January 14. I write that to keep track. I’ve been sick for almost exactly two weeks, and in a sense I feel like I’ve missed 2012. I’m in the city now, that singular city, Manhattan. Standing before my MacBook Air at a tall, chairless table in Le Pain Quotidien, the kind of table meant to encourage executives to quaff their coffee and tourists to eat their croissant and then to get the hell out, I begin, suddenly, at long last, to write . . .
I was so happy to get into the city again, after over two weeks away. If I didn’t get a visual of John Travolta walking the streets to the sound of “Stayin’ Alive”, that’s about how I felt. Sometimes I can really feel the heels of my shoes hit the sidewalk, and at about 40th Street and 7th Avenue I was having one of those moments. When I realized my gloves were missing and turned to see my bus heading down 7th I was just starting to listen, on my iPhone, to the guitars of Jet’s blistering “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?” What are the odds that, just when I need to sprint after a bus, on comes a soundtrack song from the Ski Dance Drive mix?
Afterward, I posted a photo on Facebook, of a different bus, which sparked general outrage that I would stop to take a picture of my prey before running it down. One person suggested the gloves must have been lined with rabbit fur, but the suggestion is patently ridiculous. They were actually lined with down harvested from a hundred virgins’ inner thighs.
As I continued my walk to the New York Public Library, I reached into my change pocket and without looking gave the contents to a sad-looking seated man who wasn’t even begging. Outside the library I would later set up a recurring donation to Somali refugees.
And I walked east on 40th Street and soaked up the energy of the city.
Why didn’t I do this more often over the last two weeks? Was I thatsick?
You might wonder – well, you probably aren’t wondering, but lately I have been so self-absorbed I can readily imagine you thinking about me almost as much as I do – you might wonder, I was saying, if I, a coach, made New Year’s resolutions this year. In most prior years I’d have said no. This year, I have been putting together ideas, so I have a sort of plan, but it’s not done. It can’t be done until I figure out what the purpose of 2012 is, other than to scrawl on the wall another tally mark of years gone by.
My resolutions, that is, like me, are a work in serious progress. Whither Cameron? There are no yellow arrows here. “Snap back to reality, oh, there goes gravity,” sings Eminem as I write this. Exactly. Back from a camino, or path, with clear markings on it, I am still on this latest quest, the kind of quest outlined in the hero’s journey of myth and cinema.
When I left Bend in August, my plan, which I’d arrived at after visiting several cities last summer, was to move to the winner, San Francisco, sometime after I got back. That “sometime,” I suppose, holds the rub. In August I had no idea when my house would sell, but there I was, on an October 14 morning in Galicia, three days from the end of the Camino, executing the closing documents on my house and signing most of my considerable down payment into the recessiosphere. My wonderful Bend real estate agent, Kelly Neuman, hired movers to pack up my things and put them in storage somewhere in Bend.
At this point in telling my story, the language I overhear myself using with people is revealing:
I sold my house out from under myself.
I find it incredibly useful to watch thoughts, and to deconstruct them like a committee comprised of a literary critic, a psychoanalyst, a lawyer, and a writer (Freud was arguably all of these, the lawyer courtesy of his late 1800s Viennese Judaism). The metaphor I used – out from under myself — told me I believed, or felt as if, I had knocked the foundations of my life out from under myself, the way you might kick away a ladder you’re standing on.
When I got back to New York on October 22, I wasn’t ready to go back to Oregon on the October 25 flight I’d scheduled. I felt drained to contemplate it. Besides, what would I do there? My life, including my BMW, was in storage. The Land “World’s Most Expensive Ski Accessory” Rover I listed for sale on Craigslist. And if I would ever be ready to move to San Francisco, I knew it was not anytime soon.
After all the metaphorical running, running, of the past year-and-a-half, after the literal walk through Spain and jaunt through Portugal, I was, at last, without anything in particular to do. Oh, the coaching continued, but it was the next mission, the next purposeful and deliberate search for meaning, that was not clear. And as I tell clients, clarity is confidence, and confidence clarity. They are really two ways of describing the same phenomenon; you’ll never have one without the other.
In hindsight, it was probably unreasonable to expect that I would attain that clarity and confidence so quickly. Right. So, I’ll get back from the trip and I’ll be totally done with the past and completely clear about the future and life will just sort of proceed from there. There are measurable steps in life’s major transitions, and I was still, on all the evidence, engaged in some form of rest, recovery, recuperation, rejuvenation, perhaps even a subtle, low-grade form of mourning. Whatever it was, I was not my usually hyper-efficient, hard-charging self.
I tried not to resist this, because resisting reality always hurts. I should be different. I should be other than what I am. Even though any sentence that begins with “I” and continues with “should” is almost always untrue on arrival, I “knew” I should be writing. The following captured thought, repeated incessantly day and night, is how I knew:
I should be writing.
. . . multiplied, like horseflies and gnats and sometimes a mallet, by several thousand.
But what to write? The camino blog felt over for me. In title, intent, and practice, it had been a blog about Mom and the Camino and cancer: I hesitated to make it a blog about me. But even that was probably academic, because I didn’t know even what I might want to share with the world, or at least with the blog’s hundred-plus readers. I can see why all the gurus write their books from the perspective of having already reached their grail, after the fact, rather than showing us the dirty confusing embarrassing spectacle of themselves floundering about, flapping about like a fish on shore and in search of oxygen. Eckhart Tolle wrote his books after his enlightenment, and they’re fine, important books, but how do you relate to a Zen master?
Before the Camino, I had thought about keeping a blog on my journey of separation and divorce in real-time, to illustrate most pungently how a fairly normal person gets through, and to differentiate any related book from all those that show gurus dispensing wisdom in hindsight. It seemed to me that people don’t benefit from seeing or reading someone tell of their journey once it’s over as much as they would from witnessing the journey itself. But the Anatomy of a Divorce blog also was not to be.
I also toyed for a while with launching a blog about one of the few things I was , apparently, motivated to do while in New York, which was trying to meet women. But that idea too has languished, for reasons that need not detain us here.
Happily, for a while in May I had felt like working on “The Novel,” by which I mean the first in a trilogy I conceived of over seven years ago. I had worked on it peripatetically for about five years, but drifted away from it in 2009, as I spent my time being a senior executive in a start-up, being married, helping my wife run her business, and researching and co-writing a book for several publishers. I had a brief fling with The Novel during my two weeks in Israel, in May, felt great about it – but arrived back in Bend to reality. I also lost most of what I had written, after my new hard drive crashed. This was discouraging, but a drop in the bucket of everything else going on at the time.
And so the writing proceeds very slowly, though it is mostly about the Camino project, which I am tentatively calling Mom and Me, along with some subtitle, perhaps relating to divorce and other cancers. Could I finish it before the next camino season, say, by May, and get it in Kindle format so pilgrims could take it with them on the Camino? Could I get enough word-of-mouth and other buzz to sell more than a few copies? We shall see…
In early December, I decided to go to Bend to tie up many of the loose ends that had been grating on me. But that trip would turn out to be completely different from what I imagined.