Sometimes the most courageous thing a writer can do is stop writing. Or, at least, stop writing to be read. It’s also one of the scariest things to do, especially if you are already accustomed to being read by others. Also, if you have your own Web site, a blog, a FaceBook account, are LinkedIn, keep an Amazon author page, and so on. A person has to keep up her “presence.” Meanwhile, I myself have felt barely present to the world.
It’s an odd time in my life: a long winter; a husband retired and at home most of the time; a teenager in the house who needs my daily attendance; a process that has finally resumed its slow grind toward (possible) ordination to the Episcopal priesthood. Did I mention the long winter? Throw in the ongoing experiment with medications for lifelong anxiety and low-grade depression. It’s a full life, but I am empty of words—or have been since before Christmas.
I thought the words would return when the New Year began, but such gifts are not activated by a significant anniversaries on the 12-month calendar. Perhaps they are activated more by the lunar year—I’ve begun to pay better attention to that, to Nature’s mundane-and-grandiose markings of time. I know the winter is long because my cats are stalking each other and fighting for no reason. They need to be outdoors. The teenager and I have pulled out the old belly-dancing instruction tapes. Now is not the time for words; what we need is movement and some sense of progress.
I have discovered that I cannot always live and write concurrently. I can’t always have something to say. Even at our best, we writers are wise only occasionally, and we’re witty far less frequently than we think. Our words have value only because they are broken up by silences in-between, silences during which we are waking up and doing our tasks, when we are caring for our loved ones or cleaning out the closet or finally facing those forms we must complete and mail somewhere.
Last week I went to the funeral of the oldest person in my mother’s extended family, my great-aunt Sammie. It was a long drive there, and then the funeral and the graveside service, then lunch at the church, the visiting, the long drive back—a full day of my life. But it was necessary and appropriate and holy and joyful in its way. I confess that I did pack an article to read, in case I arrived early and had to sit somewhere by myself. Otherwise, the day was for the funeral and all that it entailed—no more and no less. I could have written about it later, but I didn’t. I do remember, though, the beauty of remaining snow on the fields as our long funeral caravan wound through the countryside to the old cemetery. I remember thinking, Now is the time to savor the light on the tufts of tan grass and to remember Sammie, to grant her this final, lovely ride. This act is the fullness of what God asks of me today. It is is wonderful and precious to the angels.
Perhaps as the cold loosens its hold on the city in the coming weeks, I will find some words to share. They may be only short prayers at first, or a wish scribbled down. They may be letters to people who sent me Christmas cards. Because words are gift, and I believe every good gift is from God, I have no fear of running out, or of the source drying up. The question is always which words are mine to know and claim and love.
I promise, though, that if I have any words to share, you’ll be the first to know.