I spent a few hours last Saturday at Barnes and Nobles. I am proud to say that I walked out with only five books. No journal, though, as my son put his foot down on new journals until I use the ones in my collection. We compromised on a planning notebook.
For someone who loves the world of fiction, all five purchased books were non-fiction. Negotiating with the Dead, by Margaret Atwood. The Sound of Paper and Finding Water, books on creativity and spirituality by Julie Cameron. Mind Wide Open by Steven Johnson because I love the study of neurosciences. I worked through a pile of books and decided on those four. Until I walked past a clearance display. There, in clear view with a crisp, a book called to me. The title jumped at me. STUCK! by Anneli Rufus.
I made it through Chapter 1 while soaking in a hot bath last night. I have to admit that her delivery is sloppy and unorganized. I wonder if she has ADD with her big, bouncy thoughts. But the premise is good. Especially when she started talking about boxes. I hate boxes. They are just too confining for my liking.
We often back ourselves into boxes, building them with our work, love, and general routines until one day, we find ourselves stuck. We face work with misery in our hearts, stay in unsatisfying relationships, stay out of potential relationships, and settle for a life that safe. Comfortable. Known. And we become stuck. Anneli Rufus even goes as far as defining our stagnation by means of religious beliefs and political affiliations. In whatever way one becomes stuck, dissatisfaction rubs like a sore on the side of your foot, rubbing against your shoe all day long until it affects the way you walk. Your back begins to ache. Pain strains your shoulders. Stuck. And miserable. Anneli Rufus proposes that fear, memories, and laziness are the culprits that create our stuck-edness.
This weekend, as everyone slept, I sat in the bathroom of a hotel room in Brandon, South Dakota with my highlighters and a printed copy of “Dolly”. I plowed through two chapters to make a cleaner copy before sending it to agents for representation. I know the story of Lisa inside and out, every twist and plot turn that takes her to the end. I still don’t know the end. What I do know is that Lisa is stuck. She’s backed herself into a box and is hugging her knees, too afraid to move. As easy as it is to separate the reasons for being stuck, as Rufus does, it’s never as simple as that. Fear. The past. Laziness. I propose that it’s a combination of all three. Memories of failure and hurt create fear and enhance our lazy spirit in dealing with either.
Lisa has spent most of her life stuck. In her early teens, she was stuck at the Plaza Trailer park, settling for the life she’d been forced into by her father’s absence and mother’s incompetence. In all fairness, she didn’t have much of a choice. Children don’t have the liberty to change their familial settings. As I near the end, I realize that she’s chosen not to exercise her liberty, despite her independence and the life that she’s built. If I have to narrow the theme of “Dolly” to one word, I choose Liberty. Even if our choices lead to mistakes, it’s far better to stretch our legs and live than suffocating in a box of expectations and dissatisfaction.
“You have to take risks, he said. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen. Every day, God gives us the sun–and also one moment in which we have the ability to change everything that makes us unhappy.”
— Paulo Coelho
“Dolly” is coming along nicely. I still remain in the minority that loves editing far more than writing the first draft. There will be an ending that closes the story and gives Lisa peace. Perhaps she’ll practice liberty and break out of the box. Perhaps, she’ll find another box to crawl into with her knees at her ears. I suppose that’s what some people prefer. Being stuck, despite it’s cramped space, can be a comfort when the only other option is the unknown.
As for me, I will be sitting down with my planning notebook and begin the extensive chore of preparing for my own unknown. I’m determined that there will be no box in my future.
“A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.”
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry