Wednesday, August 15, 2007     « On Making Happy »


It has been a mostly anger-filled day. Gardening helped for a while. But now I need to write something.

I've been so quiet lately. I don't seem to write much of substance here anymore. It's partly that I am very often too busy to sit down and form complete sentences that lead to complete paragraphs. I have not been too busy with work or too busy with the gardens... well I have been busy with the gardens. But I've mostly been busy with taking care of the business of myself. This business has been sucking up a lot of my time and has become like a part-time job. A part-time job that doesn't put money in the bank (in fact it takes money out) but has gone a long way in helping me sort through the things that need to be sorted. I just know very intuitively and deeply that I am never going to live fully until I get this monkey off my back. But the damn thing does not want to let go easily.

I have also been quiet in part because the more I push myself out into the world in new places in my life the more I find myself contracting in other ways. I am much, much bolder than I have ever been and I am finding that the bolder I become the more intensely my defenses rev up in an attempt to shut that down and self-protect.

A really great TV show is coming here at the end of the month to film me, my gardens, my friends, and my world for an episode to be aired later in the year. [Hello TV show people!] I'm purposefully avoiding naming the show here because I'm not sure if I am supposed to reveal this much publicly yet. Anyhow, what I love about this show is that it isn't like any other show on gardening out there. It doesn't teach people how to garden through the use of pleasantly authoritative talking heads or makeover show and tells. There is no spritely middle-aged suburbanite with perfect teeth and a flowery vest demonstrating how to plant a peony or apply Miracle Gro to a pot of marigolds. Instead this is a documentary show that explores passionate gardeners; who they are, why they garden, how they got to be where they are, and what they are doing. The show is a really good blend of two of my favorite things: gardening and documentary.

As you can imagine I pretty much near passed out when they called almost 2 years ago to talk about doing an episode on me. During the time that has elapsed since I didn't question why they wanted to do an episode about me. I didn't allow myself to get too excited or bent-out-of-shape about it. Throughout the initial 2 hour pre-interview, the phone calls, and the what-nots I didn't think too hard about what this was or how it might effect me. I mostly just put it out of my mind and went on with my life. One thing I have learned through this "career change" and about television in general is that it happens when it happens. It either does, or it doesn't. The end.

And now the time is drawing closer to when a crew will arrive with cameras to capture me, for lack of a better word, on video cassette or whatever the new-fangled technology the kids are using these days. All of this is making me think and feel a thing or two. This show goes pretty in depth into the lives of its subjects looking at every conceivable angle. I like that about it but it also scares me because now I am a subject and I have to figure out what I want about my life to be out there in the world on a TV scale and I have to prepare myself for the possible fallout that is inevitable. Because I know that no matter what I say and no matter how amazingly this turns out, it is going to be a difficult and painful picture for me to look at. And I am scared of the reactions from other people. When the book was coming out I prepared myself to be attacked. And then I wasn't. But I kept expecting it. And even though the attacks didn't come there is still this small, unhealthy part of me that is certain its only a matter of time. And I know this is only going to be worse because if people didn't think I deserved to write a book then they sure as hell are not going to believe that I deserve to be the subject of a documentary show on gardeners. On the surface I know I need to just say, "Fuck it." Who cares. It doesn't matter. And most of the time I can. And I do. While two years have passed and I have grown and changed and healed wounds and taken huge strides in that time, there is this deep-seated fear that who I am and the experiences I have had are so dangerous and explosive that neither they nor I -- the whole of who I am -- can ever be revealed publicly because the consequences of that are inconceivable. There is a logic to this fear regardless of how irrational it reads.

So I was explaining all of this to a friend and after listening to what I had to say, she asked me what I want and what felt most true to me. And I replied to her that my intuition is always to talk and to say what I have to say. The real me can't shut the fuck up. I worry about this because when I am comfortable and when I allow my defenses to come down I am very spontaneous and I tend to speak freely. Too freely. And that makes me feel very dangerous to both myself and to other people... especially the relatives, and my mother and the people out there who hate the fact that I am out here in the world at all, let alone out here in the world with a voice. Through the course of our discussion my friend directed me to this talk by Eve Ensler the creator of The Vagina Monologues at the Ted Conference where she talks about finding happiness. My friend thought I would find some of the connection I needed in Eve's words and she was right. Her words remind me a lot of the title of this site, which for me began with the intuitive feeling that I could find real happiness in my life by taking action and that if I allowed myself to express who I am wholly that I would be able to release this choking feeling that (it was a number of years ago now) had become so strong that I literally felt for a time like I couldn't breathe.

"When we give in the world what we want the most, we heal the broken part inside each of us.... Happiness exists in action. It exists in telling the truth and in saying what your truth is, and it exists in giving away what you want the most."

I was also drawn to this bit from an interview with that partially explains the logic of my fear: Have you always talked so openly about topics that are traditionally considered taboo?

Ensler: I've always been a little extreme. I've always had a very deep hunger to talk about what was going on, because no one where I grew up ever wanted to talk about what was going on, and it made me feel insane.

A few weeks back, while talking to the director of my episode, she asked me to think about what I want out of this experience. Later that afternoon, while riding my bike down beautiful tree-lined city streets with the wind and the sun hitting my face (these summer bike rides are some of my happiest alone times), I suddenly felt a wave of emotion come over me. I kept going but considered pulling over as the emotions got stronger and the being-unable-to-breathe feeling welled up. At that moment my mind had wandered and I had been thinking about the answer to the director's question about what I wanted. It terrified me. It terrified me that I would have to trust these people in the way that I need to trust them (or ultimately trust myself) in order to make what I want happen. And it terrified me that this could be a really good experience and I could actually get what I want. And even more, I could get what I want and I could be wholly and truly accepted in that.

And that brings me back to the quote from Eve Ensler. Because what I want, and what I have been working really hard at for years is to heal. To be who I am underneath the burden of my past experiences and own those experiences instead of them owning me. And that means that no matter how scared I am of an outcome that is unknown, I need to step up, be active, and make it happen. I have to have courage and be brave enough to put into the world what I most want. And what I most want is to be this person that I know I am without fear getting in the way. And to know and feel in my heart that I am not alone.

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