Letter Z is as much for Zenning out as it is for rocking out.
A to Z entries: My post for each letter of the alphabet will be anecdotes or musings based on an element from the previous letter’s post. Names always changed, events always real.
~ Letter Y was for You, and really, so is letter Z and…Zenning out. ~
Never start off weak. Flawed or irrelevant, fine. But weak? No. And certainly not in writing, because no one will read past your first sentence, be it the first line of your screenplay, poem or article. Explanation, introduction and exposition are better woven in after. Besides, the temporary de-anchoring of your reader can be a good kind of disorientating.
But even more crucial is not ending weakly. If someone gracious follows your words to the very end, they are in fact, led by a promise. Your promise. Ending strongly is not only the fulfillment of it, but a thank you.
I’m not depriving you of a proper thesis and set up for this post. There’s a clear outline in my head with satisfying cause and effect — my meaning of Zenning out; how it applies to the last post in this A to Z exercise; its second meaning beyond the self-contained context. And a clever little anecdote or two in between…
But I’m letting the writing go where it will. I want to take the disorienting ride along with you, right up to the end, to the thank you that doesn’t say the words.
First though, the thanks that does:
Thank you for sticking by me, for seeing me through this task that ruled my every day for the past month. Thank you for listening to me about giving up quitting and being an (artistic!) itinerant. Most of all, thanks for letting me post unfinished, typo-riddled missives at 11:59 PM in this late and most liberal of times zones, Pacific Time. I polished the incomplete posts all through the night, and you pretended along with me that I was sticking to my A to Z’s.
I did stick to them though, in the end.
It felt like nine months. And all along I wondered if I would carry to full term. This, coming from a woman who has never borne children. A woman who’s dismayed that nowadays she calls herself woman as often as she does girl.
Woman is Zen, girl is Rock ‘n Roll.
I am not a Zen type by nature, in the same way that I am Rock ‘n Roll. There’s a natural intensity to me — I exert more muscle strength than necessary. My jaw is toned because I chew food harder than other people. Writing with a pen tones my arm. If I scratch an itch, it might bleed. I slam on the keyboard like it’s a tribal drum. I like thunder, combat boots and black.
People will tell you, H. is very feminine. Perhaps in some respects. Little bones help. But sneezing, brushing my hair, or taking off my jacket are not delicate affairs. I have a firm handshake and I don’t fear confrontation to the point that I might have been an asshole if I didn’t bleed compassion. I don’t consider it a curse that speed and trouble give me a high, and that I get restless easily.
Well, less easily now. And there you have it.
Zenning out, you see.
Rock ‘n Roll keeps you young, my old notes say. In that case, Zenning out keeps you peaceful. My uninsured car was stolen and I didn’t throw a fit. Zenning out means knowing there would be no point. Perhaps I’m lucky in that mishaps befallen me haven’t crossed my Zen threshold. Zenning out is an acquired ability. It’s a gift of time and experience. That’s why woman is Zen and girl isn’t. The one good thing about aging is how comfortable you become being you.
Of course, I don’t know what Zen is, not truly. And I didn’t research it before beginning this writing because I somehow felt my broad-strokes knowledge of it was integral to the post, perhaps to prove, See, I’m Rock ‘n Roll and not Zen, I don’t even know what Zen is!
I once hit a piñata, and with two misses and one deft strike, it broke. It was at a wrap party on the stage of a black-box theatre. I had studied the guy raising and lowering the blue donkey in time to the blindfolded victim’s haphazard swinging, and I realized he did it with an unconscious rhythmic pattern. So when it was my turn to put the blindfold on, I was ready. Like the sword of a dragon-slayer, I swung the bat three times — whack, whack, crunch! — with such force that I worried, oh god, they’re all gonna think I’m mentally unstable. Out poured the cheap candy and I walked sheepishly toward A.
“Tell the truth, did I seem like a crazy person?” I asked A.
“No,” he shook his head and looked pleased, “you were like Sid Vicious!” I beamed. Smashing the piñata was my Rock ‘n Roll moment.
Later, in an acting conservatory, Zen and the Art of Archery was required reading. The instructor announced it after his lecture on an actor’s training being no different than a dancer’s bar exercises or a pianist’s scales.
I never read the book. I was impatient, apparently not Zen enough, but I pieced together that for the duration of the entire book, the wretched archery student is allowed by his sadistic master to only pull, but not release, the godforsaken bowstring. I, a devoted disciple of instant gratification, viewed this as an elaborate mind-fuck, and not some spiritual exercise of bowstring-pulling mastery. No thank you, I was guitar-smashing Rock ‘n Roll. I should’ve been on a roller derby team with torn fishnets, a mouth-guard and a black eye! None of this yogic calm suited me. Or so I thought.
It takes years to accept you can be peaceful and patient, and that it doesn’t mean the Rock ’n Roll’s gone out of you. I came to realize much of what I called intense, was just tense. I came to realize, calm is good.
And in my way, I have finally completed a dogged Zen-like exercise, from A to Z. Wherever I had to be, whatever else I had to do, there was always a letter of the alphabet looming over me. I had to constantly fight my intrinsic urge to break free. But I made it through, and you came along with me. You helped me.
In the end, I’m left with topics and formats I might have never explored. Like Zen.
And this fills me with a pleasing calm.
~ Part of the A to Z Challenge ~
A post a day except Sunday for the month of April to cover topics beginning with each letter of the alphabet.
Cathartic Monkeyism returns in May.
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