I’ve been thinking a lot in the last few weeks about unfinished business. I’ve been toying with the idea of writing an essay about being on the other side of the anguish I used to feel at having nothing to show for myself except the shoeboxes of poems written on scraps of paper, shelves of completed journals, 100 pages of an unfinished novel, a one-woman show only ever roughly shown to a couple of friends, another one-woman show that would never see the light of day, 250 pages of a memoir I couldn’t bring myself to edit, and gawd knows how many little essays and short stories that would never be loved by anyone but me.
I’m not writing that essay today. Today I’m remembering how it feels to wander around feeling like my inner gears are all gummed up. The idea for what was supposed to be last week’s blog post has been clearly outlined in my head for weeks, and I’ve just been waiting for the moment to sit down and let it out.
First I didn’t have time, then I didn’t have energy, and then I didn’t have enough excuses. I couldn’t write. Finally, at 6pm on Sunday night, I had to open up my computer and face the truth that I’d been avoiding all weekend: the idea for what was supposed to be last week’s blog post is gone. Or, well, its ghost is there, but the living, breathing body of it is just gone. When I was little, like many kids who have imaginary friends, I had “ghost friend” companions. These were little girls who were just like me except they were not alive. They hadn’t died; they had just never been born. That kind of ghost.
There’s a card I pull all the time in my Tarot readings, and it showed up again today as I was procrastinating facing the ghost of my post—the IV of Pentacles. In the funny little deck I have, the IV of Pentacles is depicted as a pig hugging his moneys to him.
This little sucker.
I should really make friends with him because he comes around so often. I’ll find myself fretting over something–something that’s happening that I don’t like or something that’s not happening when I want it to–and then it will dawn on me. I’ll shake my fist and say out loud, “It’s that little pig with his freaking coins!” When will I learn?!
The IV of Pentacles is about our tendency to cling to what we have.
He’s the hoarder in us—the miser. But the thing is, his clinginess keeps him impoverished. He might show up when we’re so focused on tending to certain material resources that we’re unable to see the spiritual resources we’re neglecting. Or he might sneak in when there are needed changes available for our lives, but we’re so afraid of losing something we have that we resist the shift and the abundance waiting for us.
The punchline of the angst of my twenties (well, one of the punchlines, anyway) was that I was so worried about and self-conscious of my unfinished projects that I clung to their ghosts (instead of Letting Die). I clung to their ghosts, like that little pig to his four measly coins, as if they were the only ideas I would ever have, as if not finishing them meant I would never finish anything.
I’m still learning this lesson, apparently.
So how do we unclog the works?
Today I’m of the suspicion that writer’s block–or maybe any block–isn’t the absence of ideas, it’s the sticky residue of the ghost of an expired idea we haven’t let go.
So, dear reader, I’d like to invite you to clean out the old leftovers from your refrigerator along with the salad dressing you’ll never use. Throw away the sweater in your closet that you bought for a previous version of you.
What is it you feel like you’re not getting? What are you hanging onto in the space where that new thing would go?
Give those four coins away to the next person who asks you for spare change on the street. The world is so drastically different every day, and we’ve got too much to do; we need all our hands free, not clenched into little piggy fists.