Life In General: Everything But

It feels as if I’ve been doing everything but writing these days. My days seem full, yet at the end of them I wonder what I’ve accomplished.  It’s a concept with which I’ve struggled quite often over the years, this notion of Enough. Having it. Doing it. Being it. Happily I am becoming comfortable with the idea of not having a long checklist with all the items neatly ticked off as done. I find quiet and stillness restorative.

And I can use all the restoration I can come by.

Still, I would like to be writing more. If I believe my own words – that writing is what helps me make sense of life in general and my own in particular- than I should be writing a great deal more than I am. Because very little about life makes sense these days, at least not to me.

But Instead of writing, I am reading. Books that nudge me to change (A Deadly Wandering, by Matt Richtel is one), books that take me to different times in history (The Song of Hartgorve Hall, by Natasha Solomon), books that tug my heart with familiar feelings and images (Serendipity, a lovely book of poems by my friend Imelda Maguire).

Instead of writing, I am listening to music. To the graceful delicacy of Mozart, the lush thunder of Brahms, the poignancy of Chopin.

Instead of writing, I am walking. In the neighborhood, where the cold wind stings my cheeks. In our downtown, where I can step into the unique shops and gaze at lovely displays of décor or books.

Instead of writing, I am sitting on the couch next to my husband, with at least one dog huddled at my side. We are watching movies (Brooklyn, Spotlight) or our favorite television shows (Chicago Fire, Downton Abbey). Or perhaps he’s watching NASCAR racing and I’m leafing through the pages of a magazine (O, Bella Grace), scrolling through social media, or doing a crossword puzzle.

Instead of writing, I am pondering, wondering what the next months and years will bring, storing up hope and strength and ideas to make life in general something to eagerly anticipate.

What I must decipher is this: Whether all this not-writing is good for me, is part of some inward piecing together of this puzzle that is life, one that will eventually give me a template upon which to build the real thing.

Or whether it’s a form of retreat, or relinquishing, of trying to stuff into the cupboard the things I know in my heart but haven’t the skill or courage to face in black and white on the page.

Earlier this week, Dani Shapiro wrote: “I often say that when I’m not writing, I’m not well. What I mean by this is that my mind and my heart begin to become unknowable to me, because the way I come to know myself is through following the line of words until the ice melts, until the field once again becomes visible. Countless times…I have looked back at a piece of my own work and realized: so that’s what I was thinking. That’s what I was feeling. I had no idea.”

What I desperately want to be feeling is inspired and energetic and hopeful and anticipatory and eager and calm. Lately I feel everything but.

Should I continue to be still and listen? Or can I write my way to that place?

“Just as each book teaches me only how to write that particular book - no more, no less - each season of my life has new lessons for me," Shapiro concludes. 

What new lessons will be mine? Only time will tell.