Sweet Dreams Are Made of This — The Coffee Filter
So I’m going through an existential crisis, realizing that lying to myself is counterproductively exhausting and instead of bringing me closer to creating a self-sustaining life it only pushes me farther away from one. I’m exhausted with a “content”-oversaturated world, I’m exhausted with the internet, and I’m exhausted with what a friend calls “self-erasing” professions that are 1000% about the other person.
I’m exhausted with having the same date three nights in a row with three different men (it went like this: I sat across the table from them for three hours apiece and listened to them witter on about impersonal and inconsequential matters nonstop and then it was time to go).
I’m exhausted with pretending to be someone I have no interest in being because I think that’s the only way I’ll ever earn a living, when so far that pretend someone has never earned a dime.
I’m exhausted with feeling like I have to save all of mankind, when mankind repeatedly shows me it has zero interest in being saved — because, dude, you have to want my help in order for anything to work. Otherwise it’s just a waste of time.
I am really exhausted with Hustle. And with its handmaidens: Deception, Inflation, and Manipulation. Trying to sell snake oil hasn’t successfully sold anything. All it did was tire me out and leave me that much poorer.
I’m exhausted with wasting my energy on things that don’t make me any money and that I don’t want to do, because I think I have to do them in order to make money, and then I have little time and energy left for the things I do want to do.
That night I draw the Fool. What would I do if I weren’t governed by fear? What secret self would flourish if I were not terrified of penury and social banishment? If I had someone assuring me that these fearful admissions were not as evil as I thought they were, but rather they were amoral, or even right and good, and that these were ok things to admit, that these were safe traits to accept, what would I say?
I can’t allow myself to think the words at first. I know God will strike me dead with his most Old Testamenty of lightning bolts. But then I do secretly let myself think some of them, encouraged by a friend of mine having already opened the door and shared similar words. God hadn’t stricken her dead, so maybe I would be ok.
I had returned to language school and felt smote by the crushing weight of guilt. I, who am supposed to be a reverently nonjudgmental compassionate extrovert Alpha leader who loves humanity, don’t actually like many people (sorry, People). I find the company of many people deeply draining, deeply boring, and deeply wasteful of my precious energy. I don’t think I’ve ever allowed myself to admit that (at least not so thoroughly) until the last couple days , because of the gigantic social and financial taboo against such an admission. But…what makes me a leader often makes me deeply lonely for people amongst whom I don’t have to be a leader, for people who are as free and as inspiring and as visionary as I am. I tire of the very flock of sheep I am supposed to be tending. I am fortunate to have beautiful friends and I treasure them, my tribe…and yet get to spend time with them in person so rarely!
I also admit that I am not interested in being a “therapist.” It’s all in the name. I am not a “nurturing” person. I am not a “gentle” person. I am not even a “caring” person, although I have been known to spontaneously care about particular individuals. I am not good at the social construct henceforth referred to as “Woman,” and never have been, and never will be. I am awesome at real feminine energy, but the real stuff tends not at all to look like what society refers to as “Woman,” and “Therapist” falls into the same trap. I’m not interested in therapy. I’m not interested in sheep. I’m not even interested in helping people. (Thunderbolts, lightning flashes.) I love playing at solving puzzles, I love evolving, I love discovering, I love noticing, I love feeling useful, and I love cracking codes. People are awesome puzzles, and my version of solving their puzzles helps them heal and grow. But I am inherently self-interested.
I want my life to matter for me. I want my voice to matter. I want a break from suffering fools, which is not something I do gladly, I want money, I want freedom from worry and fear, and I want permission for the analog world to matter. I want to wash my hands of “Content” and internet shysters and information-free “Online Seminars” and digital bullshit. Instead of feeling guilty when I step away from my computer (because if I’m not literally staring at a screen, how can I be professionally proactive, financially sensible, or socially existent), I want permission for real stuff to matter and for the nonsense of the internet to disappear with the dawn.
What would I do if I weren’t governed by fear and personally-instigated falsehoods?
That morning I woke up and there was an email from my mom, saying that gosh, if I could just get a literary agent and an editor, instead of wasting my efforts with blogs and self-publishing, that whole writing thing could be good (I paraphrase). And I think, well, my subconscious has been telling me that clearly for a long time by now, but there’s no money in writing.
Then I remember that I haven’t gotten any money out of all the other crap I’ve tried to do instead, that was supposed to make money.
Wouldn’t that be exactly the kind of Fool’s leap that could only happen if one were not governed by fear?
A world of real stuff, a world where my voice mattered, a world where I didn’t have to pretend extroversion, a world where I didn’t have to save the world, a world where I didn’t have to be a therapist, and a world where I would only have to interact with people who wanted to receive what I had to offer!
A world where I could tell the truth!
That’s crazy shit there, no matter how strongly my nighttime dreams and my coffee were telling me exactly what was right for me.
I am curious. I’ve never tried asking the coffee grounds a direct question before. What would happen if I asked them what they thought about this whole “Writer” question?
I look into my Arabic coffee grounds and I see Julie Walters as Meryl Streep’s sidekick in Mamma Mia!, waving a turquoise feather boa at me and looking me in the eye and singing, “take a chance on me!”
That’s nice, I think, but irrelevant. I should have known better than to ask the coffee grounds a question. That was so linear and mansplainy of me.
I look again.
Julie Walters waves her boa more firmly under my nose and looks me more firmly in the eye and sings, “take a chance on me!”
“Great,” I say. “But who are you?”
“I am your heart,” I hear. “I am your soul.”
Julie sings, “if you change your mind, I’m the first in line! Honey, I’m still free!
Take a chance on me!”
“I’m still not getting it,” I think. “I don’t understand. Who are you?”
“I am your heart,” I hear. “I am your soul.”
Julie looks me in the eye and sings, “gonna do my very best, and it ain’t no lie! If you put me to the test, if you let me try!
Take a chance on me!”
“Huh,” I say. “Show me more. What do you mean?”
I go into Julie’s eyes like a portal and find myself sitting in a book-lined study in a leather armchair holding a quill. The I in the chair looks into my eyes and picks up the quill and through the quill prepares to pour all the rainbows, struggles, joys, and confusion of life that I bear witness to in my real life.
“I’m a channel,” I think. “All that stuff I notice in the universe, it comes through me and through the quill and goes out stronger and clearer; it becomes real by being filtered through me.
Well I was already doing that anyway, and always have done, since I could first hold a crayon. Maybe I should start to do…that!”
I come out of the cup and am sitting back in my chair.
“I’m a filter,” I think.
I look at my coffee grounds and laugh.
“I’m a coffee filter!”
Take a Chance on Me. ABBA. Cast of Mamma Mia.