I’ve been sitting here, staring at a blank screen and blinking cursor for several minutes now, trying to figure out how and where to start writing this entry. Partly, it’s because I am near-stupid with fatigue, and partly it’s because I just got a whiff of something vaguely mildew-ish as I was walking down my hallway and I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ve been getting these faint whiffs on and off for awhile now, and even after thorough investigations that may have involved my crawling on the floor and sniffing the floor and baseboards like a bloodhound, I am unable to find the source of said smell. It just wafts through the air at random times like some spirit sent to torment me.
A friend has suggested that since my house is on a raised foundation, it could be that water is somehow getting under the house and not draining properly, and this is what’s causing my issue. This seems a very likely possibility to me. It also seems like a complicated and expensive one. I don’t even know who I would call to address this. So for now I am pretending that this issue doesn’t exist and it will magically resolve itself if I just ignore it enough, which I am successful at about 70% of the time. Then the whiffs come and I am sent into a tailspin of anxiety and re-tracing my options until I come to the same conclusion that I can’t (or don’t want to) deal with it right now.
Strange smells are not the only thing complicating my writing practice. In the last month, I have made some small progress in my novel revision and even managed to knock out a couple drafts of poems, but the two words that could best describe my writing practice lately would be “sparse” and “sporadic.” This is mainly because I started a new school year the last week of August and am back to working 9-hour days. This might not seem that momentous considering lots of people work 9-hour days, but for me it kind of is because by the time I get home from said workday, I am often a wreck–physically exhausted and usually experiencing a modest to significant amount of pain. Which means my brain isn’t working so well either. This is partly because teaching English at a public high school with large classes (typically between 35-40 each) is an extremely time- and energy-consuming job. But it’s also because of something else that I’ve been doing my best to ignore and pretend doesn’t really affect me. I have fibromyalgia, and with every passing year–especially the last couple years–it’s become almost impossible to ignore. The whiffs are getting stronger.
I’ve heard all the same stories everyone else has about writers who have juggled crazy lives, working multiple jobs and/or raising multiple children, all the while carving out time to write at 4:00 in the morning or working late into the night and surviving on 4 hours’ sleep in order to pursue their passion. The message is, if you want it badly enough, you can make it happen. This is true in many ways, and because of this mostly true idea, I have been wracked with guilt. If I really wanted to write regularly, I would make it happen. Ergo, I must not really want it. But I do. It makes me incredibly sad when two or more days go by and I haven’t done any writing/revision. It’s depressing. I pine. And then I clobber myself with the conviction that I must not want it enough or really be serious about writing or I would be making it happen.
But being a good teacher these days (which is also something I have a passion for) uses me up to the point where I come home some evenings so tired that I have to really think about whether it’s worth expending the energy to take the pre-washed lettuce out of the bag and put it into a bowl. Which leads me to this profound and probably already-obvious-to-everyone-else conclusion: sometimes wanting something isn’t enough. Sometimes you can truly love and long for something and life circumstances just don’t allow it.
Oddly enough, this is a relief to me. It means I don’t have to keep feeling horrible about feeling horrible. It means that instead of trying to strive for some impossible and unachievable perfect balance, in which I am doing all the work necessary to be a good teacher AND to be a good writer AND taking care of my house AND overcoming my physical limitations through sheer force of will, I can have some bad days. I can start to come to terms with the reality I’m living in and focus on what does work even with my limitations. What I am able to achieve even though it’s not as much as I might like. And, most importantly of all, I can truthfully claim that writing is deeply important to me, even if some weeks all I can manage is a half hour on Saturday.
This is hard, because most days I still want to do it all. But sometimes, I just can’t.
Ann Bronson said:
I guess the bottom line is: What has God called you to do at this time?
Yes, there is definitely wisdom in meditating on that and considering things in a more narrow frame (“at this time”). My struggle, though, is that I feel called to multiple things at the same time and don’t have the physical energy and/or time to do them all. But I’m moving towards being okay with there not being a clear resolution to this tension…
Ann Bronson said:
I did feel that you felt you were being called to do multiple things, especially because you had a passion for more than one, but usually that is not God’s way. It seems like teaching is your primary calling since it involves so much time and energy. Either God will make the way smoother so that you have “extra” energy or the other will have to become more of a hobby or a soul refresher which takes you back to your original tension.
dale wayne said:
We live in a fallen world. How refreshing Katherine, to express it, and let all of us over achievers take a deep (un-mildew scented) breath and rest in the everlasting arms, realizing living by faith often isn’t black and white. I remember thinking years ago in an overwhelmed state: “Oh, my. I’m finite.” Recently a friend of mine suggested I just jot down thoughts or phrases of my current experience to address in my writing later. Although, I have to admit that writing my three pages (a la Artist’s Way) and/ or in my journal serve as a pressure valve for me, though. Writing helps me understand what I think and feel. Blessings on you. Sounds like God wants you to take a nice hot bath.
thanks, Dale. I appreciate that perspective and the reminder that ‘writing’ can involve simply paying close attention and storing impressions away for another time. I think in addition to the hot bath, God also wants me to have a glass of wine, to which I will gladly submit and obey.