[“The Book I’ve Been Avoiding Writing” (a.k.a. “Three Years of Writing and 40+ Years of Thinking About The Lion’s Gate“) is a mini-series about the writing of my new book, The Lion’s Gate. Thanks for tuning in as it runs Mondays and Fridays over the next few weeks.]
I’m having panic attacks now that I’m here in Israel. It has nothing to do with fearing rocket barrages or suicide bombers. Those, I’m cool with.
If a Jew is going to die, I figure, he might as well die here and die from something like that.
No, my terror is much more free-floating.
I have no idea of its source.
It comes on, for some reason, when I’m alone in my hotel room. I’m consumed with dread and feelings of inadequacy. What if I can’t make this project work? What if I fail? What if I get into these interviews and my mind goes blank?
Late at night when I’m trying to upload the interviews to Dropbox so I won’t lose them if my hard drive crashes, I keep making mistakes. I have to crunch the Lion’s Gate files to MP3 format. I can do this in my sleep. But now, here with the self-imposed time pressure of grabbing a few winks before tomorrow morning, I screw it up again and again.
I’m compulsively bungling simple, everyday tasks. Here’s the form it takes. Yesterday I was supposed to be ready with my rental Toyota when Danny came by the hotel at eight; we were heading to an interview. Instead I locked myself in the underground parking garage. I could not figure out how to make my card work to open the security gate. It took me twenty minutes to get out. I was in a state of semi-hysteria.
This morning I was prepared. I had figured out what I did wrong yesterday. Except last night I forgot to turn off the headlights of my rental car. This AM: dead battery. Two hours to get it fixed.
Waking in the morning I am paralyzed with fear. Of what? The interviews? Being out of my comfort zone?
Highway signs here have English names along with Arabic and Hebrew. But I still get lost every time I drive. Danny has introduced me to a bagel place in a shopping center called Cinema City that is within sight of my hotel room. Yet I can’t find it when I drive out of the lot. I break into a blue-balled sweat simply exiting the parking garage.
I have no idea.
I wish I could to go home. I’m sorry I ever started this project. If it weren’t for the shame and the expense, I’d bail right now.
And yet nothing is going wrong. The people I’ve interviewed so far–Eli’s guys, Uzi Dayan, Cheetah Cohen, Ran Ronen–have been fascinating, articulate, and very open and friendly.
Still I am terrified.
Standing in the morning at the sink in my hotel room, I have to literally instruct myself:
“Now pick up the toothbrush.
“Now put toothpaste on the bristles.
I know it sounds crazy, but it is the hardest thing I have ever done.