by Janna Leyde
There is a scene in Wonder Boys that kept popping into head this week.
“I saw now its pages made up a portion of the trash that was blowing through the alley-way and across the parking lot. Pages were settling like fat snowflakes on Booger, and brushing up like kittens against my legs.”
The novel is by Michael Chabon, and in this scene James Leer, his struggling writer of a protagonist, is kissing the 2,604 pages of his manuscript goodbye as it literally blows away in the wind. I’m a writer, and Chabon being one of my very favorite writers, helps to make this fear very tangible.
I felt it once. I was home for the holidays, and my dad had been asking me at least six times a day if I could print out all 430+ pages of my book. He wanted to read it Christmas morning, on our three-hour drive to Columbus, Ohio. Sharing my manuscript with anyone, especially my rather clumsy father, ran the risk of my very own Wonder Boys moment. But it was Christmas, and he was asking. I had printed out a copy for myself the first day I was home, depleting the fresh ink supply in my parents’ computer when no one was looking. I tied a red ribbon around it and handed it to him as we loaded up the car.
By the time we’d pulled into my aunt’s driveway, he was asleep in the back seat, pages of my book surrounding him in messy piles. As he opened the door, one of the piles toppled out onto the pavement (so very Wonder Boys). Of course, I flipped out. I said something rather un-kind to him. I scrambled to get the pages back in order. My mother was laughing, my father asking me why it mattered so much, because didn’t I have it saved on my computer?
“Yes!” Of course, I had it saved! “But why did he have to make it a mess?”
I don’t like messes, disorder, stuff all over the place. Too unsettling. I didn’t like the manuscript in pieces—way too close to a what-if-I-lose-it-all Wonder Boys moment for me.
My dad helped me pick it up, and I tied all of its sections back up in its red ribbon. I was able to live with its new form—crinkled, pages out-of-order, some backward—yet, for the most part, intact.
This past week my life, not my manuscript (which lives in at least nine different e-places), was the manuscript from Wonder Boys. I had been keeping it neatly together, one day, one activity, following the next, all the many, many things I have going on in order as if they were pages.
And then on Monday a door opened and they fell out and blew around in a thousand directions. Over the course of 24 hours: meetings were canceled; promises broken; balls dropped; finances stalled; animals sick; phone on the fritz. People entered my life with new demands. People left it without fulfilling old obligations. And the Baptist pastor on my block called in to have my car towed.
I didn’t know where to start to pick up the pieces, and trying to fix it all as quickly as it all fell apart soon proved fruitless. I was drowning in chaos. The only way out of it was to let things blow in their zillion different directions and get myself to yoga. It is that blustery vata season after all.
Embrace the chaos. Just like James Leer and his blizzard of pages:
“. . . good for the production of literature, good for barroom conversation, good for the soul. Chaos! . . . I should have been welcoming the bright angel of disorder into my life like the prickling flow of blood into a limb that had fallen asleep.”
And as soon as I did, I realized that only thing I really needed to take care of was getting my ass to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to pick up that little Honda.
Janna Leyde is a yogi and writer living in Brooklyn. When she’s not on her mat or at the front of the room teaching, she is working on publishing her first novel, He Never Liked Cake, a coming of age memoir that tells the story of growing up with her father’s traumatic brain injury. Oscillations: A Yogic Exploration of the Brain offers her perspective on the practice through the lens of the complex human brain.