Hi, there! (She says, sheepishly.) Yes, I know it’s been a minute since I’ve written anything on here.
What can I say? It’s been a weird time.
Side note: I learned recently about John Lennon’s Lost Weekend. I fell down a virtual rabbit hole reading about that period in his life and trying to figure out how I could duplicate the good parts without the bad parts.
The fact is, I’ve been struggling with my writing ever since I finished my book sabbatical and went to Ireland last spring. Whenever anyone has asked about my writing or the book lately, all I could say was, “My voice has gone quiet.” I liken it to being lost in the woods with no map, no compass, no GPS, no trail markings. Just…lost.
I don’t know about you, but I hate to lose anything. I lay awake at night, trying to go over and over where the thing could be. My mind descends into a frenzied churn as I look in the most bizarre places. I’m certain those socks my friend gave me for Christmas did not somehow wind up behind the bookcase, yet I go back and look five times before I’m convinced.
Of course, the time of year we’re coming out of does not help. I’ve written and spoken frequently about my bouts with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Still, in the past, I’ve managed to find creativity and voice even through the dark, cold, grey days of winter.
Adding to the strange time, work has been super weird as well. I’ve been working really hard, but a lot of it has been the behind-the-scenes partnership development and planning time that’s not sexy, not worth a fun Instagram post. This is the part of the cycle that feels like the uphill climb.
I know I’m not alone as I’ve seen a thousand think pieces about post-pandemic malaise. “Languishing” was declared to be the 2021 word of the year. I especially appreciated this article by Alicia Adamczyk about ambition loss. It’s behind a paywall, so let me just pull out a few juicy quotes for you:
“It’s a very rational response to start losing steam. It’s a soulful response,” she says. “It doesn’t mean you have to burn everything down and quit your job, but it could be [asking], ‘Okay, within this system, if I’m really honest, is it possible for me to switch gears?’
“In periods of stagnancy, follow the pull, follow these little tugs in a new direction,” says Cutruzzula, noting she signed up for a song-writing class on a whim, and it led to her learning how to write the book and lyrics for musicals, and an entirely new craft and industry a decade into her career. “Even if it seems out of the ordinary or kind of random, it can take you down an entirely new road.”
Also not helpful: I’m getting deeper into middle age, with all the attendant bodily and sociological changes. If you’ve not been through this phase of life, particularly as a female-identified human or person with a uterus, I gotta tell you: rough. It’s been the greatest opportunity for me to dig deep and try to tell a new story, try to learn how to give myself love, grace, and time for healing.
One thing that’s 1000% helped is getting my groove on. I’ve been taking weekly swing dance lessons, as well as going to regular dance workouts at the YMCA. Frankly, one class I take, “Fierce Funk,” was a significant tool that got me through the pandemic (along with walks with friends). There’s always one song in particular that I look forward to. It becomes my seasonal, signature song. The thing that’s bringing me life. For a while it was this one, then this one, then this one.
Lately, I’ve been fangirling out on this song by Beyoncé.
When the deceptively slow and soulful opening of “Church Girl” begins to strum, a change in energy ripples throughout the room. It is utterly palpable. The teacher’s choreography is liberatingly, wildly playful and exuberant. But what gets me every time is this moment in the song where Queen Bey sings, “Soon as I get in this body, I’m gon’ love on this body. I’m gonna love on me!”
I mean, literally, every. single. time. these words echo out, I feel a beautiful, terrifying pull at the corners of my eyes, my tear ducts moisten, as my hips sway and arms fling. It is a sacred moment that’s hard to describe and rare to achieve. There’s an unclenching, a release, and a touch of deep sorrow as I tap into the 47 years I’ve spent mostly not in my body. Not being able to let go of this body. Facebook memories have become increasingly painful as photos of me from the past crop up and I think to myself, “God, I miss that body I used to hate.”
Bonus: Pandemic isolation has led me to be ever more dedicated to having random conversations with strangers. If you take the time to speak to the 4′ 7″ woman next to you in class, you might learn that she left the Ukraine 30 years ago, is a retired engineer, and became a world champion weight lifter…IN HER SIXTIES.
So, I guess nothing is ever completely lost, including this time. Because, even though I may not be experiencing a creative flourishing, I’m certainly healing and moving forward, if sometimes in tiny, imperceptible measures. Or sometimes in giant leaps through the air.
I’ve spent all day, though, trying to eke out this post in drips and drabs. It’s felt like I’m doing battle with a demon, or like those days in college when I would put on a pot of coffee at 10p to start writing the paper due the next day.
For some reason, this quote from Jo Carson, a beloved and much-missed mentor in my storytelling, has been on my mind of late:
“I’ve just sort-of stood in the middle of what my life is, and something, some idea, some piece of story, something that matters to me, tackles me. Often, from behind, I usually don’t see it coming. And I have to wrestle it, beat it into metaphors, tie it up in storytelling, I get obsessed with it, and sometimes I can make something presentable out of it…But the wrestling always, always, always makes me smarter and makes my heart more open, even if it beats me up a little in the process. And that is the real job, isn’t it, to get smarter and more open. And should you happen to be an artist, your job is also to show what you found in the process.” ~ Jo Carson
I guess the reason why her words keep coming to visit me is this notion of standing in the middle of your life, which is where I am at now. And the wrestling. Dear heavens, the wrestling.