I started reading Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking, last night, and it made me cry. Repeatedly.
It’s strange to be reading this book now, on the other side of the chasm, where I picked up her story to begin with.
I first heard of her on Neil Gaiman’s blog. I had just started trying to figure out how to write fiction again, so I must have been 26. I was in grad school. I was depressed. And I felt utterly lost.
I no longer wanted to be what I had thought I wanted to be, and there’s no feeling quite like the moment you figure this out two years into your doctoral work. I was flailing, trying to find something else to give me a sense of purpose, terrified of what would happen if I didn’t find it.
But I found it. And started working stalwartly towards finally feeling like I was living instead of waiting.
I always feel like I’m waiting. Even now. And waiting feels like failing. Waiting is the place between nostalgia and dream. A place where nothing ever happens.
I read her book and I remember the person I was when I first hopped into the audience that has been watching her life as an artist. I remember how much I lived in fantasy, of what my life would be like as soon as it finally started. I remember writing my first ever book draft, dreaming of how much more fun it would be to write when I became a better writer, while listening to Who Killed Amanda Palmer on a loop. I remember the way that going Australia randomly to see her play in Melbourne, and the people I met there who opened their hearts and homes to me, made me start to hope again at a time when I felt like I would never get to where I wanted to go. I remember interviewing her and Jason Webley in Los Angeles, and what Amanda said to me backstage inspired me to be more forgiving of myself. Less afraid of what would happen if I failed. I remember how someone reached out to me after that interview to tell me that I’m not alone, and how in the months to follow she helped me more than she’ll probably ever know to get through a very difficult time when I didn’t know if I could do it after I had cut away my safety net.
That all started six years ago.
In reading her book, I am reliving that most painful part of my life, where I can see now that I’ve grown more as a person than I ever thought was possible, even though I felt like I was still just waiting the entire time.
Since then I’ve become a writer. And a musician. I’ve known what it means to be truly loved. I’ve lived more in the past six years than I had in all of the 26 years prior.
And yet, I still feel like I’m waiting. Waiting for when my life is the way I want it to be. I know it makes me miss the right now: the waiting place where all living actually happens.
The basis of waiting is fear. Fear of failure or success. Fear of heartbreak or of pain or of love. There’s always going to be stuff I’m afraid of. There are always going to be things I wish I were better at. The difference is that I am trying to no longer see that end goal as happiness. I can be happy in the waiting place where I fail daily, where I’m perpetually heartbroken for one reason or another. Unfortunately, it’s the only place fear lives. We forget the fear of the past because we lived through it and came out the other side. And a fear of the future is nothing more than a fear of the present.
I used to want to be loved from a distance, while giving love unreservedly. Love scares me. it always has. It swells and fades, sparks, crashes, and withers. I use to believe that I could do everything myself, but this past year has shown me that sometimes I can’t.
So it doesn’t matter if I get lost for a while, like I did for most of this year. It doesn’t matter how scared I become. My capacity to love and accept love has grown with me. I still carry myself more often than I probably should, but I’ve grown more willing to fall down in front of others, always surprised when they are willing to pick me up. I shouldn’t be surprised. These people are family. They hand me kleenex when I can’t fight the tears anymore. They see me. They love me for the flawed, unfinished person that I am.
Today’s Christmas and I’m sitting around at home, by myself in my pajamas, still reading her book, and I can finally see now that for the first time in my life, I don’t feel alone anymore.
And I am so fucking grateful for all of it.