My signed copy of Patti Digh's Life is a Verb showed up in the mail last week, and I've been keeping it close at hand on my writing desk where I can open it at random throughout the day to read a few pages at a time. I'm savoring the art, the wisdom, and, most especially, the stories. One favorite: the tale of 10-year-old Emma at her first auction. (No, sorry, I'll say no more. Go grab your own copy and turn to page 22. If you don't yet have a copy, for goodness' sake get one.)
In the back of her wonderful book, Patti has left us a reading list for further illumination. As if her book didn't offer illumination enough. On the list were many things I hadn't read. Never one to read one book at a time when I could be immersed in half a dozen, it was off to the library for me.
In my defense, look at these titles. They're irresistible.
I've already read through Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland, which is 120 pages of kind and practical thoughts about art and art making. Here's one insight I love:
"Art is made by ordinary people."
Yes. Moreover, say the authors, the ideal artist is ordinary, too. Human, flawed. Just like you. Just like me. Here's another:
"What's really needed is nothing more than a broad sense of what you are looking for, some strategy for how to find it, and an overriding willingness to embrace mistakes and surprise along the way."
These guys aren't just writing about art, are they. They're writing about life.
Speaking of which... in the midst of this influx of bountiful wisdom courtesy of Patti, I had what is probably the most obvious of epiphanies, and I'll share it if only to show you that you're never too old to begin to get this stuff. It dawned on me that this thing we're all doing, this daily showing up, this is it. I mean, This is It. This is not preamble, prelude, rehearsal, introduction. This is not training, preparation, rough draft. This is Life. Yours, mine. We're in it. This is The Show.
I told you it was obvious. So how is it I've managed to go so long without really getting it?
This is The Show.
I wrote that in big letters in my morning pages journal. THIS IS THE SHOW. And then, strange things started to happen.
I got a check in the mail for six pieces of art I sold.
I got a call to teach a class.
I got a request to perform with my guitar at a Peace & Justice event, where I will sing some of my own songs and get paid for it.
And I realized that these things, and a million other small things like them, are the substance of my life. They're not what I do while I wait for my life to begin. They're not side jobs. They are IT. They are The Show.
Reader, it is as though I've been dancing around the narrow edge of a great empty space that I've been holding open for the day my life arrives. Suddenly the empty space is full of what was always there. It's solid ground, and I'm free to dance across its entire surface. Has my life finally arrived? You could say that. Has it been there all along? Well, what do you think?
I said yes to the performance, yes to the class. I deposited the check and sent my thanks to the Universe (and to the sender.) And now I send them to Patti, whose book has started something. I'm not sure what, exactly, but it looks like life to me.