257: “Too Much Joy” (Ocean Vuong)

                “Too much joy, I swear, is lost in our desperation to keep it.”
                -Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (“influenced by Zen Buddhist theory on joy and impermanence, as echoed by Max Ritvo,” Vuong notes).

                I’m working on a revision of my novel. For a little while, things were positively jiving. (I’m not sure if the slang there means the excited, energetic confluence of movements and thoughts I mean, but it sounds like it should). The book’s world felt real. I cared about it. I cared about the people, their struggles and hopes. And then a breath, a look around—and I couldn’t seem to pick the story back up. I couldn’t find the thread that had been leading me through this particular labyrinth. I haven’t really worked on it since Saturday night, and then I was almost flying.
                “Haven’t you ever had writer’s block?” asked a friend of mine.
                Well, maybe, but I don’t think that’s what this is. I’m stuck because I was flying Saturday night. I’m stuck where Ocean Vuong says we can get stuck, and it’s not something I just do in writing. I’m not working on my novel because I’m worried I’ll mess it up: I like what I did with the first chapters, and because I do, I’m worried that what I do here with Chapter 7 will ruin things. I’m worried I was inspired, and now I’m not; I had it, and now I don’t. I’ve done the same thing with friendships, losing something that might have been (for a while) because I realize I’m leaving, I’m moving away, and “What will it be, really, when I can’t hold onto it?”
                “Too much joy, I swear, is lost in our desperation to keep it.”
                It will be what it is.
                Desperation is the right word. I’ve been fumbling, clutching and reaching, looking for the totally solid point to stand on, looking for the unmistakable golden path of inspiration. There isn’t one. I don’t think I need one. 
                “Too much joy.”
                There is. Here. Not only joy, but still: joy in every movement, every step. I have a friend who asks “What made you smile today?” instead of the more common “How are you?” The last time she said it, I grabbed at my memory, looking for the perfect sweet moment. I didn’t answer, because I didn’t want to say nothing. And then, Ocean in my mind, I looked back over the same day. The phone calls and the work. The struggles, connections, and sips of cool water. So much, so much, so much when I’m not desperate to keep it.

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