Rick makes his living loving animals, and gets to love them from much closer up than do most of us who work for the zoo, the lucky summbitch. Not only is Rick funny and kind, but he is also one of the smart people I have surrounded myself with, and whose brains I enjoy sucking like a knowledge lozenge. I am lucky to call him my friend. In all this, he reminds me a bit of my other friend Rick, who, while not an animal lover by trade, counts as another of my brain candies. The Ricks, together with their equally amazing wives could, if all four brains were mixed together, untilt the world. Both Ricks are natural optimists, and I love them both for it, but their optimism also flummoxes me more than a bit. Here is something Rick-of-the-Animals wrote recently:
Happy New Year’s Eve everyone! I see a lot of people saying things about how 2012 was good or bad for them. And most everyone is then following up with something like: “I wonder what 2013 has in store for me.”
Uh… You’re doing it wrong. 2013 is not a book that has been written that you turn each page to see what happens next. THE PAGES ARE BLANK! You turn those damn pages and write/color/draw YOUR story! It’s NOT what 2013 has in store for you — It’s what YOU have in store for 2013!
I will admit that this is an inspiring way of looking forward to the new year… for some. No doubt it would be beneficial if I could completely adopt this attitude, but one thing stands in my way: a fear, literally and metaphorically, of blank notebooks. Perhaps “fear” is not the right word. For me, blank notebooks are anxiety-provoking. Here is a short outline of my relationship with a new notebook:
- I love the new notebook, pristine and filled with possibility. I make sure that I have a suitable writing implement for it: an unchewed pen that writes smoothly and is perhaps an interesting color. I try to outline what the notebook will contain, or at least what type of information it will hold. I find it a clean, safe pocket in my bag and carry it everywhere, in case of sudden bursts of inspiration.
- Weeks pass, the notebook gradually grays and frays around the edges, and the cover begins to get accidental fold-wrinkles. It still contains no more than my name on the inside cover. It is judging me, I know, every time I dig it out: “Are you sure you want to put that in me? I mean, don’t you want to look back at me and feel a bit of pride?” Despite knowing that a notebook filled with inanity is better than a blank one, I put it back, unmarked. I wonder if the notebook and I were truly meant to be.
- After a few months, the first few pages fill up rather suddenly with a manifesto against procrastination, against self-judgement and inaction. This is cheerfully followed by random commonplaces interspersed with congratulatory marginalia. The relationship has deepened, and I am happy.
- A few weeks of busy-ness and nothing is written. Much as with friends I haven’t contacted in ages, I start to think that I am, because of my lapse, no longer welcome, no longer allowed to reach out. The notebook is removed from the bag and put on a shelf. I tell myself that I will continue it someday, but I know I never will because I have burnt a bridge, closed a door… failed.
This endless cycle may be the main drive behind my addiction to buying notebooks. I am looking for the right one. I am afraid of imperfect note keeping. I am afraid of crossings-out, of splotches, of idiotic jottings. I fear these things more than I fear a blank notebook, because at least to me, a blank notebook is far more beautiful than one ruined. I fear starting because I fear stopping, or worse, making a mess of things.
This year, tho, I am writing. I didn’t really mean all this blather as a refutation of what Rick wrote. I just wanted to explain that some of us cannot see the joy in blank books, clean slates and the like. Some of us get frightfully lost in them instead.