Sitting with life

Here's how writing works for me these days: it doesn't work very well. I don't get enough time to do it. I'm frustrated. I think I got over the writing anxiety hump. (Dealing with anxiety, in general, is a reality in my life, but not the point of this post.)

I'm trying to figure out the place of writing in my life during this season. The fact that writing has been pushed to the margins of my life, stolen hours on a Saturday afternoon, grieves me.

This is but one source of pain in my life. It is the sorrows of family members, the pain of unmet expectations and dreams, the groanings of the earth, the plight of displaced people (displaced: a word that does not even begin to express the horrors) - in short, it is the brokenness of the human condition to which this writing grief is added.

It's a season of some pain for me, punctuated with commas, periods and exclamation points (like my cousin's wedding last weekend) of deep joy, gratitude, and belonging. Ok, so that's life in a sentence.

It's a season in which my writing feels neglected, malnourished. Something I have enjoyed doing for many years, an activity that brings satisfaction; and here's the crux of it, adds a certain meaning to a very ordinary existence, sits on the margins of my life.

Damien and I have talked a lot about this. The shift in our family life (we're calling these the whoosh years, I'll explain more later), the shift in my writing. And I'm afraid. I'm afraid of losing something that I've attached to my identity.

That's really the source of my writing grief; writing - the dearth or expanse of it in my life - is wrapped up in how I define myself. It's wrapped up in my identity.

I've spent most of the summer thinking about identity, meditating on my true identity (which is hidden in Jesus Christ), and yes, sometimes even writing about identity. Most of that has not been published, increasingly I despair it never will be published, but maybe that's not the point.

And then when I do have a moment to write, sitting here in this Second Cup on Parc and Milton, while my husband works out a few blocks away, what do I do? I write about my writing angst instead of writing through and trying to publish all those notes on identity or any one of the many other ideas gathering digital dust in my Writing Ideas Evernote folder.

This is something I don't like about my writing. My tendency to do this. To analyze my writing practice, bemoan the change in my writing routine. Bemoan change period. Writing about writing. It seems self-absorbed and whiny.

Why oh why can't I just live ideas, live life, live homeschooling, live marriage, live mothering and friendship, belonging, and faith without the desire, and on another level, the need, to write about it. Which is like asking the questions: why am I the way I am? what are my motivations? what's the difference between need and want?

Right now, in this exact moment and in the greater scheme of my days, I feel I'm being asked, being taught, being conscripted against my will to sit with life. To sit with the discomfort, to feel pain for which there is no pill, to feel frustration for which the only answer is surrender.

The answer, if there is one, has something to do with spending my energy swimming with the current of our family life, instead of exhausting myself swimming against the realities of my life, quite a few of which I have willingly chosen.

I strongly resist certain aspects of this age and stage. As much as I love Montreal I struggle with the some of the realities of city living. I struggle with the schedule of keeping older homeschooled kids engaged.

There's that struggle and there's also pain, disappointment, grief over life's little and big sorrows.

It's a stretch for me to show up for family and friends in their losses and grief, to open myself to experience pain and uncertainty in situations that I cannot orchestrate or manage a favorable outcome. Like most of my life, it's out of my control.

And so I have to sit with it, acknowledge it. Seek peace not in removing myself, emotionally or relationally, from the sources of pain, but seek peace in acceptance and surrender. And offering my presence, tears and broken-heart; which, for an action/task/product-orientated person like myself, seems a meagre offering.

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

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  • Chessa

    Chessa on Oct. 21, 2015, 3:10 p.m.

    I just wanted to thank you for publishing this.  I think it's so easy to keep blogs all about the productive, cute, positive, planned life.  But real life isn't that way.  We have fallow periods.  We rest, we transform, we strip away.  But we don't usually put those on the highlight reel - and this perpetuates our loneliness.  We must be the only ones feeling this way, because no one really talks about it.  At least, not in a public way, like on a blog.  Maybe whispered over wine with a friend.  

    So thank you for sharing the hard parts.  I know it's not fun, and it's hard to be this vulnerable.  But thanks for being real and letting us see it. 


  • Karen

    Karen on Oct. 21, 2015, 3:56 p.m.

    Thank you. I am finding myself struggling right now as well, but I had not acknowledged it so plainly to myself until reading your piece.


  • Nancy

    Nancy on Oct. 21, 2015, 4:25 p.m.

    I, too, have been struggling with my writing practice, not that I had much of one to begin with! It kind of kills me that my blog has become a collection of book reviews and that my journal lays neglected, collecting dust while I berate myself about not making more of an effort to write, or say to myself, "that's not worth writing down." I hope this season passes and soon, for both of us! 


  • Francie Gow

    Francie Gow on Oct. 21, 2015, 5:30 p.m.

    Oh my, yes I know something about this as well. While finishing my university studies in 2007 I stumbled into my creative writing life, which I kept up for a few years on the side of my translation career, and even retained after the birth of my first child. Then my house burned down in January 2014, taking with it all my material possessions and, until this summer, any activity that didn't directly involve my family, my job, my insurance claim, and my rebuilding project. In the middle of all that I had another child (great joy and great struggle indeed co-exist surprisingly well).

    Now we are back in our rebuilt home, and I have returned to work after the second maternity leave, but my creative writing life has yet to return in any form. It reminds me of the failure of the cod to return years after the moratorium was implemented in 1992. The ecosystem has shifted. The same thing has happened to my scrapbooking and genealogy practices, which gave me great creative fulfilment as well. However, I am feeling strangely accepting of this for the moment. Right now my attempts to adapt our lifestyle incrementally to allow for the possibility of homeschooling and to convince my partner that this is not completely insane are filling my bucket in a way that seems to satisfy me during this season. I do plan to reclaim my former creative practices eventually, since I am not finished with them. I'm counting on the fact that the ecosystem will shift again. 


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 24, 2015, 3:48 p.m.

      I love this metaphor of the cod moratorium and shifting ecosystems. I get that those shifts happen large scale, but have a hard time accepting them in my personal life. 


  • Sophia

    Sophia on Oct. 21, 2015, 6:54 p.m.

    Thank you for posting this.  I am also mourning the loss of an activity that brought me so much joy and stability of mind.  I keep trying to squeeze it in, but I fail to make it last and then the anger and frustration takes over.  Maybe it's not meant to be, maybe I'm not trying hard enough, I don't know yet.  I always thought that if I gave up this activity, it would be for something even more fulfilling, but as it turns out, I've given it up for a little more time to engage in all the quotidian tasks of my life right now.  I need Peace, but I push it away, too, not wanting to accept it until I get what I want.  


  • Erin

    Erin on Oct. 21, 2015, 11:47 p.m.

    Deep, moving, meaningful. Thank you for this post. It's funny: I am sooo different from you in many surface ways, but so much of what you write resonates deep within me. I keep wanting to shift my life, my writing...from working to home, from academic to creative. I haven't been able (wililng?) to make that move yet, and the pain of in-between (a purgatory of sorts) feels much like some of the things you describe here. Thanks for helping me to think about all this in new ways, and for making me feel a little less alone in the angst and worry.


  • Lizzy

    Lizzy on Oct. 22, 2015, 7:28 a.m.

    Hi, have you read the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn? It really helps me look to things beyond my scope. Xo


  • Jenna

    Jenna on Oct. 22, 2015, 12:54 p.m.

    I just wanted to tell you that you're not alone in any of this. I'm coming out of my similar season, but I still haven't published any of the Big Things I want to just yet. I'm still relying on writing the Little Stuff to get me through until I'm ready to write and face the Big Things.

    Warm, well wishes to you. Be gentle with you.


  • Krista

    Krista on Oct. 23, 2015, 5:58 p.m.

    I feel like I understand your struggle - part of which is simply your personality (and mine) to always be thinking/pondering/wrestling/analyzing life. The wrestlesness, too, of being in a season that challenges you to wait and trust and let go of familiar. Thank you for continuing to share your heart with us, Renée.


  • Cat

    Cat on Oct. 26, 2015, 2:32 a.m.

    I'd so hard to sit with some of the dark stuff that sometimes people rarely do.  It's also incredibly hard to write about.  Kudos to you for doing both.  By the way, Rumi's The Guest House sums it up perfectly as far as I am concerned.


  • Brynn

    Brynn on Oct. 28, 2015, 6:11 p.m.

    It has been more than three years and just recently I found myself looking at layouts, setting aside funds for the right blogging camera, and considering.  People told me I would come out not wanting to write, not being willing to expose myself to the vulnerability.  They said I would have had too much vulnerability.  I thought they were crazy.  Writing was deeply part of me.  But they were right.  It will come back, but only when you are ready.  Unforunately, ready tends to find us rather than us finding it.


  • Barbara Tougas

    Barbara Tougas on Nov. 3, 2015, 4:15 a.m.

    Trying to define youself and figure out who you are is an elusive task. The reason is because you are constantly changing, growing, learning, moving into different stages of life.When you finally think you know who you are, you are already changing into being someone else, someone more knowing of things. This, in turn could change your whole way of looking at things. That could lead to different interests in life. My father used to say 'Most writers can't write anything significant and moving until they have lived life, experienced pain as well as joy, felt sadness as well as happiness, experienced many life scenarios'. He said most great writers are at least 40 before they can really write. Perhaps he may be correct. So embrace your sad, painful feelings because they will give you empathy to feel for others, a gift that will lead you away from feelings for self to feeling the pain of others. Everything you are learning now is preparing you for future hard tasks. Tasks that you would not know how to deal with unless you have experienced what you are presently going through.

    Let me remind you that you are enjoying life as a young person. You have your family with you, you have a good life. That will all change. Your children will grow up and move away and you will experience the 'empty nest syndrome' and you will be redefining you life all over again!


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