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On an airplane from Zurich, headed to Berlin for the first time, I wrote: “When your worst fear has happened, then you are free.” For me the question was what to do with that unwelcome freedom, having already unshackled myself from my prestigious career, my home, and the love of my life. What came to me, almost immediately, was to devote myself to creativity.
I had no idea what I meant by ‘creativity’, other than not trying to make the sort of things I had sold before. It was a decision I didn’t know how to implement. Meanwhile I didn’t have much money. I was in pain. I was living in other people’s spaces, in their ideas of beauty, not my own.
What I could afford was cappuccino and I could take it to a place with a beautiful view. And I always had a notebook. As the milk comforted me and the drug surged through my mind, the blank page of the notebook invited what shards of insight and yearning I could imagine. I wrote down everything.
In those notebooks are the origins of every piece of my startlingly successful life, written boldly. But I remember that when I scrawled these ideas I had no idea of how to get from there to here.
This ritual has proven its worth. There are no rules about what I can bring to this time or what I think about, except that I must do so with creativity. In this time I am not allowed to be anxious or helpless or “realistic”. If there are problems, during this time I commit to addressing them with one very sharp tool, the question “What do you want?”
To find your deepest creativity, you must practice listening and you must be patient and wait for it. It’s a practice to honor creativity and desire, even when you feel you have none. To wait for it. To sit with it. To trust that it will come when it’s ready. To keep it company when it doesn’t feel like talking.
The notebook stands ready. That’s how you tell yourself you’re serious.
Sometimes the paper remains blank. That’s ok. You can scribble or you can let the pen sit next to you, contemplative too. Just wait. And remember: the paper is not the sacred part. Your mind is what is sacred. On the days when you feel like taking the lid off the pen, mess up the paper. Dump all your mess on it. Draw a tangle of arrows, even if you don’t have names for the things they’re pointing at. And then spill some coffee on it. And if you are eating chocolate you can wipe your fingers on the paper too. Then just put the paper in a safe place where it can ferment and don’t worry about it. Get a new blank paper the next day.
Be ready to hear your intentions and desires when they appear. And don’t put a lot of pressure on them to be sensible or rational or have a plan. Just write them down and let them be. Just receive yourself.
Donatella’s heart is definitely breaking. It is a rock in a rock crushing machine, turning to dust, sending splintery shrapnel through her flesh. Her body is a cardboard robot, a pile of boxes, slightly dizzy. It is all she can do to keep herself balanced in the chair.
She can’t take her eyes off him. Brow furrowed, every move masterful. She knows exactly what that girl is experiencing. She sees him graciously wait for her to adorn before moving on to show off his footwork. She sees him pull the girl closer, she sees him do the most intimate things. He drops the girl’s right hand and then takes it up again gently, signaling with a fingertip to the wrist. She sees the girl’s uncontrollable secret smile. The girl feels he is in love with her. Every woman feels that with him.
Donatella is gravel and dust inside. Surprisingly, someone asks the cardboard robot to dance. A good dancer asks the cardboard robot to dance. The cardboard robot, bleeding where the shrapnel has exited, limps to the dance floor, and, for lack of muscle control, collapses into the old man’s arms. He doesn’t seem to notice that she is made of cardboard and exploding. So sure are his steps, so solid his embrace, so accustomed is he to dancing with beginners and women with no balance. She could be anyone. The dance is anonymous, routine, yet somehow gently caring. She wonders idly what wounds has he, for which this dance with her is balm?