Nearly two years ago, in February, I saw Prince in concert at Madison Square Garden. I went alone and enjoyed feeling part of the collective, the whole audience intoxicated by his performance. At the end of "Purple Rain" he yelled, "Let go and let God, people!"
I've heard the phrase before, but I'd never really thought about what it meant until that moment. I sat back in the dark and wondered where it was that I needed to surrender.
A few days later, I rode in the back of a cab with a friend who asked me how the concert was. Thinking of the end, when Prince played songs such as this one, I told him, "Amazing. I'm pretty sure I got pregnant."
I should know better than to make jokes like these.
Back in early 2006, I went around telling friends that my New Year's resolution was to get pregnant. As a decidedly-single chain-smoker, I wasn't serious, not in the least. I wanted direction, not kids, and so I started writing a book, thinking that this would cure my existential angst. But I was motivated by desperation, not truth. And it showed.
By the end of May, I set the book aside, deciding to exist without the pressure of having to produce something creative. Around this time, I picked up a Village Voice and read my Aquarian horoscope, which informed me that my power animal was the queen bee. Since the queen bee happens to be "stupendously fertile," the horoscope went on to suggest that, in order to give birth to my creative ideas, I should treat myself with the same care I would a woman who is nine months pregnant. I remembered my New Year's resolution and thought, weird.
Following the advice, I started eating well, exercising, and getting regular sleep. Life was pleasant.
Three months later, I was walking around SoHo when I suddenly realized the key to the book I'd been struggling with. Beginning that day, I wrote obsessively until I had a 600-page first draft. The writing process took a little more than nine months.
Oddly enough, as the writing progressed, I started having pregnancy dreams. In the one that recurred most frequently, the labor was easy, almost too easy. These dreams reflected my waking reality. Not only was the "birthing" of the book a pain-free experience, it was also ecstatic.
Coming up with a second project wasn't easy. Getting knocked up creatively requires surrender, an act I found especially difficult in the aftermath of my book's publication. Last year, I attempted to start two new projects, but the timing wasn't quite right. I kept stalling.
Against my better judgment, I tried forging ahead. Then, in late June of this year, the theme of pregnancy suddenly resurfaced. I had a dream that I was supposed to give birth to twins that night. But when I looked at my stomach, there was hardly a bump. Realizing that I couldn't give birth to nothing, I began crying and couldn't stop.
When I woke up, I knew exactly what had to happen. Time to let go.
Total surrender is not my natural inclination. The unknown terrifies me as much as the next person, although this fear has considerably lessened over the last two years, out of necessity. I've practiced letting go of many things: relationships built on shaky foundations, bags of clothing, two great apartments, a therapist, my beloved Sunday night dance group, other people's expectations, family influences that don't jibe with my sense of well-being, false ideas about who I am, false ideas about who other people are and, perhaps most importantly, the instinct to mask what my heart really feels.
In Shadows on the Path, Abdi Assadi writes, "One of our ego's false presumptions is that it can lead us toward grace instead of understanding that we are already swimming in it." As much as letting go can be a real b*tch, it's a requirement to experiencing grace. If you want to live in beautiful, open spaces, you have to make room inside.
As far as these two creative projects, I knew I'd likely revisit one or maybe even both down the line, but that was not the point. Instead of dwelling on the loss, I took a cue from another dream I'd had the same week, in which I took to the stage and sang this song to a packed stadium. I have no idea where this dream came from, but clearly exuberance was in my future.
The next day, I ritualized the letting go by filling my house with two dozen roses, cranking up the music, and dancing for what felt like days. Later, I went to the Met, where I soaked in the atmosphere of the Egyptian wing. After a lovely dinner, I went to a friend's party, where there was more dancing and eventually karaoke. When someone asked me what I was working on, I replied gleefully, "Absolutely nothing!" My motto for the summer, I decided then, was, "F%^* it!"
After this, I kept things low-pressure when it came to creative output. I soon started noticing many wild and wonderful synchronicities -- dreams coming true, bizarre and fun coincidences. So many, in fact, that I couldn't help but think that "F%^* it!" seemed to be suiting me.
Then, three weeks ago, I began an essay I've wanted to write for years. In two days, nearly 70 pages spilled out, and I had barely scratched the surface. I hadn't seen this coming, but on the page, everything made perfect sense. Although I was positively giddy, I couldn't look at those pages for a week. I kept thinking, "What have I done?"
Two other creative projects had also started to crystallize. Each is different, so different that I couldn't help but think that the time is right for all three. Was I crazy?
I remembered the Prince concert and the joke that I'd made to my friend, only now it hardly seemed like a joke. Prince did knock me up. With triplets.
Part of me felt this was so wrong. How could "F%^* it!" only last three weeks?
I got scared, as any parent-to-be might. In avoidance, I amped up my social commitments. That weekend, I attended a fabulous party, where the dance floor was packed until the wee hours. At one point, three children, who had been sleeping downstairs, burst into the room.
We cleared a space, where the kids could bounce around the center of the circle. One of the girls, who looked to be about 6 years old, strutted around the edges with a hand fan, waving it in party-goers faces. When she got to me, we had a moment of recognition (and not only because we happened to be wearing the same disco outfit, a shorts jumper). With unabashed sassiness, she fanned my face and smiled. I smiled back.
Children (real ones, not creative ones) are great reminders of how quickly time can pass. As salsa music played on the stereo, I suddenly realized that I'd put so much focus on letting go that I'd completely overlooked the best part of "F%^* it!" -- being so unfettered that responsibility to one's gifts becomes a complete joy.
The little girl kept twirling along, wild and free. I knew that feeling.
Time to go home -- and take "F%^* it!" with me.
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