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Words I Just Finished Reading

The Kitchen House
The Atomic Weight of Love
We're All Damaged
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
Wishful Drinking
News of the World
The Forgotten Garden
Out of My Mind
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
There Is No Good Card for This: What To Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love
My Not So Perfect Life
Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters
Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency
The Lost Wife
Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church
Anna and the French Kiss
Little Bee

Julie's favorite books »


Always Blooming

Hello, friends.  I’m back (again).  I haven’t written lately because I’ve been suffering from writer’s block: a common medical condition that’s aggressively aggravated by school projects and baseball season.  This is a poor excuse because I’ve grabbed the brass ring by having both boys on the same baseball team.  The only hope for next year is for one of them to decide that baseball isn’t his thing.  (Fingers crossed!)

In an attempt to self-medicate, I picked up a book: The War of Art, recommended long ago by the very man who inspired me to start this blog.  The book begins by addressing my enemy, and the enemy of all writers, all creators: Resistance.  Steven Pressifeld writes that Resistance is the great enemy of all good creation; Resistance exercises all available means to keep us from doing the work, public or private, that we are meant to do.  Resistance is relentless and focused, even recruiting Rationalization as a helpful henchman. 

Rationalization is Resistance’s spin doctor.  It’s Resistance’s way of hiding the Big Stick behind its back.  Instead of showing us our fear (which might shame us and impel us to do our work), Resistance presents us with a series of plausible, rational justifications for why we shouldn’t do our work.  What’s particularly insidious about the rationalizations that Resistance presents to us is that a lot of them are true.  They’re legitimate.

I’ll take Correct Diagnoses for $200, Alex.  Baseball, homework, that project, life: the urgent masquerading as the important.  I’ve been feeling it as I’ve driven hither and thither.  I’ve seen it when I pull out the laptop only to be completely derailed by the day.  Right now I’m trying to write and Mando’s watching The Matrix and the iPad is refusing to download the movie I want to watch on the flight tomorrow and these are First World problems but they are blocking my qi. 

The presence of Resistance has been coupled with a deep, thirtsty need for meaning.  I have friends who are suffering.  They’re walking difficult paths and they’re meeting the challenges in these beautiful, brave ways, and I want to write things that do them justice.  An impossible calling, to be sure: Resistance only had to harness that fear to render me immobile.

But earlier this week, I drove up to our house in the midst of another packed day.  I glanced over at my neighbor’s yard and took a moment to appreciate its beauty (my neighbor is my gardening tutor).  I’ve often wondered what makes her yard so lovely, and I looked over and the thought came: her yard is beautiful because something is always blooming.  There’s an abundance of plants (none of which I can name) and a variety of color and height and size.  It’s always new. 

Something is always blooming.  I sat in my car and thought, “That’s it.  That’s what I’m going to write about.”  Life is so deeply and painfully unpredictable.  There’s rain and sun and wind.  The soil is sometimes rich and sometimes depleted.  But if there’s a variety and a little intention, then something will always be blooming.  It’s a commitment to building a new practice: meditation, or making meals, or daily exercise that saves the lives of all the people living in my home.  It’s embracing toughness, or breathing forgiveness, or deciding that April is the month in which I will believe that we’re all just doing the best we can in these days, these moments, these relationships.  It’s meeting the challenge, whatever the challenge may be; it’s believing that toughness is a language worth learning.  They’re all varieties: perennials, annuals, trees.  They’re producing fruit, blossoms, and intricate leaves: individual little miracles appearing every spring.  And the garden is the picture of resilience: this beauty appears in spite of the Resistance.  We’ve got Calla lilies blooming everywhere in our yard.  I walk by them and think, “You were only waiting for the rain.”

So this week, I’ve been waiting for one plant to bloom.  My guru neighbor gave me a cutting of hers last year because I was obsessed with the color: tight Technicolor magenta blooms swaying on top of their pale green stalks.  (Anyone that’s read a tedious Barbara Kingsolver will know how it pains me to describe that plant.)  But I’ve been waiting and watching, monitoring like a committed helicopter mom.  Today, the first bloom opened, and I was reminded that all the good, sweet things arrive in their own good time, at just the right moment. 

So I sat down and wrote this (in spite of Resistance, in spite of The Matrix, which I still really love).  For beauty and toughness and love and faith, which are all simultaneously esoteric and palpable: they, too, happen in spite of Resistance. 

Always blooming: may it be so. 

Happy Spring, friends.  


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