There are some seasons in this beautiful life when I sail smoothly. My mind is quiet, my heart basically happy, the days busy as ever but manageable. These seasons are nestled between a very specific pattern in which I begin to question. And then doubt. And then crash full-force into a crisis of faith, geography, or career – generally one of those. On the other side of this crisis, there comes a breakthrough I shall now and evermore refer to as big magic. (If this description of me surprises you, you might not know me that well. If it seems about right, you’re probably a dear friend or a blog reader. If you could have written it about me yourself, you are family and should know that I am really much, much better than I used to be. If you are Michael, all I can say is I’m sorry and it’s a good thing you still think I’m hot.)
I can map to the month this entire year with the above pattern. It began with the sailing then whipped pretty quickly into a nice little crisis of faith. These don’t scare me really. They happen when you’re determined not to run from doubts and questions when it comes to your belief system. I rather run toward doubts and questions, I think. Because I love the clarity that comes out of them, even if the clarity is oh, I don’t have to be able to explain that. To this whirling crisis, came the peace-be-still of a book, Aloof by Tony Kriz, and my year was marked by that blessed altar. (My favorite phrase, “the suspicious presence of God” – oh, I love that suspicion.)
I lived in that calm quite a while and then dove headfirst into a crisis of career. I remain one of the 80-85% of Americans who don’t exactly feel called to the work they do by day. But sometimes I feel in a much smaller percentage for how often and how dramatically I wish my days could be a very specific and different kind of work: this blog, my books, future screenplays, and any other creative writing I could manage to get paid for. I long for this. And it turns me into an ingrate of the first order, so desperate to escape my 8-5 prison that I can’t figure out why more of us don’t meet in the bathroom crying.
The salve for this crisis came from a familiar voice in a book so appropriately titled Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. With this book (subtitle: creative living beyond fear), I found the second calming anchor to this beautiful year. In it Gilbert convinced me to stop, stop, stop demanding of my art that it pay for my living. The entire book is about simply having a creative life, a life beyond the 8 to 5, one filled with passion and with things that bring us joy. And then she suggests it is cruel to ask our joy to pay for our groceries (or our children’s orthodontia), so to speak. I believed every word. I took it in like medicine (really delicious medicine, like Mary Poppins medicine), and at the end when she said to calm down and get back to work, I cried. And then I got back to (my glorious, creative) work, perspective renewed.
Now, despite the pattern, I actually do have my own peace of mind on speed dial. I notice little magic all the time to help me through the not-so-happy-sailing times. And I try very hard not to need big magic very often. That’s why my year is marked by only two such miracles so far (so lovely that they came from books). And then, so shortly after Big Magic, it happened again, one of those gifts from life so defining you can hardly believe you’re a part of it. It happened after I explained a movie plot to Jake (The Age of Adaline). “Oh I’d like that,” Jake said, “To stay the same age forever. But not yet. I want to have a family first. I’ll wait until I have the perfect life and then stop aging.” His only criteria for a perfect life is to have a family? So I asked him, “Do you think I have the perfect life?”
Yes, he said. I do.
I have to agree with him, because that’s not quite all the big magic I’ve had lately. Thanks to some happy news on Friday, October 16, this perfect life now comes with six more months free of suspicion for cancer.
Really. There is magic everywhere.