by Maisie Smith on June 4, 2015
I popped the cherry in my mouth, fully expecting to bite down on a pit. Instead, a rush of indescribable sweetness hit my tongue. I grabbed another, chomping it down faster than you could say, “What the hell is this?” And then another. Suddenly, I morphed into Gollum, protecting the tray full of cherries like he would his precious ring.
These were no ordinary cherries. They were Misfit cherries. And they were the answer to the question that has been needling me for months.
• • •
“I just need… something,” I told my guy as we stuffed our carry-ons full of clothing for our annual trip to Fargo. It was apparent that my “Muse,” my inspiration to write about interesting things and fully express my inherent weirdness, had left the building weeks ago. In her usual brazen fashion, she exited with a quick punch to the gut and a hearty, “Later, bitches.” Would she ever come back? I had no idea. For weeks I sat looking at a blank screen, paralyzed by the thought that I had nothing to write about. And if I did manage to sling words up onto the page, it was all crap.
Crap. Crap. Crap.
The “something” I needed was words. A phrase. Illumination. Collective energy. A story that would turn things around and get me excited about creating again. MisfitCon in Fargo was the perfect opportunity to fill the cracks of my desperate soul. It’s interesting how this remarkable conference always seems to roll around when I am most depleted. Ah, Universe, you are a funny old gal.
I am a wordsmith, and even I can’t exactly describe what MisfitCon is. There is no website. There is no program, no announcement of speakers, no live-streaming. It’s a descending of 150 people upon the vibrant city of Fargo, North Dakota for four days. We’re artists, writers, entrepreneurs, makers, community builders, musicians, changemakers, travelers, do-good-ers, benevolent disruptors, figuring-it-out-ers. We eat status quo for breakfast and wash it down with a huge gulp of determination.
And we love being inspired.
At MisfitCon, you simply show up. That’s it. Everything else is a delicious mystery, a letting go of the need to control every moment of your life. Twenty speakers regaled us with the tales of their lives and their work, with their struggles and their victories, their defeats and rise from the depths of discouragement. We laughed. Hard. We cried. Hard.
Cracks were filled.
• • •
The buffet table was loaded with beautiful, interesting food. Uniform cheese squares and stale crackers would never find their way into the MisfitCon closing party. I looked closer at the tray of cherries resting amongst prosciutto melon balls and roasted brussels sprouts. They were glistening under the art gallery lights, in a liquid I would later find out was bourbon barrel-aged gin. Little bits of white chocolate replaced each pit.
I took a step back, stunned. My “something” had just manifested itself.
Someone had to go out and buy perfect cherries. Wash them, perhaps a few times. Sort through them, discarding the ones with cracks or mushy spots. Pit each and every one. Soak them in top-shelf Big Gin. Stuff each cherry with a bit of creamy white chocolate. Arrange on a ceramic tiered platter.
All so that someone… like me… could take 1.4 seconds to pop it in her mouth and move on to the next great piece of food.
Why? Why would someone go to all that trouble for 1.4 seconds of bliss?
Because they loved what they did and wanted to serve others with their talent.
Bam. I had the answer to my question, the thing that was keeping me up at night, staring at the whirring ceiling fan and wondering, “How can I possibly make a difference?”
Service. Sharing what you love with others. Focusing on the experience.
These were all things I had neglected to nurture as I entrenched myself in the world of freelance writing. I was writing to make money, to pay bills, to prove to others that I hadn’t made a horrible mistake when I quit my well-paying job in advertising a year ago. I was measuring my ability to make a difference in the lives of others with money… both having it and lacking it.
It seems like such a simple solution to the conundrum of being uninspired. Serve more. Share more. Worry less.
And yet, it’s something that my hard-core muse has been unable to capture. She’s a partier, a lover of life and late nights. Proficient at flipping people off. Never apologetic. She stomps in with her indulgent red hair and black combat boots, a cigarette carelessly hanging between her two fingers. I can almost smell her smoky breath as she leans over my shoulder, reading the words I have slogged over, casually invading my random thoughts and demanding, “There’s more to you than this.”
And so I crumple everything up, starting over hundreds of times in order to please this muse of mine.
Never once has she mentioned service. Or going beyond expectations. Or intermingling my words with a soulful love. Or writing for the small corners, not the huge stadiums. Or enjoying my talent for slinging words and using it to make others happy, even if it’s just for a sliver of a moment.
Maybe it’s good that she took off in the middle of the night, leaving me stranded. It’s created space for a new ethos to take root.
Service infused with love… my new starting line.
And I owe it all to a bowl full of cherries.