Apparently the week before Christmas is as good a time as any to have a major Come to Jesus moment.
Joy has been surfacing only in fits and spurts. But that is not why I haven't written a blog in a few weeks. I have written because I have been writing every day. Every day, I mine my past to be better able to live my present. It is a curious paradox. I have never been one to feel that mucking around the the mire of our pasts does anything other than keep our shoes stuck in some very old mud. But when we find ourselves tracking that mud through every fresh carpet of our lives, leaving footprints from the past on each next clean page of the stories of our lives, it's time to clean our shoes. The real surprise comes when we realize that our shoes have stayed muddy because we keep tracking through some very old bogs in our sleep. We can only wake up if we are willing first to explore and then to expunge the old stories that no longer serve us. Those life-limiting narratives that we have on permanent-loop audiobook playing over and over again. The antidote to all the mud-tracking and old-tape listening is awareness and practice. First we have to pay attention. Then we have to consciously develop new practices to change.
Our second annual trip honoring the life and legacy of my father, Vincent Price, came to an end a week ago in Malibu. Last year, Camp Vincent, as we have fondly all come to call it, brought a wonderful group of people from all over the world together to explore London and the beautiful surrounding British countryside. This year, we traveled from New Mexico through Arizona and on to Southern California on an epic road trip in celebration of my dad’s life and joy-filled generous ethos of living.
For those of you too young to remember this joke, it's what my dad liked to call "an oldie but goodie". . .
A pedestrian on 57th Street in New York City sees a musician getting out of a cab and asks, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" Without pause, the artist replies, wearily, "Practice, practice, practice."
Doesn't it seem like the world is in almost incomprehensibly immense turmoil right now? Like there isn't a place to turn where we don't experience or bear witness to the fear, anger, hatred, confusion, grief, blame, and doubt that seems to surround us? On top of everything happening throughout the world, here in the United States the racial and political climate has ratcheted up to a level of tension that makes everyone feel like it’s all going to snap. On top of all that, many of my friends have been dealing with sudden deaths of family members, illness, financial crises. Even nature, a place where so many of us find hope, joy, and respite, can seem to be "against us" -- unleashing massive destruction these past few weeks in floods and hurricanes.
This morning I did not have a blog in me. I've been holed up writing all week for a mini-deadline to my editor that was due on September 30. I feel like the last drop of water has been wrung out of the word washcloth of me. So I trolled through some unfinished blogs and found the start of one written at the end of August. Essentially it said exactly what I am feeling right now. Since this seems to be a theme, I've spruced it up a bit, so I have something to send out. Not just because I have promised myself to do this every week, but frankly because I need the company. Feeling vulnerable is a lonely row to hoe. Feeling vulnerable with the rest of you who are turning up the dirt of your own lives so that you, too, can keep trying to sow the seeds of joy, feels a lot more hopeful. So, as ever, thank you thank thank you for being on this journey back to joy with me. See you on the road!
I have just finished up a whirlwind tour of six European countries -- Holland, Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, and England. I visited two of these countries to talk about my dad -- the other four I visited because of my dad, for whom any "work trip" was an excuse to learn as much as he could about other cultures through their people, art, architecture, and cuisine. So, I took full advantage of my trips to Germany and England -- by visiting cathedrals and museums and historic sites, not to mention eating very well, in four other countries.
This week, I had the good fortune to spend a few days at the beach on a mini writing retreat. I got up early and walked the beach with my dog Allie. We played in the surf, looked at (in her case chased) birds, and hunted for treasures.
I have spent the past two weeks driving cross country and back. On the way, I didn't get to take many back roads. On the way back, I did. The difference in my experience of the drive was profound. Back roads are part of my practice of joy. They soothe my soul and make me connect with the world in a way that simply does not happen in the same way while whizzing along an Interstate.
This week I tried something different. I recorded my thoughts while driving down the road in Kansas just before sunset on Thursday evening. Then the next morning, I listened to it, transcribed it, cleaned up the grammar just a tad, and then decided to post both the oral and the written version as they are. . .blog and podcast as musings from the road.
We all have them -- those songs that are indelibly linked to certain times in our lives. I think my favorite radio interview I've ever done was one in which I was asked to submit eight songs that captured particular moments with a short description about why. Then the interviewer and I chatted for a few hours -- and what resulted was like hearing a narrated soundtrack of my own life.
As I've been writing my book about joy, I've found myself thinking a lot about conversations.
My journey back to joy began with a conversation -- with myself. An honest though searing tete-a-tete in the mirror about all the ways I felt I hadn't lived the life I had hoped to have lived -- and what I needed to do to change that disappointment in myself. About the conversations I had never allowed myself to have and the ways in which I hoped finally to allow myself to have them.