Friday, May 22, 2015

Writer's Block

I haven't posted in nearly a month, and I doubt anyone has been on the edge of their seat waiting for this one. My primary excuse: between work and family, life has been hectic. But that's nothing new. Not many extra hours to devote to writing. I've sat down multiple times to try to hammer something out, but nothing flows.

In my former life as an English major and wannabe best-selling-platinum-rock-star-novelist, I have become well-acquainted with writer's block. But I think there is something else going on. Namely, I've found myself a bit tired and bored with this whole "40th year quest" thing, to the point that I'm rethinking it all.

But it has occurred to me that whatever mental/spiritual fatigue I'm struggling with at the moment is probably relevant to the whole journey, and so while it may not be very interesting, you, dear reader, now get to read a post about my spiritual writer's block.

A little perspective: When I set the terms for this twelve month journey, starting with my 40th birthday, it was as "a spiritual quest for meaning after leaving Mormonism"--intent being to express my own experiences and insights, and hopefully to reach fellow seekers who may be struggling in their journey, to provide hope and perspective. I've wanted it to be primarily forward-looking, as in, "Okay, so where do we go from here?"

Initially, I felt a lot of energy for this, which surged again after my meditation retreat, and then again after a couple of rear-view-mirror posts in the dead of winter that were more widely read. I feel good about my intentions, the changes I've made in my life, what I've written about, and the overall direction I'm headed. But nine months in, and I'm starting to question some of my underlying assumptions:
Chaos Theory
  • Books. I've done a lot of reading, and yet the stack on my nightstand grows larger by the week. So much to read, so little time. But does it make a difference? Does it make one iota of difference for me to read another book? Another ancient text or some book by a New Age-y guru who thinks he's got it figured out? I get it, we're all connected. Live in the moment. Create your own meaning, blah blah blah . . .
  • Or meditation and yoga. I had some phenomenal experiences with it, felt like I had really turned a corner, but guess what? I come out of it, the kids are still fighting, I forgot to pay the electric bill, and there's a basketball game on. Back to the same old, same old.
  • Exercise. This has been pretty consistent. I enjoy it and feel like I'm in good shape. I've lost some of the belly fat, set a personal record for 10K in the Colfax Marathon Relay last week . . . but I'm still scrawny up top, still can't touch my toes in yoga, still aware that this machine is getting older by the day, that the clock is ticking down now, and doubtful that my health and fitness will ever be substantially better than what it is at the moment. 
  • What about the big ticket items?  Finish a marathon and pass board exams--check (barely) and check (grrrr). But then what? I've found myself, per usual, greatly anticipating upcoming vacations and events, to the detriment of whatever else is going on right now.
Right now. Hmmm. Part of my ennui seems to be emanating, paradoxically, from my recent reading of a phenomenal book, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I'll be reviewing that soon. (Something to look forward to, eh?)

The irony is that this book has indeed filled me with perspective and excitement about living fully in the present, practical ways to disassociate from my monkey mind, and how to simply bask in Being. I love it. It feels as simple, clear and true as anything I've yet read. And yet . . . these Nows just keep coming, don't they? Bills due. Patients to see. Deadlines to meet. So is there really any practical transcendence in being wholly in the Now, while life progresses relentlessly before and after that? We live in world where we survive by the sweat of our brow, that demands preparation for tomorrow, for the summer harvest or the winter famine, for another downturn in the economy, for our children's college educations, for the zombie apocalypse. Not going to let my children starve or my patients die just because I'm living blissfully in the Now. And so, reading a book that appears to approximate The Answer has become paradoxically frustrating, because it seems impractical and unattainable. (Unless of course we win the $1,000,000 sweepstakes from Albertsons this month, in which case I'll devote all of my time and energy to the pursuit of Pure Enlightenment.)

This is not surrender. This is my description of a difficult phase that is probably part and parcel with whatever journey I'm on, coming out at a time when I can't think of anything else useful to write. Breaking through this barrier will take some hardheadedness and tenacity. I'm kinda good at those. But this spiritual block also might be forcing a recalibration.

Here it is: I ain't gonna figure nothing out in the next three months, or the next three years, or the next thirty. There is no grand epiphany coming, no ascendance to a higher plain. There is the daily slog, and there are the intermittent joys, thrills, sorrows and absurdities. There is the journey. And I think that's all.

Maybe the simplest description of the Ultimate Grand Meaning of All Life and the Cosmos is this:

Now, just through writing here, I'm feeling a bit of the writer's block crumbling. Maybe priming the pump, and I guess this is called "powering through." I'm going to keep at this. I've got a few good things planned. I'm going to be reviewing soon the Tao Te Ching, the Baghavad Gita, and The Power of Now. I was hopeful to review War and Peace (seriously) and Moby Dick, but those aren't happening any time soon.

I have some funny moments in parenting and doctoring that I want to share. I want to share my awakening to the world of coffee and wine. I want to get out in nature and do some writing about the night sky. I have planned some more of my occasional diversions into the cosmic meaning of it all.

I also want to share some exciting developments in regards to the post-Mormon community here in Colorado. We're trying to help re-create community and support structures among those of us who've had our spiritual and social worlds collapse upon leaving the church.

My most exciting project is something I've been bantering about with my friend Jacob Hess, who has a PhD in community psychology. He's a believing Mormon and a good friend. We've engaged in a long "conversation about the conversation": why is it so hard for Mormons and post-Mormons to have intelligent, compassionate dialogue? We've discussed the need to create a "Third Space" where we can leave behind preconceptions, prejudices, pretensions to authority, and inflammatory rhetoric, and focus on listening, understanding, and loving each other. Is it possible? I honestly don't know. But I'm willing to give it a try.

So the big journey inexorably continues, as well as this little journey within it. We live to fight another day. at least up to some point, hopefully at least another 45 years or so in the future.

To be continued . . .

1 comment:

  1. Your plight reminds me of the Zen proverb, "Before enlightenment chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment chop wood, carry water."