I am a reader. I think all good writers are also avid readers. (I am not calling myself a good writer because I read, or really even at all, I just write because I am compelled to...whether it is good or not is totally subjective...). I read a lot because I love the turn of phrase. I love words. I actually have a word journal. How is that for nerdy?
I have an entire journal full of quotes that someone, somewhere said and wrote down and they landed with a thud inside my heart, chest or mind. So much so that it slowed me down to stop what I was doing and write it down, lest I forget that it landed there at all. Which is easy to do with a fast paced life and a failing memory.
I am currently reading a book by an author I love, Barbara Kingsolver. She is an amazing writer. I love her love of nature and her keen observations of people and the human condition. She sees the stuff and applies words to our fragility, our depravity, our basic gut level flawedness. I find her writing insightful, inspiring and you can bet that there are more than a few quotes from her in my dorky quotation journal.
This one slayed me the other day:
“No credit given for all the extra miles that take you nowhere...”
This lept off the page at me because it rang so true, at first. But considering the context of the character speaking it, I quickly realized that this is the type of thought that someone without a lot of life experience might hold. Or someone who has been dealt a rather shitty hand in life and no matter which way they turn, there is always more trouble and pain.
Such a despondent statement. No credit given for all those extra miles going nowhere...
And by credit I don’t think she is actually talking about credit...I think she is really talking about merit. Like you can be the good person, the nice person, the one who really does try to do the right thing for the right reason...and still, no matter how many extra miles out of your way it takes you to be kind or thoughtful or nice or whatever, there is no extra merit, no place where you are arrived in a place where you are safe, or saved. There is no salvation for the human condition...well, at least not while you are still living anyway. And as for what happens afterwards, that is really anyone's guess.
I used to think like that. When I was a much younger person and was suffering from all my related trauma and drama that was part and parcel to my early living. I felt that on a cellular level: no credit given for all those extra miles I had to travel to get where a lot of people just get to start out. And I felt like all those extra miles I traveled really lead me nowhere.
I know better now.
I know that those extra miles were just part of my journey and even though they appeared, at the time, to lead nowhere and to be credit less, they were in fact leading me to this moment in time, where I again sit in a ski lodge, privileged enough to write and work and live my life surrounded by people I love and who love me back. Not really nowhere at all. And credit, I don’t really give two fucks about that now. I got so tired of score keeping, and seeing that no matter how much I tried, it appeared to me, that others always received the credit I felt I deserved, or I received the blame that really should have been leveled elsewhere. The unfairness of that really almost did me in. Like really.
Today I know that there is always credit, which I now label as merit. I am all about accumulating merit. Working to be the better version of myself than I was yesterday. I am the credit. I was the only one who didn’t know this. I thought credit was bestowed by others...and I lived that way for a very long time. So seductive that others possess powers that I lack. But it was a revolutionary day when I realized that I am the bestower, the giver and the receiver of all the credit I am ever going to get. How I show up, is where credit makes its debut. It is, in fact, the only place it can ever reside.
Maybe one day, in the final analysis, once I arrive on the other side of living, I will be provided a more completely accounting of all my credit or meritorious behavior. Until then, it is really up to me to take notice and to trust that there really are never miles that lead me nowhere. In fact, I would go so far to say that middle age is where you figure that out, too elusive to ever be learned before...the middle part of life is all about seeing that we are the credit givers unto ourselves and all those seeming dead ends, windy roads of life that twist up and up and only to result in only a turn around that force us back down the mountain. There is no nowhere. We are always somewhere whether we want to believe that or not.
And those pesky “extra”miles. Those are the ones that I have found to be the most jam packed full of life’s best and most amazing, heartrending moments. In fact, again, I would go so far to say that those "extra" miles are really what life is all about anyway. They test my patience, my endurance, my tenacity and grit. They bend my metal, my fortitude, my will to keep on going. Those seemingly “extra” miles are really where this whole fucking life deal happens.
And the credit, or merit, comes from me recognizing that it is how I find meaning in all the missteps, all the miscues, all the times that I get it fucking wrong. All the times that I see but fail to SEE. All the ways in which I show up without really being present. The myriad of ways that I miss the point while I am standing precariously on its tiny pin head. Those are the life giving, merit rising, credit giving moments. My experience is that you only figure that out with a lot of extra miles taken and the belief that credit shall be provided by someone other than yourself and, perhaps most importantly, this whole concept and idea remains elusive and haunting until you are on the backside of life’s mountain. And many of us never learn this at all.
So today I take the credit, not in a boastful, arrogant way. Bravado is not merit. It cannot be splashed all over social media. That is not credit or merit. That is ego in full regalia. It is also how this world works, but I for one, am trying, often quite desperately and with very mixed results, to remember that merit or credit or whatever you want to call it, is an inside job. And the “extra” miles are the gift of all the nowheres you are privileged enough to live through.