Writing Through the Grief: Part 5
Two months ago last week.
Week before last was a bear. Not all was grief induced, although there was plenty of that as well—things definitely pointed to a certain amount of spiritual warfare, which shouldn’t surprise me, given everything going on in the world. In the middle of other things, I seriously wrestling with the question of whether I should even continue writing fiction for the aim of traditional publication—something every writer struggles with at some point or another—and just feeling so exhausted and overwhelmed by every little thing. As I told one of my friends, it’s been all I can do just to get through a homeschooling day (when even interacting with my children in a constructive manner feels like more than my introverted self wants to handle), and to drag myself to church and play my two praise songs. What’s the point of any of it? I am only one person, with so little influence and impact on the world around me that I wonder whether I’ve ever accomplished anything of lasting worth.
Trust me, I know where that voice is coming from. And there are times all I could do was weep and beg the Lord to silence that voice, to just give me strength to keep doing “the next thing.” (From Elisabeth Eliot, who has been lauded for her faithful service after her husband and four others were martyred by the Aucas in South America ... their story is told in Through Gates of Splendor. I wonder just how often people stop and think about the overwhelming grief she must have faced in the months after that event. Pretty sure she knew what this stage felt like!)
This week, some of the overwhelmed-ness has faded, but a new weirdness has seeped into some of my relationships. Part of the issue with grief is that you never really know who you can trust—who can handle the emotional overflow (maybe spewage is a better term) when things get too difficult and you just need to talk, or you’ll self destruct. Sometimes the people who feel safe wind up not being able to handle your intensity after all, even when they’ve assured you in the moment that they care and understand. I’ve lost at least one friend, and very messily, because of this—but there were other issues at play there, too.
And that’s part of the problem, there’s rarely just one issue. Right now, I can point to any one of a half dozen people I consider “safe” (which really is a heck of a lot for this introvert, but God has hugely blessed me), and every single one is dealing with some kind of serious upheaval, too. I know from past experience that my husband and I do okay as long as one of us is relatively strong and able to extend grace when the other is falling apart (okay, so the latter is usually me), but when both of us are tired and weak? Ugh, that’s when things get dangerous. And that would be why 80% of marriages that suffer some kind of trauma (loss of a child, etc.) end in divorce.
I fear more of my friendships also ending in divorce, so to speak. At what point will one or more of them decide I’m just too intense, too exhausting, too needy or toxic, for them to deal with in addition to their own crises? Not that I blame them when I find myself shedding pain like my German shepherd sheds fur. Only God is able to absorb anything I fling at him. (Casting all your cares on him, for he cares for you ...) And they desperately need my prayers, like I need theirs, but what about the times we’re all too distracted and irritated and in pain to pray?
And even more scary, it feels like the whole Body of Christ is moving toward that state.
But I said I’d share about the writing. I’d already been working on a new story, and now I’m working on another new story—which is barely in proposal stage, and for which I needed to write a first chapter but nothing more for now. I’m glad to get to write that chapter, though, because I think my strength lies more in the actual execution than in the concept.
Both are a little out of my favorite era—1830 and 1865, respectively—but both might be an easier sell. Part of me is just so weary trying to write to the market. Part of me knows I’ve come too far to just quit.
And that kind of sums up a lot in life, doesn't it? That we've fought too hard, gained too much ground, to just give up. So we just keep trudging on.