Enough already

June 25th, 2007

My life is one continuous mistake – Dogen Zenji

This is a picture of the season’s first water lily from my backyard pond. It seems ubiquitous, doesn’t it? A pond and a water lily? You never see one without the other. In truth, a water lily blooms only in the full sun of summer. Specifically, it only blooms under the shadowless midday, high-heat summer sun. That means it blooms for way less than half a day during way less than half a year. Its bloom is so rare, as a matter of fact, that I had to hold up this post until I could actually get a photograph of any one of our two dozen water lilies in bloom.

Now, would you call that bloom rate a success or a failure as far as flowers go? Would you call it a mistake? A half-measure? A near-miss? A critical success but a marketing failure?

If it were anything other than a water lily, say if it was your life’s work, or your life, you probably would judge it. I know I would, and I do. By output, uptake, download, click through, sales rate, tally mark; by any weight or number, my life is one continuous mistake. This is the burden I bear as I write this; this is the atlas unshrugged.

My life is one continuous.

Several weeks ago I started this blog, just as several years ago I started to write. I started both of these things as I know all writers do: for themselves, or more precisely, for itself. We, most of us writers, write for its own sake. We write because we must, because it is what we do. The words come from someplace else. We are merely the conveyers. We don’t quite manufacture, but rather more accurately, supply our product, like the ice cream man, or the Tupperware lady. The ideas, the inventories, build up, and then we take them to the streets and sound a tinkling tune; we put on a little word party and invite readers into our own home. Of course, there are hardly any ice cream men or Tupperware ladies left anymore. More failing propositions.

I started writing this for myself, and now I am chased once more by the numbers. I look around and see other writers, other bloggers, more skilled, I daresay even expert at the tags and the rankings, the rings and the pings, the views, the ticket-taking, and the turnstile. And then I catch myself. This post is my way of catching myself from falling that way again. Falling into my judging, measuring and weighing mind, my discursive, ego-screaming mind where nothing ever blooms enough.

My life is one.

Look at the water lily!


  1. What a wonderful act of service, Karen, to share your beautiful water lily with us. This post is such a wonderful meditation in action. Thank you and gassho!

    Comment by Leah — June 26, 2007 @ 1:34 am

  2. Thank you for a very timely blog post. You have no idea how much this has lifted me up today! I am very grateful.

    Comment by Tracy — June 26, 2007 @ 12:14 pm

  3. So true, so true! Beautiful post. Just beautiful. I love the water lily’s story.

    Comment by Shawn — June 26, 2007 @ 12:21 pm

  4. oh Karen, your words come to me today as sweet medicine. As a fellow writer, new to the blog world, this post was a much needed exhale for me.
    I did not know this story about the water lily. Now I do. And I will return to it as needed. Thank-you.

    Comment by bella — June 26, 2007 @ 5:37 pm

  5. Beautiful. Thanks for posting. I’m glad Shawn interviewed you so that I could find my way here.

    I too started a blog for its own sake and have gotten caught up in the numbers. (How well would it be doing if I could devote more to cultivating it?) I have had to remind myself that that is not where I am right now, nor really even where I want to be.

    Comment by Mary P Jones (MPJ) — July 4, 2007 @ 4:19 am

  6. Thank you. Oh, and “hello!” πŸ˜‰

    Comment by Kat — June 20, 2008 @ 4:48 am

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