Our Regularly Scheduled Program…

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I’ve been struggling to write.

This may not be apparent to anybody but me, since new samples of my writing continue to show up regularly on websites and blogs and your inbox. I still appear to be a productive writer, because I was a productive writer…about three months ago. I woke up at 5:30 every morning, which gave me a solid hour to write and edit before the girls came crashing out of their room. I wrote again for another solid hour during the girls’ afternoon nap. In this way, I built up enough volume to be able to schedule my essays for publication two or three months in advance.

In other words, much of what you’ve been reading from me lately was written back in September.

But no longer. As of 2013, I have only a smattering of pieces scheduled to publish, with long gaps in between.

There are several reasons — good ones — for why my writing has spluttered and stalled. The major culprit was my discovery, in late September, that I was pregnant with our fourth child, followed by the roughest first trimester I’ve experienced. You’d think this would give me all sorts of new subject matter, but most people don’t consider three months of, “Here I am, nauseous on the couch AGAIN,” very interesting. Add the fact that this unexpected pregnancy had the effect of a blender on my world and my plans, and there’s another reason why my writing hasn’t flowed: I’ve spent a few months trying to get my mind around a future that doesn’t look the way I’d expected.

In the midst of this, a new puppy joined our family, which shifted our schedule just enough to be disruptive. We also had both sets of grandparents visit us for a total of three weeks during a five-week period. While this was a huge help and welcome respite during my most nauseous, exhausted, and shell-shocked months, it further altered our routine.

And then there’s the holidays. Don’t even get me started on the holidays.

All of these factors combined to make me feel off, confused, not with our regularly scheduled program. Aside from touching-up previously-written essays, I couldn’t find the inspiration or time to produce anything new.

I felt scared. I felt like I was letting people down. I realize that the world will continue turning whether or not I write, but I do have commitments to both The Addison Independent and On the Willows. I felt like I was letting myself down, too; just as serious runners feel gross and cranky when they miss a run, I was missing my regular creative exercise.

Then, this morning, I realized that I was allowed to write about having trouble writing. Because even if you’re not a pregnant writer with a puppy, visiting family, and three young children, I bet you can still relate. We all go through seasons of life in which we struggle to get back to our regularly scheduled program, when even the most basic daily routines seem challenging or meaningless.

Here’s what I think: If we’ve lost our regular program, it’s usually because we’re in the middle of switching channels. We’re caught in that grey static fuzz, and it feels like we’ll be trapped there forever, but we won’t. Eventually we’ll find ourselves in a new program, or a new season of the old program. And odds are, it’ll be a better fit.

If the T.V. metaphor isn’t working for you, maybe you can take a lesson from Bond. James Bond. Last month, during one of the grandparent visits, Erick and I went to see a movie. We sat though an entire movie, in a theater; this was a Very Big Deal. The movie was Skyfall, the latest James Bond film.

The most consistent comment I hear about James Bond films is that you have to “suspend your disbelief” while watching them. To which I say, OF COURSE you have to suspend your disbelief! Isn’t that the point of going to see movies? If I wanted reality, I’d just stay home. But it’s true that James Bond films take suspension of disbelief to a whole new level. In Skyfall, Bond survives underwater twice, hangs from the bottom of a skyscraper elevator, dodges thousands of bullets and a runaway subway train, and single-handedly fights off a small militia and a HELICOPTER using only a hunting rifle. The man is impossible to kill. The film’s recurring theme is summed up in the scene where Bond, asked by the villain (wonderfully played by Javier Bardem), “What’s your hobby?” responds, “Resurrection.”

I wonder if, on a spiritual level, we really do have to suspend our disbelief when it comes to James Bond. Perhaps the Bond franchise has resonated with so many people, for over half a century, because we relate to Bond’s recurring survival. After all, resurrection isn’t really so improbable; it seems to me that resurrection is a necessary “hobby” in order to get through life. We often find ourselves underwater, or under attack — not in the literal James Bond sense, but none the less real. Sometimes resurrection means getting out of bed in the morning to face a new day. Or persevering through a season when everything feels off. Maybe we even have to disappear for a while, like Bond does, taking time off to get refreshed through whatever means necessary.

Then, sooner or later, we’re back, ready for our next assignment.

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