Sick Days

I'm on day 2 of being sick, after spending a day with a sick O, and I am fighting terrible feelings of self-doubt and lurking failure. This is a normal way to be when sick, I suppose, but it comes at a time when I was already struggling against despair.

Why despair?

Because I am genetically predisposed? Because I am working too much and I'm worn out? Hormones?

Yes. Yes. Probably.

Because the BiP is more a fantasy than a reality at this point? (For those keeping track, NaNoWriMo feels to me more like NoNeGoWriMo ~ Not Never Gonna Write More.)

The last is probably the clincher. Whenever I lose track of my writing I get desperate. This is an ongoing dance I do with myself. Commit to the writing ~ do the writing ~ neglect the writing ~ hear the writing whispering recriminations ~ avoid the writing ~ loathe self and others ~ eventually get back to the writing (repeat). Wouldn't it be nice if we could lose steps 3, 4, & 5?

Hope in a Prison of Despair, pre-raphaelite painting by Evelyn De Morgan

My friend Paula has taken recently to calling this sort of reflexive negativity "lazy," and to a certain extent I think she is right. For someone like me the pose of despair is an easy, familiar place to land, but is it real or even in any way useful? How do I get back to committing to the writing, and to myself?

When I am avoiding my writing, I also lose the ability to focus in a lot of other ways. My mind is too antsy to settle down to read. If there isn't a task directly in front of me, I don't know what to do with myself.

O has recently developed a habit of asking plaintively, "Mama, what can I do-oo?"

It's really like he is voicing my internal state. What can I do? I have to DO something! Heavens forfend that I sit here and just be with myself. Thus, I have made myself so busy I am on the edge of exhaustion.

What am I avoiding? Is it something in the writing or is it something in me and the writing is just a casualty?

A week and a half ago I went to NYC to see a rock concert (my "Girlie for the Modfather" post has been in the works far too long ... another casualty of my current funk, I guess.) and I visited the World Trade Center site for the first time since 9/11. 

I went to "ground zero" because one of my characters, Lee, works in the financial district and the daily  presence of that place must mean something to him. Plus, and, my book is of a world populated by ghosts ... and there must be ghosts down there, right?

I finally got to see, and touch, the eerie eye mosaics in the Chambers Street station, which I had written about but not witnessed. They were installed in the late 90s, but take on more resonance in the wake of the towers falling.

Read more about the Chambers Street "Oculus" here.

Coming up to street level, I joined the crowds of tourists and gawked at the hole in the ground (the ever-present sounds of construction make a paradoxical soundtrack), I walked around, I took notes, I had a hot dog on Wall Street and watch a Dutch tour guide cracking up his tour group, I heard a chamber orchestra rehearsal in Trinity Church, and I concluded the St. Paul's churchyard is still the most haunted place down there. 
St. Paul's: maybe this is where all the WTC ghosts hang out?

I should write about it ... for real, not just in blogland. But just putting down these notes feels better. So, in the interest of admitting Hope into the prison of Despair, I commit to two things:

1. To make time, real quality time for the BiP.
2. To use this blog to catch shiny things, in other words to stop for a moment, to stop DOing and to sort, capture, and focus on my daily life and observations. 

Dear reader, help keep me honest.

I need more tea ...


  1. Avoid the word "Should" at all costs. It's a self-flagilation word and icky.

    *hugs* Instead think how fun it will be to write that cool scene you envisioned. Instead of "I must, I ought, I should" think "I can, I will, I want"


    And then I'll do the same.

  2. You are so right. "Should"s are evil beasts.

    Can, will, want!

  3. Why are we not bestest friends? Is everyone I know depressed right now? I have a cold and an ear infection and I've been fighting with writing my whole adult life and have never in your brave way really committed to it at all. It is the thing behind me that needs to be done, but I fill all this time for all these other things because...because I must, because I do?

    But the sad, I've been trying to figure that. Is it the weather? The change in seasons? In light? Is it the fury of things to do and having done? Is it getting older and having these small children? Is it that I've finally succumbed to my own secret chemical imbalance? Shall I do yoga, chant mantras, drink tea, choke down endless omegas, D3, 5-htp, epo, vco, cal-mag, etc, go vegan, eliminate gluten, wake with the sun, self-flagellate with the branches of willows tied in bundles, walk in the desert repenting? ah yes, that...

    A friend sent me this poem the other day:

    Wild Geese

    You do not have to be good.
    You do not have to walk on your knees
    for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
    You only have to let the soft animal of your
    body love what it loves.
    Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
    Meanwhile, the world goes on.
    Meanwhile, the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
    are moving across the landscapes,
    over the prairies and the deep trees,
    the mountains and the rivers.
    Meanwhile, the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
    are heading home again.
    Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
    the world offers itself to your imagination,
    calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
    over and over announcing your place
    in the family of things.

    Mary Oliver

  4. Ah, as I learned in the Alanon meetings long ago, we do learn to should all over ourselves we do. I like that poem. Sometimes being a creative self aware being comes with the price of expectations that one SHOULD be doing something, something GREAT and NOBLE. Or just DOING. It is tragic, because there is magic in the quiet moments, the moments when no one is doing or being or expecting anything. Hope you feel, physically and psychically, better soon!

  5. Goshers, I gripe about my angst, and I get rewarded with a transcendent Mary Oliver poem! xo

  6. I like your tangled up self just the way it is. Whatever that is. Whenever. This has been a shit week. A real historic steamer. Try to hang on really tight to all that angst and misery and desperation - hold on even tighter. How does that feel? Sucks, right? Just let yourself suck. You're sick. Your family has been sick. Don't try to write a novel when you're sick, that's just masochism.


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