Years ago I saw an older couple sitting at a table at the Holiday Inn, ignoring one another. I was home on the Rez for a visit. The couple was white, and staying at the Holiday Inn versus the other two hotels in Chinle equated to “rich” in my mind. They were both trim, dressed in muted tones, and of course had accoutered themselves as their generation does — orderly, appropriate, with attention to detail. His watch, her jewelry, his hat on the empty seat, her pearl buttoned cardigan.
I was waiting for some takeout — I was making $150 that day, running errands for a film crew in the canyon. I’ve always been a hustler when it comes to little tributaries of income, here and there. Anyway, I had nothing to do but wait for my food, as this was before the days of cell phones, and I couldn’t help but notice they didn’t interact with one another at all. The man, in fact, was reading his newspaper the whole time. The woman used her knife and fork to cut her waffle into tinier and tinier bits, which she then consumed neatly. They never spoke a word to one another, and Holiday Inn’s service was definitely on Rez time — slow as fuck.
And that was all. I got my order and headed out. That was probably in the late 90’s. Hadn’t thought about it since, that I’m aware of.
However, when I sat down to blog this morning, an interesting thing happened. The document was blank and blindingly white. I watched it stay that way for a while, as various goings-on occurred in the house and around me. I felt thoughts of various current events drift across the screen of my mind, but rejected them as low hanging fruit. The screen stayed blank for a while more, and I mused on the the inner wellspring, a hypothesis I’ve accepted as such, at least.
The inner wellspring is quite a counter-culture idea, quite a healthy idea, in my opinion, and it’s just as it sounds: an inexhaustible resource. Whatever I’m choosing to flow my energy towards, if it’s at least reasonably aligned for me, I will be replenished with more energy to flow. I don’t have to worry about it running out, becoming stagnant.
Is this true? I don’t know. The way I’ve structured my commitment to this blog is my attempt at finding out. But I just want to note that, since I’ve accepted the idea, at least, of the inner wellspring, I didn’t spend very much time staring at the blank document and racking my brain for an idea; instead, I racked my brain for only a little while and then remembered: oh yeah, I have a wellspring (?). Sometimes it gushes and sometimes it seeps, but it’s always there. What’s my wellspring doing this morning?
People are mostly concerned with security, and for good reason. I strive for security as doggedly as anyone else, but no sooner have I achieved a modicum of security for myself, in any area, then I’m questioning my level of stagnation. Probably everyone does. This turntables is no more apparent than in relationships, where it’s so rare to even meet someone I like, and then so rare that they like me, and then so rare that we mesh forward together meaningfully, and all the levels of interaction are so fraught with the worry of un-security that the nuanced work of rendering them secure is months in the making, at least.
And even then, it’s never done — Nick has a lot of friends in town, following on the heels of all this traveling, and I’ve had occasion to ask myself: is it that he wants to hang out with them, or not hang out with me, or both? As girlish as it sounds, it’s a real question. I mean, the guy’s been hanging out with me A LOT.
I tend to fly into my insecurities as they arise, not away from them, because I’m contrary like that. So when I feel inclined to pull someone to me, out of fear, I often nudge the corral door open a little wider instead. Here’s more freedom, not less. Whatever reaction I have will be more tolerable than impoverishing myself through a sense of false control exerted over others; one that for sure leads to stagnation.
So I stared at my blank document and the equivalent inner insecurity arose: what if I threw a blog and no one came, because it turns out I don’t have much to offer? What if stagnancy has already overtaken me here, in this microcosmal thought experiment?
I pondered at my blank document, and the decades-old specter of the Holiday Inn couple crystallized in my brain, uninvited. I think I’ve been scared of them for a while. They represent, to me, the inevitable stagnancy hidden in the belly of security’s Trojan Horse. (Incidentally, I’ve always felt skeptical of the Trojan horse story — I mean, they really fell for that? Come on.) This is a very human fear: if only I can not get sick, or die young, or be maimed, then…I guess I’ll die ignominiously, of old age, shitting my bed? Or, if only it can work out with this guy, and I keep loving him, and he keeps loving me, then…we can eventually become the Holiday Inn couple, who ran out of things to talk about three presidents ago? Or, if only I can carve out the time and the nerve to show up to this blog every day, or most days, then…I can watch myself type out increasingly desperate or bland content?
I remember a conversation with a coworker years ago, when I was in my early 20’s. He said, “You should do something with your music. You’re really good.”
I said, “Oh…thanks, but I’m probably too old for that.”
He startled and said, “What?”
I said, “Yeah, you have to be like seventeen, max, and gorgeous, or else you’re just too old to be a phenomenon but too young to have any gravitas.” I have no idea where I got these ideas exactly, but you can see how poorly they were serving me.
The coworker said, “Well, you are gorgeous,” somewhat defensively on my behalf. He wasn’t hitting on me — I’d probably put his mind into a pretzel with this evidence of my pretzel’d thinking, and just speaking positive words by default, meanwhile.
I really did believe this, and it’s no wonder. Early 20’s, thinking I was already too old. Without the knowledge of, or at least a hopeful faith in, an inner wellspring, everything becomes a hit and run — nobody wants to be around for the stagnation. And lest you think I’m about to get preachy, it’s really myself I’m preaching at, because I can see that this idea of non-renewable inner resources has impacted me negatively, for certain, and for years.
Frightened deeply by the Holiday Inn couple, my best defense against stagnation has been a good offense, over the years. Most limiting beliefs are so entangled with helpful beliefs that it’s difficult to get at them, but yes — I’ve protected the world from getting sick of me. Falling in love is fun, just the best thing on earth, but I’m so scared it won’t go well — and then when it does go well, I’m so scared I’ll get bored, or worse, get boring. How much easier, then, to erect reactions and circumstances which sever these dangerous connections before they lose their charge. And I am naturally adventurous, I do like new challenges, it makes sense that I’d try different kinds of jobs and lifestyles and selves with easy confidence — those are helpful beliefs —but it’s really limiting to subconsciously believe that genuine commitments will result in, some day, the existential equivalent of a tight-lipped breakfast at the Holiday Inn.
What if — and I’m asking myself this — I can make real commitments — like this blog, like Nick — and rather than those tides receding and exposing what turns out to be the shallow, ugly silt of a dying pond — my wellspring is eternal? I can wake up every day and there’s more to say, more to explore, more to think, more to appreciate, more to love, more to be, more to know, eternally and forever. More pure water. That’s not to say that my path of expansion will always easily include those people, events, and circumstances included now. But it’s funny how times of calm are almost as scary as times of crisis — there’s nothing to drown out the sounds of our quietest fears. Kind of like being faced with another blank document, and another morning of not being prevented from doing what I love, which scares me.
I’m aware that not every one of these blogs is a jewel by any means, but sometimes we don’t even know what our own best stuff is. And it also occurs to me that the Holiday Inn couple may have been, simply, a paper tiger rendered fierce by me through the lens of a deep fear — they might have been having a great time, and talking is quite frankly overrated. It’s nice to hang out with people you can talk to, but don’t have to. It’s always been interesting to me that animals, pets, don’t ever really offer anything new — just endless adorable variations on their own predictable theme — and we never tire of them; in fact we grieve their loss deeply. We don’t want to be shocked by new experiences all the time. It’s okay to just be, and at least a good portion of the exhausting pressure we experience to perform for others is self-inflicted. The Holiday Inn couple may have been a sign from the universe about how to be, and I spent decades missing the point.
In any case, I’m grateful to them, as they helped me get my blog off the ground, 22 years later :). The document is blank no longer, and the theory of the wellspring lives to fight another day.