I'm 25 years old and unmarried, so when it comes to relationships I think of Ygritte's mantra in A Song of Ice and Fire, turned into the HBO series Game of Thrones, "You know nothing, Jon Snow." Never mind who Ygritte or Jon Snow are, just know that every five sentences or so she says to him the same thing, "You know nothing, Jon Snow." I, too, know nothing--about relationships anyway--about any other subject I know everything.
Still, I know enough about relationships, romantic and other relationships, to know what kind of effect they have on writing and one's quest for fame and success. I've said in an earlier post that I don't really approve of external muses: my muse is my mind, and to the extent that anyone or anything other than my mind can be my muse it's only because they calm me so to allow my mind to operate the way it should when I'm trying to write. In that sense, God and my bike, Cato, are more muse-like than any passionate love affair could be (I suppose that I should write about Cato in a later post, eh?). Sorry ladies, you won't ever be my muse and fulfill your dream of sneaking into literature or having a passionate love affair with a sexy poet. Won't happen. So if I don't believe in muses and I know little about relationships in general, what am I doing here? Well, I am in love.
Love love love. I had told myself after graduating seminary, and even before really, not to distract myself with romantic relationships (perhaps my next post will be about other types of relationships, who knows... I don't) because they are, in fact, distracting. Romantic relationships are exciting, satisfying, lovely, peaceful, and for depression-prone folk like me, stabilizing. All of that is true with Danielle, my not-exactly-hippie Vermont love. According to her, I light up when I see her, and I can imagine I do because she makes me feel terrifyingly wonderful. We both have promised each other to do things right and take it all slow, but when you fall in love with someone that you know intellectually is a good fit for you it's hard to stick to the slow part, though doing things right always takes priority. Of course, doing things right is a must when the couple is composed of a Catholic and an almost-Catholic. Yet, despite the fact that I'm head over heels for her, and we're a good fit, and we're both Geminis, and I think our families will love each other and most importantly love us, and she's as beautiful as the sky is blue, and she's a level 2 Reiki healer person, which is awesome; still I know that she is a distraction.
Whaaaa?! A distraction??? She may not like reading that very much. But, I trust that she knows it's true to some extent. While thinking of her and talking to her and spending time with her may keep my mind fresh and thinking of new ideas, new lines, and new situations; and may ignite in me a new understanding of the heights of love and passion; theoretically all the time that I am talking to her or spending time with her is time not spent writing. The fact that she lives in Vermont and I'm here in the Boston area, which is a far better place to live, clearly, makes everything harder: traveling there and back is exhausting, and when we are together we must make the most of it, which is exhausting. Obviously exhausting and exhilarating simultaneously, perhaps far more exhilarating than exhausting, but nonetheless exhausting. Same will be true when she visits. Since she has an actual job we have talked about my staying with her for longer than a weekend; I know, too, that the initial stages of a relationship are much more time and wallet-consuming than it is after settling in. At that point the relationship will be less of a distraction than it is now. I mean, I can't be writing all day every day, or I'd go insane, and it makes sense that my "break" time would be spent with someone I love. Even then, though, being a writer and working hard towards far-off fame and success in any area takes a lot of commitment and a lot of time, I cannot simply settle into the rhythm of life and be okay with where I am.
Learning how to manage romantic relationships, then, is a key to being a writer or an artist. First of all it clearly requires that your significant other understands, encourages, and supports your work. But it also requires your thinking clearly about what you want: if a romantic relationship will always feel like a distraction from what you most want to do in and with your life, then maybe you should think about staying away from a relationship, no matter how much you may love someone. And if you don't think of the relationship as a distraction, either because you really want it or you so love the person that you can't think of a relationship with them as a distraction, then you need to work extra hard to set aside loads of time to pursue your own goals. If in one, three, five, ten, twenty years you think you may feel like anything nearing a failure who let life pass by indifferently, and you may regret it--regret that your life has become something you never wanted, then you better not get involved.
No matter how you feel about a person, or persons I guess, if you're into polygamy, and no matter how great the relationship with that person may be, hard choices have to be made. There has to be some discipline in your life. Well, a lot of discipline. I imagine that for a writer or artist the need for discipline is greater because we don't have 9-5 schedules, we make our own schedules generally and basically. But no matter who you are, a life without discipline will secure your place in mediocrity--and if you can't institute discipline in your life without depressing yourself, stressing yourself out to the point of illness, exhausting yourself, or anything other than a sort of peaceful determination, mixed with a strong intensity, then you are likewise condemning yourself to mediocrity.
Some people say they prefer mediocrity or being in the middle of the pack. Feigned humility often plays a part here. But let's be real, most of us dream for greatness and will not truly be content unless we attain it.
Instituting discipline in my life is the name of my game for the next few months, particularly in the coming weeks. As long as the Tour de France runs, this will be very difficult. After that, though, discipline will be my main goal, especially in terms of my relationship with Danielle. In this case, discipline is very loose, because passion needs to flow where it will I suppose.
Luckily for me, and strangely, the more that I talk to and spend time with my love and think that she is a distraction to me, the better. While she may not like my constant frustration, it is my frustration that she is a distraction that will best motivate me to write and institute the needed discipline in my life. In fact, I've been writing more in the past couple of weeks when my relationship has been most a distraction. Perhaps my love is my muse, you might say. Whatever the case, I've been able to translate my frustration in being distracted into greater determination, though I've been on the verge of depression a number of times. That's key, too, obviously. So, let's hope that I learn how to not be distracted while remaining in this wonderful relationship, and hope also that I stay distracted as much as possible.