It’s been silent here for a while. I know it. I’m sorry. I do think about you often.
I’ve started and stopped more than one post over the past several weeks. I’m at a bit of a loss for words these days, I guess. (My husband would tell you that’s not something that happens often in our almost-18 year marriage.) #miraclesdohappen
If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll know I’m doing a little 12-day writing challenge brought to you by the lovely people over at Hope*writers.
Honestly, though I’ve done the odd Instagram photo challenge here and there over the years, I’m not big into writing prompts. I once heard Marion Roach Smith, author of The Memoir Project, in an interview advise writers to throw away their morning pages and their writing prompts and just write. So I took her to heart. (Except the “just write” part… clearly.)
As a result, I generally run the other way when I hear somebody gleefully say, “Writing prompt…” (My mother would tell you that it’s just my tendency to do the opposite of what I’m told to do, although I would argue that just applies to my parents.) Because Marion Roach Smith got my attention, am I right?
It’s clear from the silence here that I’m struggling with words. So, I decided to throw caution to the wind and do the writing challenge. It’s only 12 days; surely I can do something consistently for 12 days? (No comments from the peanut gallery, please.)
For those of you non-writers, (or non-Instagrammers) the purpose of a writing prompt challenge is to just get the brain to loosen up, to get ideas flowing, to actually write, even if it’s crap. The habit of doing it every day will hopefully stimulate the habit of doing it every day. And with practice, comes improvement.
So, I’ve been posting on Instagram daily. (If you want to check out my posts, you can click on the sidebar or visit my account here.) I’ll admit, it hasn’t been easy; I need to shut down my inner critic all.the.time. But, on Day 4 of the exercise, I had a little breakthrough. The words began to flow and, if I’m being honest, so did some tears. A lot of tears, actually. Maybe there’s something to the whole writer’s prompt thing after all?
The prompt for the day was Mood.
The challenge is to write something about my writing life that relates to the word mood. So I wrote this:
I struggle to write from the deep. When I’m struggling in some way, in the middle of a desert, I go silent. My mind rants and rages on about the injustice, about the misery, about the sadness, but I don’t want to give those emotions words.
As though giving them words on a page, will bring them to life, will embolden them to grow, will give them power over me.
Rage simmers just below the surface, but I don’t give it oxygen. Injustice screams to be set free, but I keep it guarded.
This desert is expansive. I can’t see one end of it from the other; I’m just wandering silently in this middle. Suppressing oxygen. Keeping my resources close to my chest. Not daring to waste water or breath or words.
But the unintended consequence of submitting to the mood is this: every time I deprive the rage of something, it deprives me of something in return.
And just like that it hit me: I’m in a bad mood. (Yes, I know, for someone as introspective as I can be, you’d think it would have occurred to me sooner.)
When my perspective is all storm clouds and tossing waves, I don’t want to write. I don’t want to give those emotions words. I don’t want to set them free. And I don’t want to follow them down a path of negativity and hopelessness. And so I trap them, keep them contained, under control.
But I know there’s a cost to be paid when we bottle things up and ignore them. (I don’t think a person needs as much counselling as I’ve had to know this.)
Now, I want to be clear here. Just because I’m in a perpetual bad mood lately doesn’t mean that I have given up or am without hope… because neither of those things is true. It just means that I struggle to maintain healthy perspective some days.
It means I need to be a little kinder to myself and I need to work harder to extend grace not only to myself but to the people around me too.
Does this resonate with you too? What do you do when the mood seems bigger than you are able to handle?
When I copied my writing prompt response above, there’s one line I edited out that was in the original. Not because it’s a bad line, but when I re-read what I had written, I thought it needed to be in a different place.
But I also know that the truest writing comes out of the deep. Out of the steady unravelling.
God’s been unravelling me these past few months. And it’s been hard.
I was told early on that the effects of chemo would be felt cumulatively. That is to say, as we progressed through treatment, each month would be a little bit worse than the month before. I now know this to be true.
I tolerated my first several rounds so well I naively believed that somehow I would manage to escape that prediction. That it could apply to most people, but it wouldn’t apply to me. I could be the exception, not the rule. Yay me!
I know now that, in addition to naïve, that was really a very prideful thought. As though I could take credit for my success: that who I was or something I had done was the reason I would come out of this whole ordeal unscathed. And even better than that, healed.
Now, after five rounds, God’s done some serious soul-work on that pride, stripping it away one side-effect at a time.
It’s funny because my experience to date is that the effects and side effects of the chemo individually are really quite small—little annoyances in the big scheme of things. But when placed one on top of the other, the weight of all those little things feels crushing at times. And I know now that there is nothing in me—as I am, on my own—that is able to stand up under it all. I am still standing only because Christ sustains me.
I said to Chris a little while ago that I feel like a frog in a pot of water. You know, the one where the water is just heated so slowly the frog doesn’t realize it’s being boiled. I feel like that frog. Happily swimming in the refreshing bath back in September, feeling the heat and unable to do anything about it in January.
At my clinic appointment before my most recent round of chemo, my doctor looked with concern at my lab work. While the big picture results are encouraging, the reality is that now everything is sitting a little too comfortably in the “dangerously low” range. (This doesn’t surprise me, given my “all or nothing” personality. I’m either all white blood cells or no white blood cells, take your pick!)
“The bone marrow just gets tired,” he said. “It gets pummelled day in and day out and now, it’s just tired.”
Me too. I’m right there with my bone marrow. Both of us are tired.
Looking ahead, kind of…
The beginning of 2019 has been lacklustre to say the least. While I’m tempted to look ahead with hope at what the rest of the year will hold, my weary bones still feel like they’re plodding through 2018, finishing off what it started. I’m reluctant to jump into the New Year with both feet yet. You could say I’m just wetting my feet a little first.
I have one more treatment. One more—crazy, right?
This journey has been both lightning fast and achingly slow at the same time. This past week a little slower, as I was sidelined with a fever, which ended up signalling pneumonia. Thankfully, we caught it early and I’m on the mend, hoping my recovery won’t interfere with my last treatment.
I’m a little more realistic about my recovery time for the last treatment, as my January recovery took longer than previous rounds and I’ve been a bit more sluggish this month. Not to mention the pneumonia.
Despite my little foray in the proverbial desert these days, despite my short-sighted perspective in the moment, when I dare to look ahead, I AM full of hope for what comes after this last round.
One of the beautiful things I know about God is that whatever He allows to unravel He will re-make.
“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”Isaiah 43:19
He is making a pathway through this desert and creating rivers of life where there was emptiness. And I can’t wait to see where He takes me. One foot in front of the other.
Iola Magazine: The Deep issue is now available
One of the best pieces of news to come out of 2019 so far is that iola Magazine is going to be publishing FOUR issues this coming year. The Deep issue is available now!
I’m still waiting on my copies–but you can go check it out now at iolamagazine.com. Download the pretty lock screens, check out the iola playlists. Iola magazine is a breath of fresh air for your mind and food for you soul. Written for women, by women. If you haven’t yet read a copy, trust me, it’s simply beautiful.
As always, I’m so grateful to you for taking time out of your day to read these musings. The truth is, I appreciate you more than you know. I cherish your patience, your comments and your feedback, and because I am my own worst critic, I am grateful for your encouragement along the way.
If you want to receive my posts directly to your inbox, I’d love it if you’d subscribe. Based on my previous track record, I don’t promise that my posts will be consistent, or inconsistent but, at the very least, I hope you’ll find encouragement here.
Thanks for stopping by,