Tuesday, March 31, 2009

O! Blessed Inspiration!

Last Saturday was Earth Hour. I observed it alone.

I did not know how this would go. The notion of an hour of darkness appealed to me as a notion. Such an hour would force creativity. Friends would connect over conversation instead of television. Lovers would have few options other than to get close. Clever games would be invented, secrets shared, candles lit. But all of these virtues required the presence of another person. And last Saturday, at 8:30 p.m., I was alone. What's more, it was my first evening alone since the break-up. I had not wanted to give myself too much solitude, out of fear that I would reflect too much and therefore analyze too much and therefore obsess too much. But now I had to be alone with myself in the dark for one full hour.

I lit the collection of candles gathered on my kitchen table, trying not to notice that the only matches I had were from the pub where I occasionally met the fellow (the one I just lost) for drinks. I stole my brother's yellow writing pad, found a pen with a nice glide, filled a wine glass with water, and--at exactly 8:30 p.m.--shut off the lights.

I thought I was going to write a story about a young woman facing a dark room after heartbreak. But as I poised my pen over the paper, I realized I was burned out on writing stories about young women like me. So at the last moment, I took the dark room with the shuttering candlelight and put someone else in it. Someone completely different. Someone who had never made so direct an appearance in anything I'd written before.

And in that hour of writing someone else's story, I managed to be honest with myself without obsessing. When my phone alarm went off at 9:30, I kept the lights off for another thirty minutes, not wanting to interrupt what had begun so unexpectedly. I had found something sacred and rare. It was one of those moments when the story rises up from some place within, some place I hadn't thought to look. The character spoke without my guidance, the action came and went without force. It was natural and it was necessary.

It was also poorly written. Which is why I am working on it still. Nevertheless, the story excites me. More importantly, the heart of the story excites me. Which brings me to my bit of gratitude for the day.

All day today, I thought about my story. I work as a personal assistant, and I had one of those days--as I occasionally do--where 90% of the work I was asked to do is fairly mindless . . . folding laundry, stuffing envelopes, etc . . . Last week, days like today threatened to turn my mind into a churning stew of what-if's and if-only's. Not so today!

Thank goodness gracious, not so today.

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