kind of trivial and far off, because teen boys are lighthearted and amusing.

Which all brings me to this term “the arrogance of belonging,” by David Whyte, which I read about in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic and loved it. She also said “you are allowed to be here, and that—merely by being here—you are allowed to have a voice and a vision of your own.”

Even if everyday I am not ranching and romancing the West with prose and possibility, I am here and I do belong. And the experience of being a pizza delivery driver, while still getting to go out and see baby calves, or have a chill shimmy down my spine upon hearing coyotes howl at dusk, or kiss boys merely because I feel inclined to, is a part of my experience.

And the thing is I chose this experience. I chose not to apply for big girl jobs, or newspaper jobs, or jobs with 401K’s and health insurance in order to have my own experience in the West and write my own way. Even if it humbled me greatly to fail a handwashing quiz and wear a pizza ball cap, I realized a humbling experience or two never hurt anybody. In fact I hope I am better for it.

“The arrogance of belonging pulls you out of the darkest depths of self-hatred—not by saying “I am the greatest!” but merely by saying “I am here!”
-Elizabeth Gilbert

I Don’t Know What to Say

Musings

I am reading this book, that’s really getting under my skin (in the good way, like the falling in love way). And in it Ms. Patchett says this,

“Do you want to do this thing? Sit down and do it. Are you not writing? Keep sitting there. Does it not feel right? Keep sitting there. Think of yourself as a monk walking the path to enlightenment. Think of yourself as a high school senior wanting to be a neurosurgeon. Is it possible? Yes. Is there some shortcut? Not one I’ve found. Writing is a miserable awful business. Stay with it. It is better than anything in the world.”

I’ve re-read that paragraph over and over to myself and then out loud to anyone who was within range. It affects me profoundly as being a writer is my calling, yet it’s the thing I constantly evade. Patchett also addresses her wanting to/not wanting to write in her book, which made me feel better about my own problems with committing to my craft. But she also made a point to encourage writers to start by writing twenty minutes a day, work up to two hours and then any time you can spare. I of course being the cocky little brat that I am decide I don’t need to start with the bare minimum, I will start with one hour, because of course I can write for an hour every day.

And naturally, I put it off all day. I even exercised before I wrote and that’s saying something as normally I love putting that off as well. Again I have no idea why because I really love working out, I just get all in a tizzy beforehand, much the same with my writing.

Finally, finally when I could think of nothing more to distract me, having worked out, eaten lunch, read running tips online, showered, did my hair, read more of Patchett’s book, went to my storage unit to dig through my boxed up book collection to find my Writer’s Block book in case, as I was already getting so nervous that I had nothing to say and finally, I arrived at the library. My designated writing spot for the next hour. Patchett also suggested that I put away my phone and allow no internet access for this designated writing time. I was going to make myself write for an entire hour but as I opened up a Word document and stared at my screen suddenly all the millions of things flitting about my brain every day all day begging me to write them down, had disappeared.

I just stared. And panicked. And stared. And panicked. I have nothing to say. Oh my gosh I have nothing to say. When does this ever happen? I am constantly so verbose it borders on word vomit. And yet, there I sat, without a word in my head or on the blank page. Finally I latched onto a back-up idea I had been toying with (as I forgot my Writer’s Block book in the car) and I began to write that. Except the whole time I felt ultra critical of the work and slightly paranoid like someone was watching me.

After getting through thirty-five minutes in which I did not go on the internet or check my phone I became edgy with the pressure of making myself produce for a whole hour. I suddenly had to do something else. I had to pee. And I had to have a hot chocolate. Really I did. It was quite cold in the library, I hadn’t even taken off my coat, and I had been chugging water. So yes, my bladder really had to be tended to. Also I did need that hot chocolate. I am trying to come off the sugar craze that was Thanksgiving and today’s sugar only included a clementine and a banana. A little baby hot chocolate would take the edge off.

I grabbed my phone like it was my lifeline, checked Instagram like the drug that it is, felt better, shut my computer, went to the bathroom and walked out of the library and down the dark and frigid street to the coffee shop. Where I currently sit with my hot chocolate which was extra hot when I ordered it and is now tepid.

And still I feel a little stressed out about writing and so I am writing about writing and my sheer and utter avoidance of the one thing I was put on this earth to do. What. Is. Wrong. With. Me?

I think I need to go buy deodorant though because I forgot to put it on and I am supposed to meet my friends in an hour for coffee. Yes. I have to have deodorant. I’m wearing a wool-ish sweater. That’s a not-great combination for me and my sweating inclinations. So that’s top priority.