Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Embracing the Authentic

Bleak news around the global economy, an empty bank account, and weeks of working in cold, cold weather takes its toll on my creativity.

Day after weary day, I have been outside and on the move. On the roof in Northfield, or on the slopes at Sugarbush, my body works so hard against the winter bone-chilling air, heavy eyelids and huge yawns in the evening make it hard to do anything else, much less compose an essay. Once invigorating, the long days outside are now exhausting. Where I usually roam the computer until after midnight, in these last weeks, I have been snoring by 10.

The tension between writing and carpentry is a surface more slippery and fatiguing than the ice formed in the bitter temperatures. At least, the 20 years of creative silence and buzz of skilsaws and cell phone offered a respite from the dilemma. This year of transition, however, makes it apparent—especially with the example of a few friends and neighbors--that no matter the uncertainty of a career as a freelance writer and musician, in actuality, it can be no worse than this I have made for myself as a carpenter.

It is impossible not to pay attention to the struggle I feel every dawn pushing myself to load the truck and head for another long day of hard physical work. Many times I could justify the effort in sight of a happy client, or dropping a big check in the bank, but once again, clients are fearful and reluctant to appreciate the value gained parting with their hard-earned money. For me, their checks usually just cover ones I have already written, or at least promised—gone again in a flash.

Construction is a noble avocation, putting a roof over someone’s head a clear contribution to society. My spirit, however, has always resonated to a different beat. All these years, I have largely viewed my work as what has been necessary to get bills paid, while my true interest has been yearning to articulate rather than construct.

Saturday morning before last, I set old skis on the mountain, determined to prove yet again I could rip through moguls explosively, one of the best on the slopes, bouncing one to the next in dramatic flair of skis tossed to one side and jammed back into line. I quickly discovered I had joined a club who expected and appreciated a different, more classical, style. The next two weekends, I received intensive coaching, gently turning me into a smooth skier, conforming the wild energy into pretty turns.

Living this last year in my cave, I have had plenty of time to study my determination to twist the world to my own shape, conquering projects, clients, employees and deficits like so many moguls, bumps in the way of a pretty line. Forcing my way over and around each challenge, absorbing shocks in the knees transferred to my chest, and pounding turns out of nearly disastrous falls, I have forced my way through the construction business, trying to turn out dollars from sheer will to work hard and do a good job, all the while with my eye less on the trenches and more in the misty clouds above.

Yesterday, I learned turns are easier with shaped skis and the willingness to listen to others before leaping.

No longer does it make sense, in my life, to bundle up and slog with hammer to the task. Better to cut my expenses, hunker down, shape some part-time work that suits me, and focus on the creative work that makes it easier to awake each morning with my heart singing.

Please share with your friends


laughingirl said...

Great simile - maybe I'll use it in my class:
"I have had plenty of time to study my determination to twist the world to my own shape, conquering projects, clients, employees and deficits like so many moguls, bumps in the way of a pretty line."
Looking forward to hearing about you finding that pretty line.

Laurie said...

So are you taking down your carpentry shingle Kip? I know it is difficult to stay in a place when your heart has moved on. Isn't a lot of things in life like this? jobs, marriages, dreams. It is difficult to be in the present when you are being called into the future. How do you plan on making the transition? I know you can do it. You have the talent and desire.

julochka said...

as always, a very thought-provoking posting...which got me thinking that writing isn't really that far from construction if you think about it. it's a construction of the reality around us in words, rather than in bricks and boards and nails...because what are words but the building blocks of a story?

i love your skiing as life thoughts as well. working in norway, i must find time to ski.