Question: What do I want to do on the Fourth?
Answer: Avoid feeling like an idiot on the fifth.
It's time for a change. I’m going to start wanting something other than avoidance. I just have to figure out how that works.
Other people know how to want. My brother wants to visit all fifty states. A friend of mine wants to retire. Another wants to succeed in his business. A writing partner wants to finish the edits her agent has asked for. Her agent wants those edits.
They anticipate a time when their desires are fulfilled. They look forward to it. That sounds easy enough. Surely I look forward to something.
I look forward to hiking club on Sundays and writing group on Wednesdays.
Is that enough? My analytical mind calculates my looking forward to in relation to the average of everyone else’s looking forward to. I want to achieve a higher than average internal motivation level. Otherwise I’ll be jealous of the internal motivation levels everyone else has achieved. I want to avoid jealousy.
Oh dear. The analysis has circled right back to wanting avoidance.
The problem is too close to see clearly. Let me step back and approach it as a writing challenge. In writing group I learned about creating a plot. The Main Character of a novel or short story wants A Big Thing. Then the author throws obstacles in the path. The Main Character (MC for short) fails three times, succeeds partially, fails miserably, then risks everything for a final push, and ultimately succeeds brilliantly. The sun comes out, unless MC wanted rain, in which case, there’s a cloudburst. Without MC’s want and the ensuing conflict, you’ve got no story.
The story of my life has a plot problem.
The first obstacle to MC Dawn getting what she wants is clueless-ness. She doesn’t even know what she wants. So let’s toss her some clues.
Okay, she looks forward to hiking club and writing group. The last time she missed hiking club, she poked her lip out and whined all day. The last time writing group was cancelled, she wandered from living room to dining room to kitchen, ending up staring into the refrigerator, until her husband sat her in front of the television to watch Kung Fu Panda.
What goes on in those groups? Talking. But MC Dawn craves something more than talk. After all, talking politics makes her paranoid. Talking religion makes her sarcastic. Sports talk makes her comatose.
MC Dawn needs more clues. Let’s dig further.
Her hiking pals teach her about nature, which comes in handy since nature pops up every time she steps outside. Her hiking pals laugh quite a bit and quite loudly, too. She learns from them what happy sounds like. At the end of every hike they pose for a picture. The photo always looks like an album cover for a very cool band, whose members love being on the road together. MC's writing partners share their big ideas. They listen when MC shares hers. They nod in recognition when MC admits writing has taken over her life. They sigh in agreement when she describes the many ways she avoids writing, in spite of loving it. They teach her this whole new thing about main characters.
OMG. MC wants connection.
I want connection.
I know it's true, because the words catch in my throat. Connection is the heart of other Issues. Jealousy, for instance. I’ve poked fun at my tendency toward envy, but it's not funny on the inside. With this new information, it’s clear jealousy puts me at odds with the person I’m jealous of. It breaks our connection. Sports, politics, and religion fuel lopsided conversations, in which a person lectures me, while I duck away from the onslaught. Even when I agree with the content of the lecture, I feel devalued. And what are the most frequent bugaboos in my life? Isolation. Loneliness. Depression. OMG. Disconnection.
I want connection. The lack of it is familiar, but for the first time, I can put a name to it.
MC Dawn now has a goal, and she’s conquered the obstacle of clueless=ness. Other obstructions lie ahead, perhaps an explosion, maybe a car chase. She’ll risk everything, including her pride, and in the end, she’ll claim her heart’s desire.
Question: What am I going to do on the Fourth?
Happy Interdependence Day.
Dawn Downey's Four Steps to World Peace
UFM Community Learning Center, 1221 Thurston, Manhattan KS
Friday, July 14, 2017. 7:30 PM.
$10.00 at the door. Includes a signed book and refreshments.
Tell your friends in Manhattan, Kansas to come see me.