The life changing magic of living the question
marie kondo could never
Some things you learn once and just sorta know for the rest of life - riding a bicycle being an absolutely classic example - 'its like riding a bicycle' they say - learn once, remember forever.
And then there's the other stuff - the messy realizations of life you learn and forget and learn again and somehow forget and then learn a third time and say 'ok wow this is like SO true how do I keep forgetting I won't ever forget now there's just no way."
And then you forget.
Until a few months later when you read something in a book that so perfectly encapsulates the idea that you go WHAT THE HECK THATS IT RIGHT THERE and you write it down in your moleskin notebook and maybe share with a few friends and you go "see this? I'm not alone - someone else gets it too, and they said it a whole lot more poetically than me!"
Maybe that's all you needed, you realize - a poetic way to remember this thing that you seem to keep forgetting.
Like maybe for example the following passage from Rilke's Letters To A Young Poet:
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Damn! I mean hot diggity dog damn that is so good. So true. A perfect encapsulation of my inability to handle uncertainty of any kind along with an antidote, a solution that exists inside the very question being asked, a solution that IS the question by which of course I am repeating Rilke but not as poet-ly: Live the muthafukin questions bb!!
I shared this quote with everyone I knew. I wrote it on little notecards. I was living a life of living the questions!! And then, somehow, I forgot all about it.
Because I crave certainty, as we all do. Whether about career or dinner or love or a second dinner (we're all still hungry yea?), I want to KNOW for SURE what is gonna happen. Not knowing is scary and spooky and frankly someone should dress as "not knowing" for halloween because there's nothing scarier.
At present I am faced with uncertainties - teeny and humungo alike: will I succeed as an independent artist creator person? Does my 1.5 year old son like me cuz it seems like he likes everyone else more? And then there's the specific uncertainty that made me write this post: what should the relationship between these two characters in the script I'm writing be like?
Yes, that's right you chucklefucks1, I write scripts. And sometimes I get paid for it. Well no, I've only ever been paid for it once and that is RIGHT NOW. So this is of course awesome and great and frankly also wonderful all of which to say its a BIG OPPORTUNITY I COULD BLOW!
I've never, in fact, been closer to blowing something that's very important to my career than I am now. Cool!
The Rilke quote finds me again and again, and every time I said YES THIS RIGHT HERE, but I kept forgetting, so finally I decided to take drastic measure - I get the quote tattoo'd on my body in permanent ink.
Except not the words themselves that would be a lil gauche, so I find a tattoo artist in LA and asked her to design something based on the passage. Here's what we eventually came to, as seen on tattoo'd on my giant bicep / tricep which I am NOT FLEXING LIKE AT ALL and, what’s this? Yes, I am being told just won an oscar for best bicep tricep in film industry:
There it is - a fox reading a book looking up at the moon which has a - yes you guessed it - a question mark around it! Plus some purple clouds! And look at that fox’s lil feetsies!
Surely now, with it on my body, I wouldn't ever forget again, right? RIGHT? Rong. They shoulda spelled wrong just rong. Or why not go all the way and say Wright and Rong, which is honestly a great name for a cop show that I’d never watch.
Back my writing dilemma. It is true - cue humble brag - I have a boss at a big company and they are paying me to write a pilot for a show that's somehow already green lit to be made. Ok that makes it sound way bigger of a deal than it is, or maybe it is a big deal and my mind can't deal - who knows!
Regardless, the last few days I have spent despondent over the script's first real challenge - what the deal is between two characters in the show. Their relationship is important and layered and has to work on like six different levels and I just can't seem to get it right.
AND I NEED TO GET IT RIGHT!! I've been freaking out about it, I can't think about anything else. Well, that's not true - I also think about how a better writer would have solved this by now. I also vividly imagine how my boss is going to call me and say "Alex this has been great but we're gonna hire someone else. Sorry. And hey can you delete that 'humble brag' post about the pilot on your blog? That was weird."
I discussed this yesterday with my priest (therapist) and said. "what if I'm just the wrong guy for this job? what if i just can't hack it?"
And the therapist, ever a wily son of a, responds "what if you are? we have to accept that as a possibility."
And I said THE FUCK YOU MEAN WE!! You don't hafta do shit, this is about me and my script and - "
I am currently looking for a new therapist.
You would think of course that this wouldn't have been a problem for me to realize given that the idea has been injected into my skin by a machine that delivers thousands of tiny pricks per minute via needle.
But no, you would be wrong. The weird thing about tattoos, I've realized, is you forget about them. Oh shit I'm about to connect how tattoos are exactly like big life realizations I wasn't even planning this but get ready:
When I look in the mirror these days I don't even notice my tattoos. They become background noise, just part of who I am the same way my two (2) nipples and one (1) belly button are - just sorta there.
So too with the aha moments of profound truth that wash over us like water in a shower. They fade into the background of life, stamped upon our souls but never there at the precise moment you need them most.
And even if they were - even if I just kept repeating to myself "live the questions" and had it written in giant red marker all over the walls of our house, helter kelter style, even and especially then the message wouldn't hit right when I needed it. Because that’s not how realizations work.
We live and we love and frankly we even laugh and through it all we do the same shit we always do - seek certainty, avoid pain, try not to be awkward at parties.
Then every once in a while we (I) will see one of my tattoos and really look at it, the meaning of it washing over me like water in a shower2 as I remember the connections it has to the people and ideas of my life that matter most.
These are, I think, the truths of life, the defaults that are hard to escape.
Which is why we need the reminders, early and often, that there is another way.
I spent last night gulping down a stew of self loathing about not being able to solve this script. And finally I decided to just go to bed, defeated.
I woke up today feeling great. Have I solved the problem? NO. But I did remember to live the questions and then I wrote this and now honestly I just want to keep writing it so I can avoid having to go back to the script BUT that's called avoidance and its BAD.
So I will live the questions, accept uncertainty, except wait, hold on. If I am living the question and THAT is the answer, then doesn't that mean I need to avoid the answer (which is to live the questions) and actually do something else to live the question for real?
In other words if we accept uncertainty, must we not also accept uncertainty about uncertainty itself? And perhaps thus realize that certainty IS in fact the right way?3
Welcome to my brain, a tiny carnival of dumb thoughts and big feelings and funnel cakes galore.
Live. Question. Laugh.
and too, as always, Love,
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editor’s note: please remove this, super hostile to your readers, and for what?
editor’s note: you used this strange simile a few lines above, please remove both before publishing
editor’s note: these last two paragraphs are offensive, incomprehensible, and downright rude. Remove please.