Something for nothing

poet akka b at bart's books in ojai

akka b, poet and community-wrangler extraordinaire

I spent the weekend with friends, away from home. A short trip this time, both because circumstances dictated it could not be longer and because I have finally started to get a sense of what I need, how much of it, and when.

This, alone, is a miracle of sorts. Not that I haven’t actively been working for years and years (and again, I say, YEARS) at getting a handle on things; it’s more that because I’ve been working at it so long, I’m shocked when start to feel like there’s actually been some kind of improvement. (It’s also shocking to feel creeping realizations because I’ve grown accustomed to epiphany-esque indicators, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

Nominally, I went up for an evening of poetry, and brother, did I get it. Akka B. raised the metaphorical roof, there is none actually at Bart’s to be raised, but if there were, she’d have raised it, too. Instead, she brought us together and howled at the (full) moon, and it was pretty great. You should probably go subscribe to her blog immediately1, so you can participate in the next one, remote participation actively encouraged, and 3D, in-person visitors welcome.

But as is the way with these kinds of things, you go in for a little pecan pie and come out with a new set of radial tires, or something like that. While Ojai is a mighty small place, and while I know enough folks up there to qualify as an honorary citizen, I still manage to meet new ones on every trip north. This trip was no exception, and between a whole slew of new people at our monthly Jerry’s mixers (see here) and a mini-slew this weekend, I had to trot out my long-and-boring story of Self-Imposed Sabbatical so many times, it even started to sound weird and lame to me.

The last person I shared it with, though, had the reply that made every other painful telling worthwhile. Hell, she may have just made the entire sabbatical worthwhile. Because when I gave her my usual answer (“Nothing!”) to the eternal question of “What do you do?”, without missing a beat, she said, “Well, you know what Akka B. would say: ‘If you do nothing long enough, you’re bound to find something.’

People who have a direction, a focus, think this sort of process is bananas. I know, because I used to think this sort of process was bananas, that there had to be something to do to make the next thing happen. Now I know better. Now, some three years after this maddening, horrifying stretch of nothing, I can feel something coming into view. The metaphor is purposely mixed, because while I still see nothing, I am starting to feel plenty. My head feels clearer. My feet feel like they make firmer contact with the ground. (I know, incredibly weird, but I’m telling you, that’s what it feels like.) I’m not advanced enough at any of this chi stuff to assess it with complete confidence, but I feel like the circuitry has been somehow rewired, and that the energy is flowing a little more regularly, a little more evenly, and a lot more reliably. I notice that things around me are starting to take shape: I like doing this. I feel good sharing this. I want to wake up here. What I say “no” to is comes more quickly, which seems to make what to say “yes” to more obvious. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

A big part of me is still flying on faith, a bigger part that I’d ordinarily be comfortable with. Yet. Slowly but surely, though something is starting to emerge from the nothing. And the work I’ve done so far has made me more comfortable with the messy, dangling, unfinished parts of the work left to do.

Glory, hallelujah.

May your own nothing unfold in its own perfect way to reveal exactly the something waiting just beyond, and may we all hold each other’s hand and stop for an occasional, poetic howl at the moon in the meantime…


1And friend her fan page, or whatever the hell it is you do on the Facebook these days, while you’re at it. It’s easy, and she’s lovely.

Photo © Nathalie Raijmakers Photography.


  1. What a beautiful post.
    That is exactly what I’m going through and wasn’t able to label it until now: I’m in the process of observing my nothingness unfold in front of me while enjoying the little pieces of something that are starting to sprout.
    But is hard explaining that to others.
    Maybe I should just stop trying to.

    1. But is hard explaining that to others.
      Maybe I should just stop trying to.

      You know what’s best for you, but if it’s helpful, I’ve found a mixture of humor, white lies and dodging works for me. I’ll just grab whichever method feels right in the moment. As long as I’m making my choice out of the right intention, it goes pretty well.

  2. Don’t know if this will make you feel optimistic or hopeless, but I’ve been doing the nothing thing, with no intention for its outcome, for more than 10 years and no “something” has happened. Nor do I want it to or hope it will. I like this.

    1. Well, I confess that your news does rather bum me out.

      On the other hand, whatever happens—including a whole lot more nothing, or nothing in perpetuity—I’m fairly confident I’ll adjust and be okay with it. The detachment/resolution process may just take a while.

  3. Wow, love your insight! I’m just starting on the journey you’ve been traveling. I live in Texas but love Akka B. through her FB page Drunk Love Heart…someday I will make it to Cali! Thanks for sharing, you inspire me!

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