My dog Milo and I are getting to know our new neighborhood.
We had a well-established walking route from our old house, but the old neighborhood was laid out in perfectly square blocks, so there was little variation and no possibility of getting lost. The new neighborhood has winding streets that split and converge and find their way up and over a hill. We are never quite certain where we are.
Last night we were walking and came upon Inspiration Drive. Naturally, we took it. We followed Inspiration Drive for only a few blocks, however, when it abruptly ended.
“Isn’t that typical?” I said to Milo, who was not, as usual, paying any attention to the street signs.
“We just find inspiration and, before we’ve gone anywhere at all, it peters out.”
I stopped at the intersection, trying to decide if we should go left or right. Milo pulled on the leash. He wanted to go straight ahead, despite the obvious demise of Inspiration, so I crossed the street with him. That’s when I realized that Inspiration Drive had not ended after all, it had just taken a rather sudden turn to the right, so we followed it.
And I am continuing to do that.
The funny thing about going to school is that I somehow thought I would be issued a supply of inspiration. I thought that I would be simply inundated with clever ideas and expert direction that would make this clumsy, start and stop, imperfect process of learning and writing seem much easier and more predictable.
It has taken the better part of a semester to realize that this is not going to happen. It has taken the better part of a life to realize that inspiration (in art, in life, in love) will take an astonishing number of twists and turns. What I am finally learning is that my ability to see what is up ahead is extremely limited and (even when I’m right) really doesn’t count for very much. It is my ability to hang on when life takes a sharp and unexpected turn that is important— it’s my ability to not give up on inspiration when it seems to have disappeared.
I spent a lot of my life (all of my twenties and thirties) trying to make life come out the way I wanted it. The tricky thing about this is that I was successful much of the time. This encouraged me to believe that if I just pushed hard enough, I would be able to drive life in whatever direction I wanted it to go. Eventually I learned that I was utterly wrong. Then I spent a few years trying to figure out how I was supposed to function at all, knowing that I was not running the show. But constantly anticipating what happens next in life (and trying to determine the outcome) requires a huge amount of energy. Simply hanging on for the ride is far less work and, so far, a lot more fun.
Milo and I followed Inspiration Drive off to the right and, sure enough, it continued in an unexpected direction. We wandered up and over the hill. We found a park we never knew was there. The sun began to set and we had a terrific view of the mountains as they turned rosy pink.
While I had no idea where we were going, I was relieved and delighted to discover that Inspiration lasted a lot longer than I expected. I just had to be willing to follow where it led.
Till next time,