I had said to myself I wasn’t going to write this week. As of two days ago, I went on strike.
I wasn’t sure if it was my body or my emotions that were the part I had overdone but either way, I felt like an elastic band that had snapped, and was wandering through life in a bit of a stupor. (I’m lying, by my use of the past tense. I am still in a stupor). I told myself I would give myself permission not to do my Story 101 writing course assignment about the rhythm of creativity – because I am wrung out and have no more ideas, no more words, nothing left of myself to give to anyone.
And then the words just snuck in through the back door of my mind, and here I am, writing.
I should probably tell you a secret: I am writing a book. (I am trying to write a book).
It seems that every time I write a post about how it feels to have M.E., thinking that it is self-indulgent and no-one will want to read it – it goes huge and people thank me for saying how it really is. I had so many ideas for blog posts about M.E. and what it really feels like, I realised it was long enough for a book. So I started writing it, secretly, with my spare energy, spare minutes. I am hoping to publish it in January 2014, via Kindle. (I have a few other writing plans up my sleeves after this project, but this is the first.)
It feels foolish and exciting to write these words, to confess my ambition whilst realising I may never complete it, and I say it to you whilst shuffling my feet and looking down at the floor. But I’m telling you anyway, because I am realising that to do anything in this life I need deadlines, accountability – and cheerleaders.
Though my mobility is still pretty terrible, my cognitive energy has been good and steady for a few months, so I have been able to write more, and I feel excited and energised by it all. And then there are weeks like this week, where I feel listless and wordless and wondering what on earth I am doing; I am in a slump, with no idea how I can flick myself out of it.
The word ‘slump’ makes me think of my boy.
I love the transparency of toddlers. Some people complain about the phase: the tantrums, the embarrassing things said to strangers – but I like the honesty of it all. They sigh, and you know it is time to change it up.
Yesterday, we were building Lego houses, and we were completely absorbed in the fun of deciding where to put the fifth bed – and I heard it: the sigh. The slump. It was subtle, but it was there. The completer-finisher in me wanted to carry on but my Mummy radar knew this was the time to stop.
We are not designed to do the same thing for a long period of time. We breathe in – we breathe out – even our anatomy is in a perpetual state of flux. My boy had reached the end of breathing in, sitting down – he needed some OUT; he had had enough quiet and he needed some noise. Toddlers are no different to adults: we just hide the sigh a little better.
“Would you like to go and run around outside?” I asked. His eyes brightened and we put on his wellies, and I sat and watched him run in circles in the garden, whooping, laughing, shouting; his breath releasing the energy and emotions that were stored up from playing.
We are not designed to be continual contemplatives, most of us. Nor are we designed to be constantly running a marathon. We need to pray, to think, to dream, to inhale deeply of God’s word, and worship in the quietness of our hearts; and then we need to breathe out – to run, to serve others, to discuss, to walk alongside, to work, to produce.
We inhale: we exhale. If we exhale for too long we find ourselves gasping for air; if we hold our breath for too long, we burst. Sometimes we need to listen for that sigh, the slump. I had heard it in my soul.
I saw it in my boy, his slower pace as he clomped around the garden, the restless way he was fiddling with the stones.
“Shall we go in now?” I said.
“No! I LIKE it here,” he said, but his tone was whiney and I knew we were about five minutes away from him losing concentration, falling over and crying. We went inside and cuddled up on the sofa together, and we both took a big breath as we started to read The Wizard of Oz.
My health means I have the lung capacity of an 80-year-old (almost literally, and very definitely metaphorically). I have been breathing out for too long, just in the bursts of writing and the enjoyment of chatting with friends. I have loved it; I have been whooping and hollering and laughing, but I have also been overwhelmed and I am five minutes away from falling on my face.
I have heard the sigh. I need to pause.
This is what I will do: I will not write any more today; I will read. I will read the word of God and breathe in his life-giving Spirit, his holy Breath.
Over to you:
- How do the rhythms of breathing in, breathing out; creating, receiving; working, resting ebb and flow in your life?
- Are you feeling the need to ‘breathe in’ or ‘breathe out’?
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Dear Tanya, I’m so sorry to hear how the M.E is affecting you right now, but I love how your description of feeling slumped has become a truly inspirational piece of writing. Part of me hesitated to reply as I didn’t want to add to the amount of things leaching time and valuable energy from you. But the fellow M.E sufferer and writer supporter in me wanted to say how I know where you are coming from and I am definitely on the cheerleading team!
I can fully identify with “breathing out for too long”, making one breath stretch elastic and seeing it snap-ping, leaving me flattened again. I’ve really loved your “bursts of writing” as they burst with sheer enthusiasm and joy in life. So excited (but not surprised) to hear you are writing a book. Dare I whisper that I have literary aspirations too? Though mine are still in embryo stage. I’m delighted you are making progress in that area and pray it will continue.
It is so easy to push hard when the brain feels connected and energised, even if we are only “five minutes away from falling” on our faces. The gentle voice of Holy Spirit is one I need to heed, hear the sigh and take a pause when energy and inspiration fall flat.
You are being so wise here in making the essential thing your main focus. May you be renewed, refreshed, restored and energised as you “read the word of God and breathe in his life-giving Spirit, his holy Breath”. Rest well, my friend. Love and prayers 🙂 xx
I ALWAYS appreciate your cheerleading! I am also excited about your literary aspirations! Hope you can nurture that embryonic idea. X
Thanks for sharing this Tanya! I am in a physical slump right now also and I have to keep reminding myself that it will pass. Doing things much slower these past few weeks and taking the time to rest! Not my preference, but necessary and I always learn something new along the journey. I enjoyed this post! Blessings! : )
Thanks, Ann! Sorry to hear you’re in a physical slump, though – praying you emerge from it speedily.
I just want you to know I check your blog everyday( ok well multiple times a day) to see if you have wrote anything. For your writing is always grand. I love how words and ideas and then a theme sneaks into your mind as you say through the back door. I think those times when things feel dry and you soul aches that slow currents are just below the surface ready to break through when all the streams converge. Great writing I am sure is born in the fires of doubt, wondering, pain, and when the soul is stretched to the point of breaking.
I am pumped about your book and look forward to reading it.
You said “I am realizing that to do anything in this life I need deadlines, accountability – and cheerleaders”… sign me up! 🙂
Thank you!! I so appreciate the many ways that you cheer me on, Mark. 🙂
Wow – so impressed that you are writing a book as well as everything else you do! I wonder if you would consider including the experiences/perspectives of those of us who don’t have your cognitive capacity – although I’m more physically able than you, I really struggle with more than a few minutes on the computer or reading per day, or even watching TV. It makes it even more isolating, especially as, ofcourse the internet is filled with those who can write, read and use computers, and those who are like me tend to be invisible. Ofcourse addressing this imbalance is hard, but I’d be happy to help you try.
Thank you, Anna – this is a really helpful suggestion – it has already got me plotting. I shall send you a message.
I think that the cognitive stuff is perhaps the most frustrating part of the illness, and whenever my brain goes I just feel helpless. One of my acquaintances can’t look at a screen at all, and she is living with her parents, and can only leave the house once a week or so. That just sounds so HARD. The Internet is such a gift to me. I think for anyone, but especially people who like to think and to talk about the deep things, the brain symptoms are so dispiriting.
I didn’t realise your cognitive energy was so low, but that’s probably just because you’re so intelligent that the few things online you say sound so considered and sensible, and like you read these kind of things all day. (Sometimes I think that’s a major problem with doctors assessing neurological damage in M.E. – I see them ticking me off as being able to process things just fine, and I want to say, “hey – that’s not fast! You should see my verbal processing when I am actually WELL!” Ho hum…)
“This is honestly not really a blog post.” Hope you take this the right way, but it reminds me of my nephew who was asked “Are you touching Uncle Simon’s DVDs” when he was rearranging them. He replied, “No. I’m not touching them. I’m putting them back.”
Though in not writing, you’ve managed as many words as I have in the last week of quite determined writing. So maybe you breathe through your fingers (or a speech-recognition tool)?
Either way, great thoughts and good luck with the book. Let us know if there’s anything we can do to help.
This made me smile – your nephew sounds cute.
And thanks for your compliment about my writing – though it should be acknowledged that, unlike you, I am not attempting to write about liberalism and the Bible, so that does make it a little easier. Today it did feel like breathing, actually – on other days, not so much. On other days it’s more like cracking open a walnut, using only my thumb and forehead.
Thanks for the offer of help: I may well hold you to that. 🙂
I can help with proofreading. And yes, my nephew is very cute. Am looking forward to reading him bedtime stories tomorrow night.
Help with proof reading would be AMAZING. Will be calling on you when I get it to that stage. (I WILL get it to that stage. I will. I will.) 🙂
Ah, so good!!! I really enjoyed what you said. I guessed you were writing a book. Really hope it gets published widely!!!! Here I am – cheering you on!!!!! What a wonderful testimony. Bless you.
Thanks so much for the cheer!! I’m feeling spurred on. (I’m also amused that you had guessed already – sometimes I think I’m as transparent as my toddler!)
“to do anything in this life I need deadlines, accountability – and cheerleaders.” So very true!
Glad it’s not just me! Thanks for stopping by 🙂
Tanya, you are one of the most beautiful writers ever! Thank you for modeling listening to the rhythms of your body and your child. So glad to hear you’re writing your book–and for Kindle!
Thank you so much for that huge compliment! It made me smile 🙂