“You should write more, I’ve missed reading your writing.” That’s the voice of encouragement and concern that only a mother can have. What she’s really saying is, why haven’t you been making the time to write? What are you hiding?
I have two blogs that have been blatantly ignored and a journal that lay unopened for months. I don’t write for other people. I never have. The fact that other people read and glean some bit of joy or satisfaction out of what I’ve taken the time to pen is a pleasant side effect. But I don’t write for other people.
Writing has become a variety of things for me over the years: a friend, counselor and teacher. It has served as a sort of confessional, a dumping ground of thoughts and emotions. It’s been a lens that gives new perspective to this odd thing I consider my experience. It’s an active mediation. It’s a snapshot into a moment in time that I can and do look back on with curiosity and wonder. But it’s also a pleasure. I enjoy going through the process – the introspection – like watching a movie for the second time, and writing something down about what the heck you just saw and what it could possibly mean.
So why haven’t I taken the time to write? I can’t say anything truly significant. I have no mind-blowing reason. I just haven’t. I took a hiatus from myself. I didn’t want to go and explore those corners of my mind or of my heart. I decided for the first time in my memory, that I wasn’t interested in doing anything hard. I wanted to coast for a while.
I did just that. I coasted through my own life numb to any real sensation. I coasted until I literally crashed.
But before I get too carried away, let’s take some honest perspective here. My life, even before I didn’t want to toe up to challenge, has been the farthest thing from “hard”. Sure, I’ve had challenges, everybody does, but I have been born into a blessed life. I have an amazingly supportive family. I was given an education. I have genuine friends that pepper the globe. I’m healthy. I have never truly experienced lack. I’ve travelled. I have enough to pay my bills and then some extra for fun and frivolity. So what exactly was I taking a break from? Why did I all of a sudden have this desire to become a passenger in my own life?
At the time I would say, that I didn’t know or that it didn’t really matter. It’s just what I chose to do…and I did it rather well for a while too, I might add. But the truth is that I did know, and I just didn’t want to take responsibility. I didn’t just stop writing; I stopped doing most things that give me perspective. I stopped practicing yoga. I stopped meditating. I stopped praying and studying my spiritual texts…and I filled that space with distraction. Why? Because distraction can be fun. Distraction isn’t hard. Distraction doesn’t require process or passion or honesty. Distraction is easy to come by and easy to replace. So, I filled up my life with distraction – TV shows, the time-suck that is Facebook, buying things, making dates, snowboarding, planning trips, sleeping in, cooking, running, biking, working late and eating out. Now it’s not that those things are inherently bad. They aren’t. I love all of those things…well, most of those things anyway. But I wasn’t doing any of them with real purpose. I was simply passing time.
I was also trying to find people to fill the void that I was so actively ignoring. The challenge was, that I’d managed to build up these spectacular walls because I didn’t want to allow myself to get hurt again. In my own melodrama I’d experienced a couple of back-to-back blows that left me questioning my faith in humanity – and that honestly did hurt. Disappointment always does. Regardless of whether it was partially made up in my own mind or if that betrayal was actually experienced to the degree that I felt it, didn’t really matter. All I knew was that I was hurting and the best way to avoid the unpleasantness of it was to shut out the opportunity to get hurt again. This is really hard to do when you want to meet people. This is exceptionally hard to do when you want to find a potential mate. This may explain my failure at doing those things. But of course I couldn’t recognize it without taking the time to sit with myself…and I was, as I mentioned, very actively avoiding that.
So here comes the drama. I’m 30. I had this list of things I thought I was going to accomplish in my life. I like lists. I especially like to check things off of my lists. I’ve even been guilty of writing down things that I’ve already completed for the sole purpose of checking them off – but I digress. There was this big shake-down that occurred some time after college that, rather painfully, forced me to let go of some of my long-held goals. It sucked. It was also made me realize that I had the opportunity to reframe what could be life. That part didn’t suck. Then, I went ahead and made new goals, and clung to these with the same ferocity of the older, abandoned ones. Recently, about the time of my desire to bury myself in distraction, came the realization that maybe these new goals aren’t quite right either. With the glimmer of that realization I decided to run, to jam my fingers in my ears, hum a pretty tune, close my eyes, and pretend that THIS IS NOT HAPPENING AGAIN.
It turns out that strategy doesn’t work. It is easy to do. I understand now the preference of toddlers for this type of behavior. Yes, I can admit, that I was choosing to act like a toddler. And I repeat, I’m 30. I did not think that was going to bother me. On a surface level it doesn’t. It’s just when I start doing the math and realize that all these things that I thought I could check of my list of life accomplishments or at least be on the path of checking them off by this age, didn’t or aren’t happening that it throws me into a bit of tailspin. On a totally rational, logical and practical level I realize that I’m still young. There’s still plenty of time to regroup and re-evaluate. Unfortunately, I don’t always operate from that place, especially when I’m pulling out tricks that are only acceptable to toddlers.
All of these factors lead to why I haven’t been writing. I wasn’t ready to admit to myself that I’m confused. Admit to myself that I may have been wrong. To acknowledge that I’m a little lost…scared. If I wasn’t ready to admit and acknowledge it to myself, I was absolutely not ready to write it down. Writing things down makes them real.
But then I crashed. And this isn’t figurative; I actually crashed and fell during one source of distraction - while snowboarding. It was the second time this season, and it was serious enough snap me out of my fuzzy, sleepwalking guise of an engaging experience. Pain can do that. This was nauseating pain.
So now I’m at home wrapped up in a splint. I can’t snowboard, can’t ride a bike, can’t run, can’t even walk – hell, getting dressed is the hardest damn thing I’ve ever had to do. The most basic tasks are exhausting and painful. I’m stuck at home…alone…with my physical hurt, emotional turmoil, and gasp, my thoughts. All that fun and frivolous distraction, I can’t do any of it anymore. I tried to run away, and the universe said, “uh, yeah, about that…NO. Seriously, deal with it.” I refused for months…and now, I literally can’t. I have no way to run.
Here we are in the aftermath of my childish shenanigans. Despite my best efforts to sit around and feel sorry for myself, I’m not completely devoid of reason, I know that isn’t the answer. I find myself slowly, albeit resentfully, turning back to my long-lost friends: my books, my breath and the familiar space inside my own thoughts looking for the calm in the midst of this storm.
I’m slowly beginning to process months of erratic behavior that I so actively ignored. I am also re-gaining the courage to sit again with myself and re-discover the joy in being my own company…without distraction. Somehow the desire to collect the thoughts, organize and process them stopped feeling so scary. It stopped being so overwhelming…and instead started to feel again like that familiar lighthouse guiding me back home.
…and I think I’m ready to write it down.