What You Cannot See

I write often in this space about the uselessness of worry, and I was reminded of this uselessness again yesterday when someone passed along a quote—attributable, we think, to the Dalai Lama—that goes: “If a problem can be solved, why worry about it? And if a problem can’t be solved, why worry about it?” A good one all right, and it came to me when there was much worry floating around my brain. I have come to accept that I am writing stories only in part because I like to tell stories. Storytelling was what first brought me to the page many, many years ago, but somewhere in my psyche I saw in the writing of stories an opportunity to make peace with the unknown. Unfortunately, it is only now that I am finally understanding this.

Because I cannot outline, the worry comes in the form of the question, “What will happen next?” I have tried outlining to relieve this, but it is no use. So I am left to make peace with the unknown. The question, by the way, only nags me when I am not writing. When I am writing I am in the process of answering the question so there is no problem. It’s the not-writing that is the problem.

There are many techniques for shooing the worry away, but I won’t bother with those here. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. In the end, there is no formula for making peace with the unknown; in the end, there is only acceptance, which is not a fixed point but a balance to be maintained as you would your footing on a log.

I dream sometimes of a kind of unconsciousness. There are places in my life where I never worry but where other people do. Why couldn’t the writing be like that? Because if it were, I would have to worry about something else so that I could learn to not worry about it. There is no avoiding this lesson. For me, then, the peace comes quickest when I admit my worry has nothing whatsoever to do with writing or stories. I am merely perched on the edge of the moment, wringing my hands as I squint unseeing into the future, trying to determine if that place is friendly or unfriendly, when of course it is neither—it is simply not here yet.

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