I have this friend who likes to probe, to ask difficult questions that I'd rather not answer. I try to ignore or change the subject or play the oblivious card, but he sees right through it. And before I can hang up the phone, he'll guilt me into a response. I simultaneously appreciate and resent him for that. I'll have my opinions neatly packaged in my mind, and then he'll come and strip away all the wrapping paper with one clean tear. Simple questions. Questions I should be able to answer, but questions that nevertheless put me on the defensive. It’s as if I’m being shoved off the high dive when I don’t know how to swim, and I'm splashing around for any floatation device that will keep me surfaced. Sometimes I just want to cover my ears, brandish an ink Uni-ball pen, and scribble a response card because things make the most sense to me when I write.
As a writer, people automatically assume that I journal. I do not. I avoid journaling at all costs, and I do this subconsciously. When faced with the option of winding down and gathering my thoughts, I simply allocate my mental resources elsewhere: that email I forgot to respond to, the pile of Economists and New Yorkers strewn beside my bed, season three of The Office to catch up on. I cannot journal because it is too personal, and what I write offers a glimpse into my thoughts but stops short of being vulnerable. I find that the only time the words will flow is when I'm lying in bed, about to go to sleep and too lazy to grab a pen - the graveyard of ideas past. For when I journal, I'm left with a jumble. Random topics littering a once pristine page. Imperfection; a mistake.
I’ve tried to diversify my approaches. Just this weekend, while on the El following a Second City show in Chicago, I attempted to master the art of meditation. I had never tried it before, but I imagined it to be a channeling of focused energy. I had taken a couple of yoga classes in college, and I used to skate competitively. While it had been years since I stood atop a podium, grinning brace-faced into the camera with medal/trophy in hand, buried deep inside me lay the blueprints of focus and resolve. Mental determination. Extract and release. I choreographed hand motions and everything.
What it comes down to is this: I want to learn to fail. I want the imminent possibility of failure to be okay. I want this because only then will I learn to take chances. And that’s a hell of a lot better than sitting, waiting, wishing.