my obsession with Cary Tennis’s advice columnist, Cary Tennis, is kind of amazing. Things always seem a little better after I read his columns. He’s not just a straight up Ann Landers type of advice columnist, he’s like a soul searching, get-you-in-your-gut truth teller.

Sometimes I read through his past columns for some uplift or inspiration. I’ve been struggling with what it means to devote myself to writing as a career, and the challenges this presents in terms of day jobs, future prospects, rejection, money, and the list goes on. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s about the process and not the outcome. Lately, I’ve been feeling more lost than motivated, and the lost feeling is frustrating – and paralyzing at points.

Someone wrote to Cary saying how they felt an “erosion of will” and a deep sense of not recognizing themselves.

His response was beautiful and I think has informed a certain aspect of the play I’m working on about a personal branding company. And has helped me feel a little better about my struggles with writing.

“Call me sick, but I like you like this: ‘without ambition or vision or faith or belief in life’s possibilities.’ To me it seems very close to spiritual surrender. Accept the exhaustion for now. Accept the absence of these things you held so dear. This is what happens to world beaters when the world beats us back. We have to hibernate and let go of all our splendid ambitions and plans. This is what happens after betrayal. This is what happens after Icarus crashes. This is how we heal; we lie low and lick our wounds.

I believe that we reach such dark, low points for a reason; I believe that a few times in our lives we are lowered into the pit in a strangling, confining basket without instructions or a cellphone, and we are supposed to stay there down in the pit until someone comes and lifts us out. (Perhaps that’s the meaning of your Jesus image: a figure of rescue.) If we struggle, it only makes it worse. If we escape prematurely, then we are reborn prematurely: We emerge still unprepared. So stay down there. Stay until you are ready.

I like the nastiness of you. I like that you can rail at yourself and call yourself “pathologically lazy” — which of course is a big fat lie but it has vitality in it, it has anger and a will to prevail and to speak harsh, unvarnished truth. There is a spirit of rebellion and fire in that paragraph. But there is also this harsh taskmistress turned against herself, which is, I believe, the source of the hell you’re in. This nasty you is killing the other you, the one who is injured. So it’s a paradox; it’s our censorious society introjected.”

– Cary Tennis,, “I can’t come back to life”




One thought on “my obsession with Cary Tennis

  1. wow, i love that! makes me feel better too. but i disagree about the someone coming to lift us out part. i think we have to make the decision to climb out when we’re good and ready. but not prematurely like he said.

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