It’s difficult to describe to a non-writer exactly why we write. Somerset Maugham said, “We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.” This makes a lot of sense to me. In my inaugural post here, I said, “We write to know who we are.” Both, I believe, are true. I really never had any idea how deeply I felt the compulsion to write until I started giving in to it, slowly at first. Often I find it easier to write than to read. I mean, I love to read and most people would still consider me an avid reader… I just don’t read that quickly. I’m simply astounded that Julie Clawson could read all of Agatha Christie’s works in just three weeks! (Ah, but Julie, have you read Star Over Bethlehem?) I wish I could read like that. But to write, that’s different. Sometimes — as now — we write in hopes of catharsis. And sometimes — as now — we write in hopes of finding understanding of ourselves and our experiences.
I admit I can readily be given over to a brown study. If you know me at all, this won’t be a total surprise… perhaps it has to do with being 100% introverted; I can’t say for sure. What I do know is the feeling of being overwhelmed by life, sometimes paralyzingly so. In such times, I can’t speak a word to describe it, but the ability to write remains a blessed thing, at times of greater importance than the fact that you don’t have to consciously remember to breathe in an out. At least, not usually.
This morning after dropping my girls off at school I came home to find some breakfast. I stared at the coffee grinder in the cupboard for several moments, my brain being inexplicably delayed in its ability as to how that grinder was going to find its way out of the cupboard and participate in the process that somehow (how, exactly?) ends with fresh-brewed coffee in my plunger-pot. I stared at the frying pan for a minute, but it too failed to produce a fried egg without help. Sometimes you can’t explain the feeling of being overwhelmed, and even if you know that you are, and know a little of what might help to dig you out, you seem to lack the fortitude to get started. Frying an egg and grinding coffee can be victories. Small ones perhaps, but victories all the same.
We’re having to fill out bursary applications for our kids. Some of the necessary documentation doesn’t seem to leap from wherever it was misfiled. The source of funds that has allowed me to attempt to take up a career as a writer without grave concern for funds to flow immediately in large quantities has suddenly said that although they haven’t paid me since September, they’re having a cashflow shortage and are going to take a break from paying me installments on what they owe for another six months. Okay? They didn’t actually ask, and although I’m arguing the point, I have no fortitude with which to do so. I think I’m starting to understand the phrase “patient to a fault” although I can’t seem to recall just what measure of patience is enough… nobody in the Bible is praised for the end of their patience. Proverbs 19:11 says, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” I have to say I’m struggling with the last part… bitterness over this whole unjust situation creeps around, nipping at my heels, crouching at my door, seeking to engulf me. But patient I have been, perhaps too much so… but I am not in a position to exert great force, and can only cry out to God. I said “has allowed”, but this is not entirely true. Up to September only half the payments were made, so mild concern has become much more grave. “Was to have allowed.” My wife has hurt her hand and at least for a while (short, we hope) can’t pick up the extra shifts at work that were helping us squeak by.
For reasons I prefer not to go into just at the moment, my confidence is shaken. My resume sports a number of significantly brag-worthy accomplishments in business, management, entrepreneurism. But selling myself has always been difficult for me. Failing to sell myself into some paid writing work could send me trying to sell myself into a 9-5 job that I hate. I’ve done that before, and it kills me. Would I still be able to write? Fear nags. It’s gone too far now: I must write.
There’s cause for some elation going on around me… our underdog football team won a decisive victory in a semifinal round that was to have been a bloodbath in the other direction. Our team finds itself headed to the “big game” with a backup quarterback, but there’s excitement around the city just the same. It’s beginning to snow, about which my kids are excited… not so for me. It just reminds me that the calendar’s dark days are coming… the coldest days. And as Christmas nears, so does an anniversary I dread — that of the betrayal that lead to me leaving my last position, my only safety net being the aforementioned funds which seem in a state of permanent default. I don’t know how I feel about it… pain resurfaces that I’d rather not re-experience, thank you very much. I normally love Christmas, and look forward to the Advent season as we run up to Christmas. We’ve already notified the extended family that none of the adults will be receiving gifts from us. No sense servicing credit card debt for an indeterminate period of time to enable the obligatory exchange of gifts that to be honest, nobody needs. Our kids know that there won’t be a lot of presents, but they never seem to care too deeply about stuff like that… sometimes I think they understand far more than adults do, such as the one resistive comment we got that “But it’s good for the kids to see us exchange gifts…” Sorry. It’s good for our kids to see us not spend money we don’t have. We didn’t plan it like this, but in several ways, I’m actually glad to be countercultural on this point.
As for the rest of the causes for elation, or comfort at least, my wife informed me that I was going to church on Sunday evening. I didn’t feel like it, but she informed me that unless I was up for a fight, I should listen to her. I figured she’d win either way, so I skipped the argument and went. Wise woman, my wife. My oldest daughter asked to come along — on the way she told me that she likes it when the two of us go to St. Ben’s together. I have alien children that just might be more wise than I am… you know, despite the moments which I swear I can actually feel my hair going gray as a direct result of parenthood of these children. Anyway, the Anglican liturgy is framed around being gathered together, and after the word and prayers and offering up to God of all the things in our own lives that are born of sin, despair, worry, or fear, there is the passing of peace to one another, and there is the priest standing before the people and speaking pardon into their lives. The table is set, and an invitation is issued to come to the table… “If you have tried to follow and are afraid you’ve failed, come.” I hear the words, and more like them. There is something profound in having a blessing spoken over you, in having forgiveness pronounced. “You know, Jesus forgives all your sins” does not have the same forceful impact as
Almighty God, who forgives all who truly repent,
have mercy on you,
pardon and deliver you from all sins,
confirm and strengthen you in all goodness,
and keep you in eternal life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Sometimes we sing a song by Gord Johnson as the table is prepared:
You who are weary, come, come
You who are hungry, come, come
If you would follow Him, come, come
If you have failed Him, come, come
Come to the table,
Jesus would meet you here
Repeat that until you get it; I am all this, and more. Wise woman my wife is, to send me out into the cold dark night to hear words like this, and to meet Jesus at the table.
Jubilation, or sense of accomplishment in my completion of the little Advent prayer book. A few more details, some spit-shine, and an upload… very soon, very soon. My first book. Perhaps I am a writer. An author. It feels odd, like a pair of shoes or some garment your mother puts on you as a kid and says, “Don’t worry, you’ll grow into it.” Will I? Wise woman that my wife is. After showing her some image ideas for the book cover, she thought about it for a while and came back to me and said, “No, I keep seeing…” whereupon she described what she thought should be there. I argued the point, not sure it would work. She further instructed that I was to sketch this image myself. Is she daft? Wise woman that my wife is. Last night she was sitting at the table with the kids, all of them drawing, doing some kind of craft. “Come and draw with us,” they all
cajoled invited me warmly. I sat down and sketch what my wife had told me to, and though perhaps I should have used charcoal pencils and proper sketch paper rather than the first stick of graphite and sheet of printer-paper at hand, I came up with something. “See?” asked my wife, more firm than ever in her belief in this daft idea. I scanned the image, did some manipulation, and…. oh, wise woman that my wife is.
I’ve got some new reasons why I can’t wait for Advent. I’m eager to share this collection of prayers, and to begin praying them myself… I haven’t even “tested” the compilation yet! (What am I, nuts?) Here are two prayers from the collection that so fit my brown study… it’s been somewhat providential to have been steeping myself in this stuff for the past week.
The night is dark,
and like the watchman,
my soul waits for you, Lord.
Even more than those
who watch for the morning,
for just a glimpse of the coming dawn.
Longing more than those
who long for the coming day
do I wait for the Lord.
My soul waits,
and in his Word
do I hope.— from Psalm 130
This I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.— Lamentations 3:21-26, ESV
I am pressed down at the moment, and yet I thought God had said…. Well, perhaps he did. Sometimes appearances are deceiving… but it is good to wait quietly, and in his word do I hope. Patient endurance. I hope to have these in balance, to have the requisite amounts of each. In the mid-day office yesterday, we read from The Beatitudes in The Message… and apparently I’m blessed at the end of my rope. At least Petersen’s translation didn’t say “happy.” J.B. Phillips says “happy” instead of “blessed” in his translation… one of the very few gripes I have with his work. Arriving at the end of this post, I understand a few things better. This is more personal than most of my writing… self-disclosure of this type is quite uncomfortable, even under a pseudonym. My third anniversary of blogging here draws nigh, and although the pseudonym is intact for now, it will not remain so forever. I can’t decide if this post is too personal, too depressing, or if it emerges with some form of encouragement. Is it too much laundry? I think I’ve found a bit of focus. Can others relate to “a brown study” or did I lose everyone with the first utterance of the phrase? Will anyone look it up? What will my wife say, wise woman that she is? Here goes.