Writing is all encompassing. I eat, breathe and sleep it. Even when I am not actively butt to chair typing away, I’m jotting down words that pique my attention, scribbling down ideas that interest me and recording quotes that enthuse me. While talking to people each day or reading whatever crosses my path, the ideas float constantly around me and sentences take form in my mind.
I spend time living my life– nurturing relationships, managing a household, counseling people, and running errands–but these things don’t stop me from the writing process. They are the writing process. I talk, read, live, nurture, manage, counsel, run, write, learn, teach, heal, at the same moment because they all feed into one another. Each thought, activity and event blur together as they are symbolic of something bigger.
Seeing as a Writer: Symbolically
Taking last week off work to meet up with my sister and brother and our respective families in a rented house, I mistakenly figured I’d carve out some time for completing a few blog posts either late at night or early in the morning. No could do. I was exhausted from cooking, cleaning, entertaining, deciding, supervising, talking, laughing, swimming and generally hanging out with everyone. There is no point in lamenting not getting a chance to “type” up my writing, since “writing” was done. It just depends how I look at it. Inspiration abounded in every activity.
My life is becoming one big metaphor as each experience becomes an analogy for a life lesson. Something to learn, something to teach, or at the very least something to ponder. Everything is symbolic, and I realize what a gift it is to look at life this way. Each event has layers of meaning, and so layers of experience.
I spotted a tennis ball floating in the surf and attracted by the neon green contrast to neutral brown sand, I attempted to capture it. With the waves and undertow, it teased me by coming close then swiftly escaping my grasp, over and over. I had the experience of watching it (that’s 1) and catching it (that’s 2), then thinking about how it was a metaphor for staying humble, (i.e., just at the brink of arriving at success, our path can change on a dime.) (That’s 3.) Then I thought of how I could write about it (4) and so on. Layers of experience.
Thinking symbolically creates such richness of experience that is not only stimulating, but has enabled me to have equal appreciation for ‘good’ and ‘bad’ experiences. So rather than using the example of the tennis ball which is quite benign, say I was at a standstill in traffic for an hour with crabby kids in the back seat (bad).
When we see a variety of meanings, each individual meaning losses the power to take a position of truth. We see gratitude we were not in the accident, ability to pray for those who were, opportunity to teach a lesson in patience, for us and our kids, etc, instead of just the unluckiness of this predicament. Also, we’ll never know if this delay prevents us from being in the exact wrong place at the wrong time to be in an accident later in the journey.
So how can we judge this?
Also, if someone hasn’t returned our email, (bad) and we think of it symbolically, there can be many explanations for this; they are busy, computers down, lost their phone, big project due, they hate me, they were checking something first. “She is a jerk!” is just one possibility instead of becoming the only Truth. From ‘above the battlefield’—when we ‘take a step back” separating from the chaos of a situation to view the big picture—we may glimpse some understanding of why and how things happen. Or at the least, realize the story is not over.
Since there are so many possible meanings how can any of them be the truth? Seeing this way has the potential to eliminate loads of suffering. Because most of our misery occurs when we are desperately trying to make sense of things. And usually when we can’t make sense of something, we create a meaning that usually disreputive of our self identity: “Nobody likes me.”
There is an old Chinese story of an old farmer who owned a bony plow horse. One spring afternoon the horse ran away. The old man’s friends, trying to console him, said, “We’re so sorry about your horse, old man. What a misfortune you’ve had.” But the old farmer said, “Bad news, good news-who knows?”
A few days later the horse returned home leading a herd of wild horses. Again the friends came running. Filled with jubilation, they cried, “How wonderful!” But the old man whispered, “Good news, bad news-who knows?”
Then the next day,
when the farmer’s son was trying to ride one of the new horses, the young man was thrown to the ground and broke both legs. The friends gasped. The old man stood still and said, “Bad news, good news-who knows?”
And a short time later when the village went to war and all the young men were drafted to fight. The farmer’s son was excused because of two broken legs. Good news. Bad news. Who knows?
Someone commented about what she thought was an epic failure, “That did not go according to plan.”
I replied, “If we only knew what the plan was, we could assess that couldn’t we?” Good. Bad. Who knows? The story is not over. Each experience has layers of meaning that continues on. Try to see things symbolically for a day, let me know what you experience.