Does she look like someone who says "all, or nothing?" How can you tell, one way or another? I can tell, because, of course, that's me on the bridge. That particular photo was taken in May of 2009, and believe me, I wasn't thinking "all, or nothing." I was thinking, "I want what I have."
I've flirted with "all or nothing" for a long time, though. I've advocated for figuring out what it is, this elusive "all", on this blog. I've said to myself: Focus. Dig down and distinguish dream from fantasy, separate the wheat from the chaff, and CREATE, damn you. Focus. Don't waste time! Get going right now! In order to focus enough to write, I have at various times cleared the deck of distractions. I've boxed up my art supplies, decimated my book collection, sold my guitar, crated up my needlework frames and threads. The only thing other than writing that I allowed myself was photography, so I have three cameras and assorted paraphernalia. But things creep in. I bought a house with a garden, and how I love that garden. I pulled a few weeds this very afternoon, and boy, does that feel good. I've learned to weed a little bit at a time, because otherwise I won't do it at all, and it will get overgrown. I've learned how to tend a garden little by little. It used to be I had to have everything done in one day, and then I was good for nothing else for a week afterward, because I'm not 19 any more, and I need to be gentler to myself.
Lately, I've been driving myself crazy trying to narrow things down even further. I need to specialize, I've been telling myself. I need to obsess, or I'll fail. I'll fail! I'm not a multi-tasker, so to get anything done, I need to simplify, throw out the old food in the refrigerator to get ready to cook a meal. I need to get the cobwebs out of the windows before I hang curtains in one room. I need to get the house furnished, and have that done with. I need to have the garden weeded and have that done with. I want to be a writer, and so I need to clear out the junk, and read, and I need to write. Everything else is superfluous, unless it feeds the writing. Focus, focus, focus. All, or nada! Get with the program! Only, that's not how it seems to work. The more I clear away, the emptier I feel, the more the page looms before me, terrifying, like a blank obelisk on the moon. You have given up everything for me, now it had better be worth it! Boo! it cries, and then I cry, and run off to bed to hide my head. Too much pressure. I don't feel like writing any more. It's too important. I gave up too much for it. The quality of what I create will never justify the sacrifices.
My goodness. Is this how I have painted myself into a corner?
That woman is still standing on the bridge, and has been standing there for quite some time, waiting for Prince Charming to give her a support system and a room of her own. Now, she has a whole apartment of her own (and pays for it herself, thanks) and an admirable support system. She has evenings and weekends with which to pursue any number of creative endeavors, and still she's frozen on the bridge. Cross? Or go back? If you read Searching for the Castle of White Marble, you may recognize this as a turning point, at which I stand thoughtfully, gazing at my own reflection in a Japanese garden pond. Sometimes, I think perhaps I'll be there forever, pondering my options. What does this mean? What do I do now? Where do I go? That woman has a full life, and still, she stands frozen on that bridge. It's been two years. You'd think she'd have worked it out by now, what she wants to do next.
Maybe she hasn't, and maybe she has. Maybe there isn't a bright light and a divine voice that whispers into her ear to tell her about her destiny. Maybe she has waited for the voice, and maybe it has never come, but maybe it has. Maybe it has come every single day from that moment, and she just hasn't listened. Or maybe she has, and her life looks like it did on that bridge, for real, every day. Or maybe it looks more like this.
Or perhaps this, frolicking on a castle drawbridge.
Or tea at the Russian Tea Room adjacent to Carnegie Hall.
Or horseback riding on the beach on Puerto Rico.
Or hanging out with Ken Scholes at World Fantasy.
Or hanging out with my dog, while a professional photographer just so happens to stroll by.
This is what has happened while I've been waiting to cross that bridge, while I've been dithering in my chiffon gown and my tiara of orchids. I've been playing the game of all or nothing. When will my life start? When will I have enough to time to write something meaningful? When will I succeed? When will I achieve? When will I win? When does it start?
Here is the receiver platform of the radio telescope at Arecibo.
Here is one side of the dish, which is currently the largest single dish in the world.
Sometimes, I think I couldn't find my ass even with this big a telescope.
Life has started. In the game of all of nothing, I've got it all. It's all around me, every day.
I have to pay attention. Or I'll miss it.