I haven’t blogged in a couple of weeks. I know that’s obvious, and so I’m not stating it to be informative. I think it’s more of a confession for my own sake. Like one part of me is looking at the other with a disapproving expression, wagging her finger, saying “You have not blogged, young lady.” And the part of me that is looking back is scuffing the ground with her shoe painted over in shame, going “Although I am ashamed, I do like the sound of young lady.”
The fact is, we’ve gone on a few trips and have a few more planned, and to be honest, when I travel it unleashes a very large very angry bull into the delicate and insanely unstable china shop that is my writing life. So when I come home from a trip, I sit here for days lamenting over why I can’t seem to get my engine revved up again, and then that turns into something I obsess over and then I watch a movie to take my mind off the obsession, then I feel guilty for watching a movie and the guilt turns into shame and the shame turns into anxiety and the anxiety turns into a fear that I’ll never write again! It’s a really exhausting meltdown to have at any time. It’s downright debilitating to have it every few weeks.
When we got home Monday, I got up and took the kids to school, then came home and tried to write and of course there it was … the great big Empty. No writing. No journaling. No exercising. No nothing.
For better or worse, I know this creepy forest and so I recognize it right away when I see it. “Oh yes, there’s that chilling breeze, and that haunting tree branch and cue the bats and distant sound of hooting owls and strange unidentifiable grunts in the night.” But just because I know it, doesn’t mean I’m not freaked out by it.
As I was sitting in my living room, in the throws of this awful cycle I know all too well, drinking my coffee and reading the news on my phone, I somehow mindlessly swiped through so many unrelated random articles, I ended up reading far more than is ever necessary about poison, of all things … and all of sudden the next thing I knew, I was exercising in my bedroom.
That’s really weird, so let me unpack that for you.
In ancient China, the women didn’t so much love this idea that married men would saunter about and cheat on their wives and then saunter back home as if nothing had happened. And so stories and rumors began to circulate about women seducing would-be cheating scoundrels, secretly poisoning them, and then sending them on their way to meet their doom — if they were lucky enough to make it home before dying, their wife may be good hearted enough to give them an antidote, or you know … maybe not. Maybe it had “expired” on the same day he was cheating on his wife. Know what I mean?
The poison was a “DIY,” “made from scratch with love” sort of concoction the seductresses whipped up themselves and they made it in such a way, it makes me think they had to have been cheated on themselves and therefore had some pretty jaded axes to grind, and therefore became the vigilante heroes of the womanizing underworld. Ridding society of scoundrels one at a time.
They would start by placing three to five venomous creatures in a jar. Say, a scorpion, a spider and a centipede … sometimes snakes and frogs or toads too. In China, these things were referred to as “chong” and were thought to be evil spirits with the power to possess humans. One of each would be sealed into the same jar and left there for days. Keep in mind, this is not your run of the mill, McDonald’s brand poison, quickie-mart poison. It’s a low and slow Capital Grill type poison, so you best not be in a hurry to use it. You have to wait for these creatures to fight. All of those nasty creepy crawlies sit in that confined space and battle to the death, devouring the dead as they go. After a few days, only one remains. All the other baddies have been killed and eaten and one stands alone with a sizable food baby, a victorious sense of conquest, and — according to legend — completely chock full of a combo, gamma radiated, Avengers grade, super-venom that works as slowly and cunning as the women and creatures who made it. They called it “Gu” which I assume is pronounced “goo” and seems woefully underwhelming and not scary enough at all, but then I don’t speak Chinese and have no idea what I’m talking about. The point is it’s made now and then it is extracted by that person who made it because a gentleman is in her parlor and she has some poisoning to do.
Once the poison has been administered, there is more waiting. (Remember … this is not your Big Mac. This is your dry aged steak.) It could take as long as 10 days to work. So the idea is that you give it to the person you obviously hate or the lying cheating lowlife of a man who was sniffing around your skirt, then they go about their business, and ten days later they die … destroyed by the poison from the inside out. No weird suspicious rashes or excessively foaming mouths, or any sort of mess to clean up. They’ve simply died of Gu posioning. And the world is less one lying’ cheatin’ two timin’ philanderer.
Now it’s almost Halloween and all that, so maybe a freakish poison story is apropos, but that’s not why I’ve chosen to tell it. No, the fact is, the way that poison was made and how it worked, got me thinking. And probably since I was on day four of week two of feeling very much unable to write, that poison got me thinking about my writing. And I realized that sometimes, I make a poison very similar to that, myself. I open my jar and lock venomous creatures together in there for days. Only instead of snakes and centipedes and scorpions and spiders … my trapped “chong” is made up of thoughts. Mainly thoughts about my career as a writer. And they sound something like “I have nothing to say.” “Who do I think I am?” “Everything has already been said before and probably said better.” “Why bother?” And always, after a few days of that, the one left standing and made more powerful and poisonous than all the rest, is “Why bother?” and then I sit still, and I remain there for days while that poisonous venom gnaws me into bits from the inside out.
So what is the antidote?
Well, in the case of venom, it’s usually anti-venom … or antivenin. And interestingly enough you need more of the relevant venom to make it. You inject it into a non-venomous domestic animal, the animal will produce antibodies which are then extracted and injected into the affected victim or patient.
What does that have to do with any of this? Well, simply that into order to overcome something, you often have to face it a second time. You have to identify it, and then rework it, and then use what you’ve learned to overcome it. Nothing … not a problem, not a poison, not an existential meltdown or writers block can be outrun. If left to their own devices, they will outlast and outdo you.
Anyway, all of that sort of hit me at once. So, I decided to take the antidote. If my thoughts are the poison, then my thoughts have fight the poison too. But I need thoughts that I’ve conjured in the healthy parts of me. And so I started with what I knew was good for me. Exercise and journaling. And guess what? From there, I got ideas. And ideas lead to more ideas and those ideas blossomed too. I called my friend Teri, who always has a positive word and I drank some nice hot tea and spent some time quietly letting the warmth of the tea and friendship and health spread into the colder stiff places and before I knew I felt like maybe I could write again.
It doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing here, exactly. They say you should find a “niche” but any of the ones I’ve tried to apply, have felt foreign so far, so whatever “type” of blog this is or will be still eludes me. But I’ve come back to it, at any rate and it didn’t take too terribly long to do so. I’ll chalk that up to experience and also my handy antivenin, and I’ll be sure to keep it close by.