In my yoga classes, sometimes I will ask my students to hold a pose beyond a few breaths, beyond the point of comfort, beyond the point of interest, and ask them to explore their experience. If it's pain, I tell them, move out. But if it's merely sensation, even if the sensation is not pleasant, I ask them to stay. It is so tempting to break a pose under the guise of thirst, reaching for the water bottle with relief, not because of the water, but the escape. However, the discomfort can be interesting. It can reveal a physical imbalance in our body -- oh, this hip, oh, this quad -- and it can reveal a psychological crutch. How many times do we shift prematurely out of a relationship or a situation simply to avoid dealing with discomfort? What revelations do we miss when we shift too soon? Or reach for the closest distraction? What at point do we stagnate in our personal evolution because of an aversion to difficult sensation?
Yesterday I met with my mentor. I took the elevator to his office on the second floor, and as I moved to step into the hall, he stepped into the elevator and pressed the button to go down. Perhaps this was a sign that we might experience mixed messages in our mentor-mentee relationship these coming months. I rode the elevator back down and filled the coffee I had just topped off, and then went with him back up to the second floor.
When we finally settled into his office to discuss my goals for this Project Period, he suggested that "we" might need to break the songwriter in me. He's read an excerpt of my story about a night I spent in Texas while on tour. "Tumbleweeds," he said. "It's like a country song."
I was up all night thinking about tumbleweeds. Literally, I did not sleep. The damn things mingled with my muffled coughs as I tried not to wake Darby. Which states have tumbleweeds, I thought. What songs? By morning I had concluded that of course tumbleweeds make an appearance in my story. I was in Texas for a week, west Texas for two days. The story is about one of those nights. I'd never seen a tumbleweed in my life until those stops on the tour. They were fascinating, but even more importantly, they were everywhere. I write about setting, and every long stretch of road was bordered by the dry globes of loose stems. One stormy night, the last time I traveled those roads, my hands gripped the wheel as I dodged them with every gust. Actually, come to think of it, the song I wrote about the same night doesn't mention tumbleweeds at all.
My mentor lives in Vermont. Has he raced the wind and rain and rolling weeds? It doesn't take a songwriter or a country song to write about nature, and in west Texas in the second half of summer, nature was rolling.
As I drove to campus this morning, those tumbleweeds kept spinning in my head. I tend to sell myself short. While I don't want to inflate my writing experience, perhaps I undersold it. Did I somehow imply to my mentor that I have only written that one story? Did I come across as a songwriter exploring longer form for the first time? My resume is not lengthy, but did I do a disservice by neglecting to mention these past five or seven years of blogging? Is it relevant to mention the published essays? Does it matter that I teach writing/yoga workshops? In my interest of exploring "voice" did I give him the impression that I haven't developed my own?
And under all these questions, deep in the discomfort, I am crying out No. Do not break the songwriter. I still feel that in the world of songs, I have only just begun.
So, enter the discomfort. I have been shaking for days, every morning trying not to spill my coffee as I write these posts. So this is me, exploring. Open to discussing. Breathing.