Monday, March 3, 2008

From you...

Several people commented on my last post. This one, from a subscriber named Betty, was particularly touching for me--and I thought that you might appreciate it as well. I asked Betty's permission to share it with you.

She writes: My goodness, Amy--what a powerful communication! I came in to my study after spending this whole Sunday afternoon preparing a Bible study that I have to lead, come Wednesday, on the Beatitude: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." And here was your moving story. I think you are one of those "pure in heart" people.

But the reason I'm writing this now is not only to thank you for a very illuminating piece, but also to tell you that two little snippets caught my eye. One was the twisted neck, the sliced finger, and the broken tooth. I had to chuckle--my litany, to match yours, was a twisted knee, a urinary tract infection, and a broken tooth! I empathize with you!

The other bit was your saying, "this melting is concerned with three categories: ownership of self, the ability to create and maintain a home, freedom and slavery, marriage and love."

That resonated powerfully with me. For years I did that balancing act of raising five children, making a home (a parsonage, no less), trying to balance an active life of helping my husband in the parish, maintaining a schedule of speaking and writing, leading retreats, etc.--while also always, always wishing I had more TIME, more freedom to set a writing schedule, be a good wife--and on and on.

Well, the children grew up and moved on; we retired to the north woods of Wisconsin--but still I plugged on at the writing. Looking back, I am amazed to realize that, despite such a full life (plus two bouts with cancer: colon, then breast), I still had managed to have numerous articles, poems and short stories, plus three books commercially published; plus cofounding with a friend a newsletter for writers in 1980, known as The Inkling, but now morphed, under the ownership of two brothers in Minnesota, into a beautiful, glossy-cover magazine known as The WRITERS' Journal, for which I have, for the last 27 years written (and still do write) a column, proofread copy for them, and helped judge their story contests. I also have written a column for our local weekly paper for the last 19 years.

All this is to make the point that, while I was yearning for MORE TIME for writing, I was obviously making great use of what time I had. But then alas, in 2003, my dear husband died after a dreadful two years of debilitation brought on by a virulent case of encephalitis that crippled his mind and body to the point that I was unable to keep him at home--so I spent 4 days a week with him at the nearby nursing home.

After he died, I was suddenly faced with all the time I had ever prayed for: no one else's schedule to think about, no one's preferences to cater to---and guess what? Except for my columns, which I faithfully produced, my "other" writing went totally down the tube.

Too much time was my downfall. Every day, I'd think, "I should get at finishing that (whatever)," and every day I'd think, "Well, I can get at that this afternoon"--or tomorrow, or after (whatever). That went on for a couple of years, and every night I'd beat myself up for not getting down to work on (whatever), and calling myself lazy, too old, on the downward path of age, etc.

I am now pulling out of it, and I'm realizing that I was going through an unrecognized grieving period. Unrecognized because I thought I had done my grieving during the two years of his heart-breaking illness.

But one lesson I did learn was: don't keep wishing for what you don't have. I was wiser than I knew when I learned how to use every spare moment of a very busy life to still follow my dream. And my body and spirit were wiser than I knew when they balked at my trying to regiment myself into a productive cycle when it was time to lie fallow and turn attention to my children and grandchildren--and just live for a while.

So you are very wise to respond with crying (I couldn't cry through all that time of my husband's downward slide) and with searching and reaching out. I admire you for your honesty, your sharing, and your gift with words! Keep doing what you're doing! I'm sure you are a blessing to many.

Blessings and best wishes, Betty

No comments: