February 12, 2014
This is the fourth journal I’ve been writing in since my mother’s death in November 2010. I had these personalized journals made long before David died, journals that now remind me with their pictures and sayings of the very great loss I have experienced. David will not “grow old with me.” We cannot order our spouses to grow old with us. I filled the first journal up with thoughts and quotes on creativity, believing that my mother was the muse behind my own burgeoning creativity. I began teaching writing workshops after her death and designed a power point program on creativity aimed at women, particularly young mothers. The second journal was filled quickly. I began writing in it the day after my husband’s death, working my way through those early days of grief. I kept the journal on the kitchen table during the day and carried it with me when I went anywhere. When I wasn’t writing in a journal, I was blogging, and when I wasn’t blogging, I was working on one of the three books that would be released in 2013 and 2014.
In other words, I have pretty much been writing non-stop for the last three years. Daily. Every single morning. That is, until I turned in my manuscript for Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace in December. Since then, other than my weekly coupon column and working with my editor on revision, I haven’t been able to write. No blog postings. No journal entries outside of copying down other people’s words. That has been tough for me. I’ve managed to produce a weekly coupon column and write letters, but anything else has been beyond me. I’ve tried: I’ve begun blog posts, attempted essays, worked on an outline for my next book.
I was feeling increasingly despondent, and a little bit afraid. Until I read these words in Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life:
“When I’m between books, I feel as if I will never have another story to tell. The last book has wiped me out, has taken everything from me, everything I understand and feel and know and remember, and…that’s it. There’s nothing left. A low-level depression sets in. The world hides its gifts from me. It has taken me years to realize that this feeling, the one of the well being empty, as it should be. It means I’ve spent everything. And so I must begin again.” (page 35)
This time of no writing, this period of fallow, is normal. I need it. I will write again. The last two books I have worked on have chronicled a marriage, a love renewed, the subsequent loss, and a journey of grief. Through writing, I have worked my way through it all over again. Like Shapiro, who insists she will write until the day she dies…”Even if my fingers were to clench and wither, even if I were to grow deaf or blind, even if I were unable to move a muscle in my body save for the blink of one eye, I would still write. Writing saved my life. Writing has been my window- flung wide open to this magnificent, chaotic existence- my way of interpreting everything within my grasp.” (page 227)
What writing has done for her, it has done for me. “To write is to have an ongoing dialogue with your own pain. To scream to it, with it, from it. To know it- to know it cold. …you are facing your demons because they are there. To be alone in a room with yourself and the contents of your mind is, in effect, to go to that place, whether you intend to or not.”( page 135)
Through writing Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage and Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace I have gone there: I have revisited and relived David’s cancer, the caregiving journey, the revitalization of our marriage, the loss of my mother, then my beloved, and finally, my grandson Jacob. I wrote my way through it and lived it all over again. I went there.
And I am spent.