I'd be hard-pressed to remember a time in which this blank screen felt so intimidatingly empty. Usually this white expanse is an immediate thrill, an opportunity, a sure change of committing to memory something funny or meaningful, of processing and coming to better understand something, of making you laugh, of inspiring you to cook.
But since January 20, the ease of writing has felt more elusive, this space more challenging, our easy friendship not as effortless. Oh yes, there have been moments, stretches in which the cursor can hardly keep up with the letters as I lay them down. But in some ways, writing has felt like a sort of work it hasn't before.
Because writing is so often a great source of peace for me, and frankly a peace I have desperately needed since the election and especially since the inauguration, my lack of facility with it as of late has sewn me up and through with a sad sort of tension. It is as if I am without my trusty outlet and so the ugliness of the bigotry and lying and hate and ineptitude spewing from the White House like the most toxic slime settles in but then struggles to escape.
I am not remotely alone in feeling awash in this stress. DC is like an underdressed person on a frigid day, hunched over, eyes down, shoulders pressed towards each other and forward against a biting wind. My city is agitated, strung out, and pissed off. Even our winter hasn't been normal. We've had only a dusting of snow, and none of it stuck. The cherry blossoms are blooming, weeks ahead of schedule, the tulips are halfway up, the ants have returned to our door jambs. Last week, the kids wore shorts to school one day.
Although February is never my favorite month, it's hardly been much of a February, and I can't attribute much malaise to wearing shorts a few times weeks ahead of schedule. So what gives? And what can I do?
Wise friends in my writing group beseeched me to sit with it all. The grayness and the attendant frustration when I can't understand, in that moment, when I am unable to paint the gray a brighter hue.
"Just keep going. No feeling is final." said J via Rilke.
"...why or what is it that causes you to 'dislike, immensely, this utter discomfort and threading sadness'.......looking for an answer to that, maybe writing about that, could help break up this 'flummoxed all around'" sensation, wrote D.
J offered this poem from Rumi but noted that he sometimes "find[s] it helpful to pause before answering the door."
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
And so I have tried to stew acceptingly, to laugh at unexpected visitors, to sometimes pretend not to be home when they knock. I have tried to limit my stays in the house of horrors downtown, to ignore what might be appalling but not consequential but continue to push back on what is dangerous and offensive and unjust. And I have tried to treat myself with the kindness I would bestow on others, a task that is always more difficult for me than I feel it should be.
This afternoon, the massage I hoped would help relieve my unyieldingly taut piriformis disappointed in almost every way. And the documentary I'd hoped to see afterwards was foiled by rain and a temperature drop and assorted nonsense. But I took a hot bath, and asked Tom to go to the market, and went to a book club at school where we discussed privilege and justice and race and the sorts of kids we want to raise and how best to be models for them (I do recommend the book we read: We Gon' Be Alright by Jeff Chang).
Though the rain kept coming, the skies parted, and the gray slunk away, and I thought about how Rilke is right, that no feeling is final.
I thought about the risk but immense reward in being vulnerable, with self and others. That there is great connectivity and healing in exposing myself, yourself, ourselves, even when at first it might seem there's anything but.