Letter To God — c/o Anne Lamott, re: Japan (RSVP)
So, I wrote a letter to god. Which is perhaps unusual for an atheist with writer’s block. But I got the idea from a wonderful article called ‘God’s In-Box‘ by Anne Lamott, an American writer who I love, and it turned out to be excellent advice. Here is the letter for your amusement and edification:
Dear God (or should that be goddess? — I think that I’d prefer that),
This is my second attempt to write to you as I realised it was going to be a big one. I’m writing this on the advice of a writer that I love. She’s always been ‘one of yours’, but I love her nonetheless. More so infact, as I get some sort of perverse kick out of digging one of yours when at best you could say I’ve never really felt like one of yours, and at worst that I’ve never been your number one fan. I’m not a believer or a joiner, but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t check in with you from time to time to see how you’re getting on. You probably get sick of only ever hearing from Christians anyway (just kidding) or only from people when they want something — I know how much it irritates me — but the thing is, we ALL want SOMETHING.
So, anyway, how’s it going? How’s existence / non-existence been treating you? Enquiring monkey wants to know. And if anyone asks what you’re doing talking to a guy like me, tell them it’s ok — Anne sent me. You see, my writer friend is pretty special. I only know her through her words, specifically and especially the book Bird by Bird, but when you know someone through their art it’s fair to say that you know the best of them. She is someone who I love and trust enough to listen when she offers good advice. She says that whenever she has rocks in her life that she cannot shift, she sets them down and backs away, she gives them to you, and then (sometimes) you give her a helping hand, or at least offer her some clue about what to do with them. I know that everyone’s heads and pockets and shoes are filled with stones, so you can hardly be expected to deal with all our day to day gravel, but there are several sizeable rocks that I’ve carried round with me for a long time, and I’m bent out of shape because of them.
So, with your forbearance, I’d like to hereby set them down. My back is killing me. You can have them if you want them. You’re not obliged to do anything with them of course, but they’re a curious shape, and they might look good in your garden. I realise you must have much bigger rocks to deal with, but they’re big and heavy to me and I don’t know where to start.
So here they are in no order of importance:
Japan, Japan, Japan, Japan, Japan, Japan, JAPAN!
Just kidding. Kinda.
I want to live and work in Japan, to spend my life there, and to be happy. I say ‘live and work’ but what I really mean is live there, it’s just that ‘work’ in the traditional sense seems to be a necessary evil. I applied to teach English in Japan on the JET scheme because it seemed like the right thing to do, and the best work to do there to give me a good shot at living in Japan long term. Plus it’s whats always been on the tip of my tongue to do when I ‘bugger off to Japan’, which is short hand for do something meaningful with my life. The interview was demoralising to say the least, but I got onto the reserve list. That said, my confidence has been knocked and my nerves are shot — teaching and public speaking scare the bejeezus out of me despite how much I loved teaching creative writing and I’m not that confident about teaching EFL (which I’ve just realised is an anagram of Elf!) — and I spent the summer sulking 😛
Anyway, in short, I don’t know what to do. I’ve carried this around for too long. It all sounds so selfish so I let it go. I’ve never wanted anything more than this — to live in Japan, to make my home there, to live my life there. But — what do I know?! I’m willing to accept any role in Japan where I can do the most good — including as hit-man for the Yakuza. A little guidance and a nudge in the right direction would be more than appreciated.
I’m willing to accept the fact that I may never get there (lie: the very thought of this makes me want to kill myself) and / or that I may ‘not be good enough’ to teach English as a foreign language (meep!) / not cut out for it / not meant to be there, though it breaks my heart to do so. I cried when I left Japan, like you’d cry at the loss of a loved one, and felt homesick for there more than anywhere else. If Japan is where I’m supposed to be, then that is where I want to be. I hand it over to you. And actually, you know what — the other stuff can wait. I’ll be sure to send you another instalment but lets not get ahead of ourselves. Even this sounds so small when you set it down on paper, but it’s my rock and heavy to me, and I hereby put it down. Over to you.
Much love and gratitude, and thanks for listening to a benighted heathen,
I found the original hand-written letter among all my notes. What was really funny about reading it was that it all sounded so small, and simple, and in motion, but it really has been the rock I’ve found hardest to shift. There were other rocks too, to do with health and happiness and love of course, but this rock first and foremost, and also my writing. Re-reading it as I typed it up made me want to write more letters, and to be bold and brave and ‘post’ this one here. It also occurred to me that I could do voluntary or charity work in Japan, or fundraising, both as summer work travel opportunity and as some kind of adjunct to teaching and mentoring; so who knows, perhaps I got the nudge in the right direction that I’d asked for.
What rocks do you have in your life that you’re having trouble with? What letter would you write? Feel free to ‘post’ it in the comments section here, or just drop me a line to tell me that you wrote one.