The Troubled Path

Almost eight years ago, I published my first blog post. It came on the heels of challenges I had created for myself – training in Taekwondo, learning how to climb rock walls, pushing myself to write publicly. I’ve given up martial arts and rock climbing, but I’m still writing. My challenges are different now. They usually involve trying to get a good night’s sleep and not letting my anxiety overrun my sensibility.

12934562I just finished reading Dinty Moore’s The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life. It’s a short, inspirational read – a reminder of some basic tenets of being a writer. I’ve been thinking a great deal about a quote in the book by Ezra Bayda: Your difficulties are not obstacles on the path, they are the path.

My path in 2019 was the most difficult of my life. It started off with a family death, spiralled into personal health problems, the loss of a pet, crescendoed with my child’s medical crisis, and has now found an uneasy holding pattern of doctors’ appointments and testing. I’d begun sleeping, finally, in this last week for more than three hours at a shot, loaded up on melatonin, soothed by a white noise machine. Maybe, my brain said, things will get back to normal.

We found out yesterday that the chemotherapy drug refill my daughter needs is out of stock. One company in the world makes it. I had a panic attack while on the phone with the specialty pharmacy. My heart was pounding louder than the hold music. How often had I been here in the last year? Anxiety steamrolling me, brain racing to problem solve, catastrophizing in “what if” land.

Normal? What the hell was I thinking?

“When/if…then” thinking always catches me off guard. I realized that I’d been telling myself when things got back to normal, I’d get back to a stricter writing practice. I’d exercise more regularly. I’d be more careful about what I ate. I’d catch up on correspondence. I’d sleep better. I’d be able to think more clearly – be less hostile, be more compassionate – be a better person.

canstockphoto14061639While I’m not someone who is inclined towards drama, it occurred to me that this waiting is a living death. Because what if “normal” never returns? I’m getting older. My peers are getting older. Illness, death, change – it comes to us all and it accelerates as one ages. Time is a finite resource for a human being.

This morning, I re-read a 1993 Paris Review interview of Toni Morrison. She talked about her early writing life. She was a working single parent with small children. She wrote in the early hours and no matter her level of organization, she always ended up writing on a small square of her desk or table. Within those limitations, she created beautiful works of art.

I think about her writing in that little space with limited time – creating a universe of love, joy, hate, pain – weaving together the threads in a poetic yawp to the world. We can make choices in the spaces between troubles and limitations. I’d gotten so overwhelmed by the big, scary stuff that I’d stopped making the small choices that would bring me joy. Writing in that 15 minutes before the next doctor appointment, going for a short run, napping near a sunny window, digging out a recipe book and cooking a good meal, writing a thank-you note to a friend, sinking into a book.

canstockphoto2904213It’s hard to unravel the idea that to write, I don’t need a huge expanse of time, a clean desk, the recommended amount of sleep, an uneventful day or ten. It’s hard to believe, that after so many years of an interrupted life, that I still allow circumstances to override this visceral need to put chaos on paper. This forgetfulness is always how I arrive here: depressed, cynical, often simmering with a vague, low-energy rage.  Writing is how I survive, even thrive when life eddies about me.

So this path, full of potholes and thorny briar patches and distracting squirrels, is the path. And the only way forward is mindfully, pen and notebook in hand.

41 Comments on “The Troubled Path

  1. Writing is a wonderful release. Even being able to spend a few moments away from the drama of our lives is good.

    Like

  2. Hello and welcome back. I have been looking for you and hoping you would be able to write again, soon.
    Yes, I too think that all of life is the Path. We lose the path if we stop engaging with it. It may be my goal to release it all, but it seems I must engage fully and release it through the resulting love and wisdom. I wish you peace.

    Like

  3. Pingback: The Troubled Path — The Green Study – sex and boobs and custard creams

  4. I was talking to a friend recently about aging, and I told him that every day is trying to figure out and cope with the “new” normal. The 50+ generation should be known as the adapters…

    Like

      • I agree. I wrote something recently about how we should devise our energy I guess, into past present and future, and I stated that the least happy people I know live in the past, so to speak.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This quote resonates for me with your words. “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” ― E.M. Forster For me this is reason enough to carve out time to write when my life lies in shambles, and chaos reigns. Best wishes to you as you find equilibrium and your new normal.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve realized many times over (and I forget as many times) that writing is critical to my happiness. It’s how I process things, regain perspective, and how I learn. The Forster quote is apt. Getting things sorted for myself is often just taking the time to write them down – and to see what emerges. Thanks for the good wishes!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I particularly like ‘… the small choices that bring me joy.’ And, for me at least, distinguishing between that desired, aimed-for joy, and the distraction that too many of my own small choices sum to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is indeed the trick – knowing what is distracting/numbing vs. self-care. I’ve started to ask myself a few questions: “Does this support the intentions I have for myself?”, “Do I feel drained or energized after this activity?”, “Is there something else that I could do that would be better for me?” Just trying to add a level of mindfulness to what I do to comfort myself is useful – not always successful, but useful.

      Like

  7. I love this post, Michelle! It resonates strongly within me. I know what it feels like to just be “surviving” instead of thriving. Wishing you many blessings that all will go well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think for a long time, I saw myself as a survivor, but that gets tiresome after awhile. There’s no forward momentum, just keeping one’s head above water. For some people, this is enough or appropriate at the time. I think, though, getting older makes this a frustrating way to live, because then nothing ever changes and self-growth is limited to just waiting for the next shoe to drop. Thanks for the good wishes – I wish the same for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You are so right on. Every day can bring chaos, but most of us seem to have that “something” that keeps us tied to this earth, finding our path, our way through that chaos and some days that “hell on earth”. You, being the incredibly strong woman I have come to know, are finding your new path, the one that will keep you (almost) sane. The path that has curves, and dead ends, and detours, and good and bad surprises, that has beauty and sorrow all rolled into one, is the path for you to re-find yourself as you crawl/run/lollygag/walk along it. You will come out of it a new and different You, but it will be the You that is meant to be to continue living life to its full measure. I walk with you in my thoughts every day. Be kind to yourself and continue to write, which is the very essence of your soul. Wishing you blessings each new day.

    Like

    • Thank you for your kind wishes. I know you’ve been along on the ride with me and I appreciate your thoughts and messages. That’s the thing about all of this – we always can find companions to walk the same path. I’m glad that you’re one of them!

      Like

  9. I love that phrase – “writing helps me frame chaos”. It’s probably why I don’t write at all apart from dutifully keeping travel notes because I’d forget all the details if I didn’t, and then later writing blog posts. Talking to Don is what helps me frame chaos, and compared to what you’re going through it could hardly even be called chaos. Writing is often a struggle for me. For you it’s respite by the sound of it. May it continue to feed your soul as you navigate this challenging path you find yourself on.
    Alison

    Like

    • I’m definitely learning the Buddhist concept of pain versus suffering, because much of the chaos I refer to is happening in my head. While the circumstances have been quite awful, the anxiety and catastrophizing make it much worse. I also refer to this as the worst/best year for my family. We’ve spent more time together and have become closer as a result. Still, writing often grounds me when my inclination is to completely unravel.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I so love the way you write. I can really feel and appreciate all you are going through. Your writing is very ” emotional” – not in a dramatic whiny way but in a good way Full of soul. I am pleased you wont be giving up on the writing. Its too good to stop We all make excuses not to write don’t we? The magic is just to keep on going.

    Like

  11. I’ve been thinking and wondering about you and your girl so much lately … And now this. Words about my own life, my own struggle to step outside the chaos and take the time I need for joy – even if only a few minutes at a time. Thank you for this reminder.

    Like

    • I think it’s easy to “learn hopelessness” when we cede all of our choices to circumstance. I think of that Tracy Chapman song “Telling Stories”. The one line “there is fiction in the space between” takes on a more literal bent when it comes to writing and doing it when we are able, not when we have the perfect space or time.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. First off I don’t know the details of the health issues you are dealing with but sending good vibes to you and your family! Yes I’ve started hanging around here a little recently. Like you I let life overtake some of the things that bring me joy. I still do a lot a athletic stuff and that keeps me focused but the writing thing has been set aside for years now. I’m slowly trying to get back the motivation. Today I sat down and wrote a post. It was weird, when I opened the Word software I didn’t really know what to do. But after a couple sentences it all started to flow just like old times. Coming across this post today is a welcome sign for me! Appreciate you sharing your thoughts!

    Like

    • We had a lot of things happen last year, but the big one was our teenage daughter being diagnosed with rare tumors. After two major surgeries, she’s now on a chemotherapy drug. Needless to say, it’s been a very stressful and anxious time – and a hard time to maintain my footing as a writer. But the perfect time will never come to write and I’m trying to escape the all-or-nothing approach – accepting that 15 minutes here and there is good enough for now.
      Glad you’re returned to blogland!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Lovely, thoughtful, mind-ful post here Michelle.
    U may or may not have wondered why u haven’t seen me here in a while, but I too had a rough 2019.
    Here’s to traveling, best foot forward, in 2020!
    😎🌈💙💜

    Like

  14. Thoughtful post here Michelle!
    You may or may not have noticed my absence online lately.
    I too had a rough and tumble 2019. But like you, I’m rolling back!
    Here’s to marching (or running) forward into 2020 head-on!
    😎 💜💙♥️

    Like

  15. Pingback: Escaping Reality: Variations on a Theme | The Green Study

  16. As the spouse of a metastatic cancer patient in an immunotherapy trial I can totally relate to this. It’s hard to prioritize one’s own needs when acting as a caregiver. But I too find that working hard writing, working out and keeping up with friends reminds me that life happens beyond and above fear and fatigue and foreboding. Carry on!

    Like

    • Thank you for sharing your situation. I’ve found fear to be a limited fuel to run on and it’s exhausting. It takes a little more effort and awareness, but even momentary joy is enough to get one through the next difficult moment. Sending good wishes your way!

      Like

Share Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: