Can you smell their fear?

What do you want from this day? To find out, think like an artist, but move like a predator. What’s good to eat? What are you in the mood for? Swagger like a king. “I own everything I see,” your eyes will say to a world full of spoons and forks and wine corks and old matches and rubber bands and dull knives, never the sharpest in the drawer. “Luckily, I know how to share,” your lips whisper to a landscape crowded with rusty garden tools and flat tires and tired cogs without a machine to call home.

People treat happiness like it’s a bad dog that needs to be tamed, or a higher level on a video game that needs to be mastered. Work harder than you want to, be better than you are, and you’ll win more. But you can’t just wrestle yourself to the ground and grind your face into the carpet until you’re happy. You have to know who you are and what you want. You have to feel it. If you don’t feel it, you won’t do it. Feeling is motivation that sustains itself. Connection is everything.

But our deepest desires are often mysterious and shifty. Once you have the optimism and faith in yourself to dig deep enough to find these cravings, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll understand them completely. And understanding them is solitary work, by nature. Lately I’m investigating my desires by following my whims wherever they lead. I’m toying with ways of living that would seem exotic to me just a few months ago: Writing songs on my guitar, taking long, slow walks wherever, driving 20 minutes with the kids just to get really good ice cream, taking selfies and trying to find a single one that does justice to how I feel inside. Vanity is a word that, to me right now, means “wanting my exterior to match my interior.” Vanity is also a word that means “trying to find a shot where I don’t look like Henry Winkler.”

There are days when following my heart makes me feel like a total jackass. Shouldn’t I be watching the impeachment hearings and taking notes? Shouldn’t I be writing the next chapter of my book? Shouldn’t I do something about how filthy the house is? What is romantic about a human playing guitar when she should be vacuuming? What is so joyful about spending so much time in the car, just to eat ice cream that tastes like mango sticky rice?

But then I remember what I deserve. I deserve a lot, motherfuckers. I won’t disown who I was last year or ten minutes ago. I did that for decades. I won’t disown who I become tomorrow. I don’t know who’ll show up, but whoever she is, I will love her and defend her. She is also an artist. She is also the king, the one and only, glorious and merciful and pretty goddamn hot, if you ask me.

Hotness is a mindset. It requires imagination. Some are more imaginative than others, and you can pick up on that, if you pay attention. You can smell it. You can taste it. A predator knows.

There is something good here, my heart keeps telling me, even when my daughter whines at dinner that nothing on the menu sounds good, and her sister whines that she’s being whiny, and their dad whines that all of this whining needs to stop. There is something important happening in your life. Don’t tell yourself that old story that you don’t deserve what you want, that you have to stop being such a dreamer and get serious and fence yourself in with the mundane.

Does a poet vacuum the house when he could be writing a poem? Does a musician feel a song rise up inside of him and straighten up his room instead? Does a predator wash her face (girl)? Or does she let the blood on her teeth show, just in case someone wants to know more about her favorite hobby?

One thing I’ve learned since I stopped trying to wrestle myself to the ground over and over again is this: My mind wants to fixate on something. My heart likes a bone to chew on. My body wants to circle and pace and pounce, or crouch, very still, watching and waiting. I can smell a tiny whiff of my dinner on the breeze, scampering for safety, miles away. I know I’m strong enough now to chase my prey through the tall grass for hours.

I’ll bet you’re just like me. I’ll bet you can slink through the barren trees for days -- undetected, alive, electric.  

What are we tracking? Some way of living that feels transcendent. Some way of bringing our imaginations to life, even when there are dishes piling up in the sink, even when the news around the globe is bad and worse. I wake up in the morning to the smell of smoke and it makes me question what I own: What is permanent today? What will feel temporary tomorrow? We are looking for ways to live inside a luminous bubble -- a bubble for dreamers and jackasses and Henry Winkler look-alikes who can’t take any more reality, who need more fantastical madness in their lives, who don’t care what that means. What is power, beyond the perception that you are powerful? What is glory, beyond the feeling that you are the king of all you survey? What is beauty, beyond the stubborn determination to feel what’s glowing inside of you? Let us pray.

Let us prey. Let us grow the long, quick limbs of predators. Let our eyes narrow at the scent of fear. You should fear us. That much is just logical.