There is hardly a day on this earth when I don’t feel like expressing myself in some way. Whether through writing or art, photography or conversation, that’s the thing I live for.
But once in a while, it feels like all the ammunition’s gone. I have an empty magazine.
Those who know this blog will no doubt find my use of a gun reference to describe a state of mind quite ironic. But in this case, an empty magazine is both a good and a bad thing.
More than one time in my life I’ve also found myself shooting blanks. That’s not a sexual reference. Sperm potency was never a problem and I’m thankful for that. I have two grown children to show for that.
Yet as an endurance athlete, I’ve faced many situations in which I’ve “pulled the trigger” and nothing happened. Pumped the accelerator. Nothing. Sometimes our training and racing takes us to a point of emptiness. Hit the wall. Gave up the ghost. Shot the wad. And that was a sexual reference.
When I get tired, the preservation instinct that comes over me is one of ambivalence. I cease caring about the things I usually love. That can include the creative endeavors through which I feel truly alive.
And I hit a point of that stale consciousness this afternoon. The computer screen felt like a wall with scribbles on it. Even the dopamine normally pumped into action by social media just laid there.
Some of this comes from having just completed a project on which I’ve been working for more than a year. Pouring yourself into the writing of a book takes concentration bordering on obsession. But when you’re finished and send it off for review by willing readers, it’s normal to have a bit of a regressive phase.
It’s the opposite of grief, in a way. But just as exhausting in its way. It reminds me of the times when I’ve pushed through an entire competitive season of running. Training to a peak is quite a rush. There are risks involved, and that is true in writing too. Sometimes you get to a point where you realize there are thoughts to be rearranged. So you cut and move things around. Then it sings, and you almost sigh in relief.
That’s how it is with training too. You can map out a plan any way you like, but there are always periods where you have to break with the plan. Catch your breath. Change it up.
And for some reason, I was drawn this afternoon to a place where I used to spend much more time. Our public library is a big place, and the New Books shelf used to be a favorite haunt.
So did the magazine shelf. So I walked back there and perused the covers of magazines to which I once subscribed. Their covers were still familiar. The designs were still much the same.
It made me think of all the revelatory moments had while reading the words inside those magazines. Harper’s. Utne Reader. Even National Wildlife. They shaped me. Challenged me. There was Runner’s World on the shelf too. All that advice. What did I learn?
Today wasn’t the day I wanted to dig back into the magazines. My internal magazine was empty, you see. I was weaponless. Harmless. Content that I’d emptied my magazine for what I consider a very good cause. Which is nothing short of changing the world.
Some people choose to do that with a gun, emptying their magazines in a school, a church, a concert or a campus. That is their manifesto. But it is an uneducated guess fueled by the anger and complicity of all those who secretly share their fears, their prejudices or their sheer love of weaponry. To me, they’re all the same. The line between sanity and madness is as thin as the curved surface of a trigger. All it takes to breach the line is an appetite for self-expression and a touch of disenfranchisement. The result is carnage, intentional or not.
That’s why I’m happy to admit that my magazine is empty. My anger with this world has a healthy outlet. I may hurt people sometimes. That I will admit. But I also know that I’ve healed as well. Encouraged. Even inspired.
And that’s a magazine worth refilling.