The Work of Being Dormant

Before January, I had been absent from my own work for a little over a year. I bowed out of my poetry group for most of 2019. I rarely went into my office. I wrote very little. Why? Because I didn’t feel like it. Why not? Many, many, many reasons. Distractions of every variety, good and bad. I could write for days on the distractions; maybe I will at some point.

As it says in 2 Corinthians 9:7 (that’s second Corinthians, not “two Corinthians” as anyone who has spent any amount of time in church very well knows, but we’re all supposed to turn a blind eye to THAT too — welcome to my lengthy parenthetical wherein I allude to the biggest and ugliest distraction of them all), God loves a cheerful giver. The blank page is like God that way. It doesn’t require a cheerful giver, thank heavens, so much as a willing one. I wasn’t willing for a long time. We’re talking about good old-fashioned honest to goodness “writer’s block.” It is my opinion that the phrase “writer’s block” is used too frequently and very often incorrectly, but I believe I’m using it correctly here. I can’t say I enjoyed it very much, but I can say I learned a great deal. And I did a great deal of work without even knowing it.

I am a person who has said of herself, “I can’t ‘not write’.” So, in not writing, I became less and less myself in a very fundamental way. I could see it happening. I could feel it. I was troubled, so I would think about what was happening to me and what I could do about it, or whether I even wanted to do something about it. Turns out I did. I’ve long held that the best solution to any problem is doing what you’re called to do. If everyone would follow their calling, I’m convinced we’d all be better off. Some people, for instance, are not called to public service. If you abhor parts of the public that aren’t just like you, and you’re bigger on self-serving than serving others, you probably aren’t going to be a very good public servant. The title should have clued you in. Anyway, I also suffered from the fact that I didn’t want to be one of those people with her head in the sand. Somebody has to pay attention when the train is about to jump the track, but all my attention-paying didn’t seem to be having much effect. Slowly, I was teaching myself to compartmentalize, and coming to realize that, not only could I pay attention to my distractions, I could also heed my calling to write. It wasn’t an either/or deal, and why had I started to behave as if it were? Not only could I heed my calling, but I should heed it. And you should heed yours too.

Once I realized I was trapped in some kind of maze of inertia, I couldn’t get away from the question, “How is this helping?” When “this” is continuing to stare at the train jumping the tracks, knowing it’s about to wreck, how indeed is “this” helping? It isn’t. I figured out that almost all my distractions not only required my attention, but they required my action. Political, social, or cultural distraction? March, speak up, call my representatives, write letters, help get out the vote, vote, demand better — hell, demand “competent.” Personal distraction? Identify what’s needed and do what I can. Whether it’s grief or my health or dealing with family issues, identify what’s needed. Then do what I can. I realized once those actions are taken, there’s no need for me to stand around staring anymore. My attention can return to my calling. I can get on with being myself in this world. And myself can’t not write. I’m happy to say I will cheerfully rejoin my poetry group this month and I’ll be bringing new stuff.

Thanks for reading.

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