Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Not Writing

I will say this upfront: I don't want to write this. I don't. The very last thing I want to do right now is write. Ever since I moved a little over a week ago, I haven't wanted to write. Life is chaotic and crazy and nothing feels still or secure or safe. I can't find a place—external or internal—that feels safe enough to slow down, hear myself think, and write.

I know things are crazy because my nervous system is in overdrive. Does that sound weird? I don't know…probably. But it is. That's why, when I slow down and let myself think and be and feel (and particularly when I get into bed at night), I shake. Sometimes it is subtle, internal, barely noticeable—almost as though my internal organs are trembling from the aftershock of some tiny earthquake. Other times, particularly when I lay down on the air mattress on my floor in the bedroom that doesn't feel like mine, the shaking is huge and just seems to consume me.

"Let it come," the wise part of me says. "This is your body releasing what it has been holding. This is energy and emotion and tension and trauma working through your body. This is your body telling you what is there, since you won't listen any other way. Let it be."

"For God's sake, Laura," the less wise, pain-in-the-ass part of me says. "Pull yourself together. You're fine. What's the problem here? You're in your bedroom/in your car/in the grocery store, and there's nothing wrong with you. Get it together."

And so it goes.

I haven't started work yet, and my house is largely unpacked and arranged. Something in me is saying, "write." Every night, it says it. Every morning when I wake up, it says it. But I don't. I don't want to. Or rather, I do. I want to desperately. But I can't. I tell myself that once things fall into place, once I feel safe and settle into a new normal, and once I find a rhythm that feels like me finding myself again...once all those things happen, then I can write. Part of me knows, however, that this is a mind trick. See, I know myself well enough to know that the writing has to come first. I can focus on everything else, but it's not going to fall back into place. It won't settle into a new normal. Not until I start writing. It has always been through my words that I find normal.

"But Laura," the smart-ass psychology intern part of me says, "don't you remember Maslow's hierarchy of needs? Maslow said that, before any of those higher order needs can happen, a person's safety and security needs have to be met. You obviously haven't met those needs if you jump 2 feet off the floor when the dog sneezes, or a bug hits the window screen. You obviously haven't met those needs if you are shaking, sleeping with the light on, checking your doors again and again. Meet the safety and security needs first, THEN work on the self-actualization."

But writing, for me, isn't self-actualization. Writing, for me, might be even more basic than the safety and security needs. Writing, for me, might be a physiological need like food and water and oxygen. Words are how I understand my world and myself and, without words, my entire world is shaken. Without words, I am left with nothing but physiological, inexplicable shaking.

I am reading Julia Cameron's The Right to Write. (Because, you know, I don't want to write so much that I started reading a book on writing). She says, over and over again, that the thing to do is to show up at the page. Just write. Even when you don't feel like it. I'm around page 90, and I'm pretty sure that's all she said so far.

So now, I not only have me on my back, but I've got Julia Cameron on my back telling me to write and, believe me, when Julia Cameron's riding your butt, that's a lot of pressure.

"So just sit and write a blog post," the logical part of me says. "Trick yourself into thinking that people are waiting on baited breath to hear from you. If you won't write for you, write for other people."

But here's the thing: moving has stirred up a lot of stuff for me. I didn't expect it. I didn't want it. I'm trying to ignore it. Pretend it isn't there. Hoping it will go away. I convinced myself that moving would be a clean start. Moving 8 hours and several states away would be putting the past couple years behind me and starting over. Moving would mean I could go back to being the person I was when I left. Are there things about that person that need some tweaking? Absolutely. But being that person would have meant that I wasn't THIS person, and I would give anything not to be this person right now.

So I don't want to write a blog post, because I know that if I do, the events of the past year will come into it, and my "stuff" will probably come up in it, and people are probably tired of hearing me whine about this past year. They probably think I have moved and should be over it. I act like I am all big and bad and brave when really, I have to sleep with the bathroom light on. I act like I am healing and have all this great perspective and have it all together when really, I have spent the last week shaking and overdosing on Bach's Rescue Remedy in an attempt to get my body to stop screaming. I pretend to be all logical and mature when really, there are 5 million people in the state of Maryland and I am terrified I will run into the one stranger I know that lives here, who I met one night of my life, who hurt me.

Nobody wants to read about that. Not even me.

And yet, writing connects me with others. It gives me a way of reaching out and touching the world in a way that is safe and, if I need anything right now, I need that. The only thing worse than facing all of this at all is facing it all alone. But that's not the me with perspective talking. I don't know where she is right now, and so I don't want to write. There's no "wise Laura with lots of perspective" coming to the page today, so there is no way for me to write without shattering that preferred image of myself. I like to think of myself and present myself as someone who is adventurous and independent and, right now, that could not be further from the truth. Part of me longs for some handsome man who will walk this road with me and protect me from the things in my imagination that lurk around the corner. And then the strong, independent feminist woman part of me is disappointed that I feel I need that. I like to think of myself as the brave woman who has picked herself up and travelled forward; the psychology intern with insight and self-awareness who took all the right steps in taking care of herself. I like to think that, because I took all the right steps, these things aren't an issue for me. If I was like I wanted to be, all these things wouldn't be the case. If I was the person I like to present myself as to myself, I wouldn't be struggling to breathe. I would be fine: I would be a strong, beautiful, independent woman. But instead, I am shaking and I am not writing.

But here I am. I showed up at the page. I wrote. I have been wanting to write this deep and insightful blog post on change, because change is what I am living, but I can't. So you get this instead.

The words are on the paper: surely, that must mean something?


  1. Yes. It does mean something. I can feel what you are feeling about the writing. Since my health went south, I haven't done any writing. Just don't feel like it -- it's kind of a "Who Cares" attitude. The Buddhist Blog -- well -- I don't have much to write about that hasn't already been said many times over by many others. The novel -- well -- I could just whip off a synopsis and call it a day.

    But, like you, that's not good enough. So, I wrote some more this morning in the novel. What I wrote isn't very good -- but I'll keep it for now. I'll post another Chapter today at some point.

    What I want to say is you don't have to do this alone. We are your "left behind" life, but we're still a part of you and you're a part of us. The part of your life you lived here has changed you -- all of it -- good and bad -- has made you stronger. We're all a part of the new you. I'm not handsome anymore, but until a real looker comes into your life, I'll be happy to walk your road with you in whatever way I can.

    Ya know ...?


  2. Moving is really hard. Moving by yourself halfway across the country (that might be an exaggeration) should be, if you're normal, terrifying. It's a big deal anld it takes a while to settle in. You are still you: the woman you were two years ago, the woman you are now. And people who know and love you are still here, not really so far away. Keep writing. Julia Cameron is a one-trick pony but she's right.

    Love you.

  3. Laura, not only did you show up at the page, you did a whole lot more!!! I am in awe!!! This may not be the post you were intending but it is incredibly deep and insightful (and I am sure the one you want to write will too come in time.) You are a brave, strong, beautiful, independent woman who HAS taken huge strides forward!!! Don't you ever doubt that! Self-care is not as easy as it is made out to be, ever! In fact, as i have learned the hard way, it can be incredibly tricky. So don't be fooled, even though it may not always seem like it or be very clear, you ARE taking all the right steps. I understand why you don't want to write and know everything is hard and scary and does not make sense right now but you are NOT alone. You may be shaking but you are not not writing, you did write, reached out, and connected. I hear you and I am thinking about you. Talk to you soon.

  4. Thanks to all of you for reading, for connecting, and just generally for being fantastic. It means more than you can know. Lots of love. <3