“We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.” "Only the very young and the very old may recount their dreams at breakfast, dwell upon self, interrupt with memories of beach picnics and favorite Liberty lawn dresses and the rainbow trout in a creek near Colorado Springs. The rest of us are expected, rightly, to affect absorption in other people’s favorite dresses, other people’s trout."Joan Didion, from brainpickings.org. Of course, along with the very old and very young, writers also dwell upon the self and interrupt with memories of beach picnics. It's interesting, Didion holding onto the self via keeping a notebook, preserving memory, seeing her past as a source of inspiration. Many writers find inspiration in their own lives. Others feel trapped in themselves, and sometimes write about that. This blog is called Zen of Writing, though I seldom mention Zen. It seems like a good time, since we are talking about the self. At best, the self in Zen is a kind of vehicle. At worst, it is a prison. To utilize the self, its memories and talents, but not to be confined by it is a Zen concept. Here is a favorite quote from Joyce Carol Oates, which I've probably blogged about before:
"What a folie-a-deux, our engagement with ourselves, and our wish to believe that this engagement is worth the lifelong effort it requires, as if, assigned at birth to a specific 'self,' we must gamely maintain, through the years, an abiding faith in it: like vendors pushing carts, heaped with the spoils of 'ego,' each obliged to promote his/her own goods, in a bazaar teeming with mostly indifferent strangers, a few potential customers, and too many rival vendors!"Writers can attest to the few customers and the over-abundance of rival vendors. The task is, how to push the cart around without losing perspective. It seems to us that it's a harder marketplace than pushing one's cart around a steady job, e.g., but it depends on what you've got in the cart -- your habits, your likes and dislikes, your baggage, your karma. I'll give the last word to Surya Das, author of Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be:
“Other people can’t cause us to be impatient unless we let them do so. In other words, others don’t make us impatient. We make ourselves impatient, through our expectations and demands, fixated attachments and stuckness.” ― Lama Surya Das
You can substitute just about any quality for "impatient." Other people don't cause us to be insecure or vain or over-sensitive or persistent. We do it ourselves, because of what we put in the cart. Comfort or unease with the self results -- and so does the decision to turn to Zen, to put down the cart entirely. Which is a subject for another post.