On writing versus living

I love to write. I really do. I have been writing almost as far back as I can remember.  In my pre-teen years I wrote short stories, mostly about horses. As a teenager and young adult I wrote moody poetry about feeling out of place and yearning for a beautiful place in nature that I was sure would make me whole. I have journaled off and on since I was about ten years old.

One of the reasons I did well throughout my educational career was my ability to write clearly and crisply (the other reason is that I have a genuine knack for taking multiple choice tests). I developed my scholarly writing skills to a fine point as a graduate student. One of my dissertation committee members, a man who is notoriously hard to please, gave me his highest praise when he told me that my writing did not get in the way of my thought process… he could clearly see my brain thinking through my words on the page.

When I ended my corporate life this past February, one of the things I was most excited about was having more time to write. I literally blocked out two hours a day on my calendar for writing. I had ideas for a couple of books. I was going to blog more frequently. I was finally going to live the life of a writer.

Six months later, I’m blogging much less frequently than I did while I was still working. And I have done exactly zero with the book ideas.

This situation bothers me… a bit.

There are days when I look back in the evening and can’t figure out what on earth I have done with my time. There are other days when I know very well what I’ve done (slept in, ran, hiked, read, whatever), and I’m satisfied that I’ve had a wonderful day. Yet I regret not having found time to write.

I tell myself that I am not yet done detoxing myself from corporate life. There is some truth in this. I am enjoying being lazy, simply gazing at the water or the mountains. I am enjoying not forcing my body to wake up on command in the middle of a sleep cycle just because the alarm clock says it’s time to get up and go to work.

I think there may be a deeper reason why I’m not writing very much right now, and on balance it’s a positive thing.

During my poet years of my teens and early 20s, I took myself very seriously as a poet. Some people work through their adolescent angst by acting out and doing wild and crazy things. I kept my turmoil mostly to myself and worked things out metaphorically on the page through my poetry. As I grew older and some things began to resolve themselves, the irrestible urge to write faded. I still wrote, but I found myself crafting poetry rather than writing it from my heart. My poems became stale and artificial, and then they finally stopped coming at all.

My journaling career has taken a similar course. I journal feverishly when I need to think through things or get unstuck, and set the journal aside when I’m ready to fully reengage with life.

When Kurt was diagnosed with lung cancer, I started the blog for him as a gift to both of us. He used it as a convenient way of keeping family and friends informed of his treatment progress. I used it to provide my perspective on his condition. At first we both blogged, but when he got sicker I became his voice. We would come home from another unpleasant procedure or another trip to the emergency room, and as soon as I made him as comfortable as I could I would fly to the keyboard and get it out of my head and out there as a physical object that was then somehow separated from my experience. Writing it all down and then clicking “publish” could be a genuine insulation against the pain.

I started this blog (a year ago next week!) as a place for me to grieve, to relearn who I had been before the diagnosis, to learn who I had become during my caregiving year, and to try to figure out who I might become next. Running was the thing that had held me together during that year, and so running became a strong focus for this blog. My readers have been friends, other grievers, other runners, and (to my surprise) those who found me through the series of posts I wrote about mid-century modern architecture in Palm Springs.

We are complex beings, we humans, each of us with our own constellation of interests, passions, fears, and the things that happen to us along the way.

This slow happy runner has become less slow and a lot more more happy.

When my life is full and I am happy, I don’t feel the urge to write.

It’s the tag end of a short but glorious Pacific Northwest summer. The snow had hardly melted when I left for the cruise three weeks ago, and now already the wildflowers have peaked, the meadows are turning brown, and the maples have their first hint of fall color. I should be up there hiking for all I’m worth, but there are so many other things to do.

I’m getting into full training mode for my two upcoming half marathons. My 4-5 mile midweek runs have become 6+ miles, and my long runs are 8+ miles. I went down to southern Oregon a week or so back to test-run about 9 miles of the course for the Rogue Run. It’s not nearly as “all downhill” as the course profile diagram implied, but it is a beautiful paved trail along a river. I do hope the weather is cooler by then; running in 85-90 degree weather was pretty brutal. Yesterday, back on home ground and 60-degree weather, I ran my fastest 9 miles ever (in just over an hour and a half) despite including some major hills on my route. I’m feeling strong, and I am fully “owning” the fact that I am truly, completely in love with running.

There will be more time to write when the days are much shorter and the nights are cold and dark. But now? This is not a time for reflection. It’s a time for doing. It’s a time for enjoying my life as fully as I possibly can.

I’ll leave you with a couple of photos (from more than 500) from my Alaska cruise.

This is one of the more “interesting” sections of the 10-mile trail run in Juneau. It’s a steep area that gets frequent avalanches and landslides.

This is me with running guru and writer John “the Penguin” Bingham, one of the group hosts, on the same trail in Juneau. When I stopped running to get this photo, I realized just how wet I actually was. It was pouring!! (And yes, we are coincidentally wearing the male and female versions of the same hydration pack.)

It’s a glorious day outside. I think I’ll click the “publish” button and go outside to enjoy it. I hope you do something wonderful with your life today as well!

Posted on August 20, 2012, in grief, LIfe_goes_on, Running, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I read this post a couple of days ago on my phone, and couldn’t comment at the time. But I’ve thought of you several times since then, really delighted to hear that life is returning to replenish your core! You are doing so many exciting things and spending time with people who are your friends and fellow companions for the journey of rebuilding. I think detoxing from corporate life is really exciting, Lori. The pleasures in blogging (writing of any kind) is in expressing yourself just as you are, and when you’re too busy fully engaging in life, that’s such a good and positive thing! I’m happy to read this post. I saw that one of your tags was “Life goes on.” Somehow those words mean more coming from someone who has been through your experiences, and I always enjoy hearing what you’re up to! Anytime you can share. 🙂 Debra

    • Debra, I always enjoy hearing from you as well — I appreciate your positive feedback.

      I have blogged before (on this or another platform, I don’t recall) on being versus doing. I find it’s difficult to be and do simultaneously very well. Although writing is certainly a “doing” activity, it’s also very much a “being” one. Full-tilt doing does seem to get in the way of reflective being, although I keep trying to cultivate the art of reflection-in-action.

      Right now, though, I think I’ll go for a run.

  2. After reading this missive, the thing I wish for you is that you never feel the need to write another word. It’s wonderful to read the word happy in your blog!

  3. Love this post, Lori. So often your posts give me something to think about. We have a lot in common, I think. I wrote poetry for the same reason, and I don’t any more. I’ve found my groove in a lot of ways. There is still “lacking” in some areas, but they are things I can only work toward improving, and not quick fixes, so I don’t focus on them in a negative way.
    My writing has fallen off, and I’ve chided myself for it because I was not working for 4 months. I seemed to write less while off from work. Well, looking back, I was enjoying time off, thinking, planning, strategizing, and spending time with Babe (who works from home). I was concerned that when I start a new job (soon), I’ll write less because I’ll be more tired. Then, I gave myself a reality. I WILL write. I’ll make the time. The season of planning/thinking is over. It’s time to WORK. As my aunt told me, “Sometimes you have to take a JOB to support your WORK.”

    Happy that you’re taking time to just LIVE. And ENJOY living. That’s more important anyway. 🙂

    • Alicia,
      I think you and I are kindred spirits, indeed. As much as we both live and breathe our writing, we both know that life is short and DOING (and being HAPPY) takes precedence over all of that.
      So let us enjoy this time and know that the muse is not lost… She is dancing alongside of us.

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