I’ve been on an unintended sabbatical from blogging over the last year. I found so much joy in chronicling the twins’ early years and our family adventures on Tales from the Woodlands, but as they outgrew the intensity of toddlerhood I found myself itching to branch out – to share more of my journey of faith, my questions and doubts about how to parent in a violent and exhausting world, and to share our story of marriage in the midst of serious mental illness.
The day to day of our family life has also been in transition – Evelyn and Rowan turned 4 last April and started full day preschool this fall, Drew finished his coursework and has begun writing his dissertation, and I’m now sitting in an empty house 6 hours a day, staring down a season of domesticity I never planned for, questions of identity and purpose and career and creative longing my irritating and constant companions.
I needed a push and a little hand holding – some structure to help me re-learn the gift of solitude.
I’ve begun working through Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way – a 12 week course in recovering creativity through writing exercises and (surprisingly challenging) weekly “artists’ dates”. Each morning I scribble out my 3 pages of stream of consciousness writing and then flip open to the assigned reading, always shocked to find this brilliant woman knows exactly what I am wrestling through in my work and my life. For example, today my morning pages muddled and mucked through the notion of being un-moored, recovered from the fraught faith deconstruction of a few years ago, but wholly unclear on where I ought to be headed next and a little bit nostalgic for the simpler times of easy answers and simply surviving one chaotic hour at a time. I opened to chapter 4 and read:
“You may well be experiencing a sense of both bafflement and faith. You are no longer stuck, but you cannot tell where you are going. You may feel that this can’t keep up. You may long for a time when there was no sense of possibility, when you felt more victimized, when you didn’t realize how many small things you could do to improve your own life.”
She’s got me pegged. It has been unexpectedly difficult to emerge from that lengthy season of intense, round-the-clock caregiving and the broader responsibilities of guiding (and keeping afloat) our family ship. For the last 5 years the rhythm of my life has been wholly at the whim of intensely needy young children and the emotional turmoil of my husband as he muddled through the reaches of his mental illness. Now that we are stabilizing – supported by school teachers and therapists and support groups and medications – I am stunned to find the empty ache in its absence. As hopeful as I am about the possibilities – tripping over myself, it seems, to try out new exercise routines, meditative practices, and organizational systems, I find myself pining for the low expectations of living every minute of my life for someone else – a twisted sort of wistfulness. Instead of relief I feel the weight of all the options, all the choosing and discovering and dreaming and identity re-forming that is to come.
It reminds me, in a way, of the nauseous excitement I felt at the beginning of college – friendships and career ambitions and daily rhythms all to be determined away from anyone or anything familiar. The weight of every encounter quickly became exhausting – will this person become my Tuesday lunch friend or are they going to drive me crazy? If I’m too guarded I won’t connect, but I don’t want to appear overeager or needy! How many nights do I need to put myself out there at the lame dorm activities so I don’t gain loner status? Should I join the larger group or reach out and introduce myself to another nomad? So many first impressions and withheld judgments for the sake of making it all work. And that was within a clearly defined path of required courses and assigned roommates!
I know these anxieties are not unique to my situation – they meet all of us at any transition and often even in the hum drum of daily life. With that in mind, I hope this blog can be a space of affirmation of your own path as I learn to meet mine with curious questions and with grace for the journey. Everything in my perfectionist sensibility rails against the idea of sharing the process of becoming – something so intangible and uncertain and terrifyingly vulnerable. But I believe there is great wisdom in looking up and out when the introspective naval gazing tells me to toss out the anchor and turn inward.
I hope anyone who stumbles upon this space will see it as an invitation to conversation, the start of a new friendship or a nudge to help us reconnect and share in the questions together. I look forward to learning from you!
Today my writing exercises encourage me to identify affirmations I can return to while I do this work of resting and planning and waiting.
I love these two:
I trust my perceptions.
A stronger and clearer me is emerging.