Writer’s block: a condition primarily associated with writing, in which an author is unable to produce new work or experiences a creative slowdown. This creative stall is not a result of commitment problems or a lack of writing skills. [i]
For reasons large and small, I’m resisting my attempts at essaying. My journal is getting some work, though most of what I write is superficial. I suspect the cause lies in my fear of things to come. Paralysis by virtue of what might be. Ridiculous it may be, but posts are still few and far between.
Thank God for a recent essay by My Bookish Universe that shone a light in my writer’s block tunnel. A template-shaped light, leading me out, at least temporarily, to answer the preformatted questions in essay form. I don’t know why I didn’t turn to the prompts before now, probably because I didn’t think of it. Using them isn’t in my nature.
The questions in question are described as “triggering,” but I’m not anticipating problems. I expect my responses will be emotional, not triggered. They aren’t the same, although some people get confused about that.
Okay, here we go. We’re writing. I’m getting started.
Any second now.
But first, to play with the questions. I can’t possibly write an essay without making a graphic. [ii]
When was the last time you cried, and why? This morning. Yesterday afternoon. Pretty much daily right now. I was thinking about my mother’s lung cancer when I slipped into imagining her death. I get devastated by her imagined loss on the regular these days.
Reducing myself to grief, tears, and rage over things that haven’t happened is a strange, PTSD-anxiety disorder way of spending time. The work I’ve done so far on healing is serving me well. I still drift into traumatic daydreams, but I’m better at noticing and pulling myself out. Not before tears, though. On the bright side, I’m drinking more water.
What do you think stands between you and happiness? Are they looking for an answer other than “myself?” I hate questions like this. I find them smug. I stand in the way of my happiness. The way that I think, the way that I act, my resistance to change, my dislike of compromise: just a few of the things I should change to get to that happy place. And there it is, the dreaded “should.”
I’m not sure what “happiness” is, nor do I want to let go of the things I think I need to abandon to get there. That probably means I have an inaccurate definition and understanding of happiness. I consider that likely.
I’ve been working my way through a reboot workbook I recently won. It’s called “Reboot: A Game-Changing Handbook,” and I have high hopes. Except, I put it down three days ago after the first exercise and haven’t been back: it made me sad. Tell me about joy, it asked. Tell me about joy in this past year. The book wanted twelve examples, one from each month, but I couldn’t think of a single thing save for the snippets of time spent with my grandson. Toddlers are joy in smooth skin. How sad that joy and I have become so estranged.
What will you never do? This is a tricky question, with potential for both subtlety and shading. For instance, I could say, “I’ll never kill another human being.” It’s a pretty safe bet. I’m on the gentle side (aside from my affection for the Aliens movies). I catch and release spiders. I rarely eat things that had a face. But “never” is a determined and emphatic word. What if I caused a car accident and someone died? What if someone broke into my house or attacked me, and I killed them in self-defence? What happens to “never” then?
I want to say I’ll never throw up in an eating disorder way again. I want to say I’ll never starve myself or hold one hundred pounds up as the number the scale needs to show for salvation. I probably won’t: I feel good in my recovery so far, body hatred notwithstanding. [iii] But “never” makes me nervous.
What kind of friend do you try to be? I hate this question, too: it makes me feel defensive. [iv] Probably because of the gap between desire and execution. I want to be a good friend. I want to be supportive, honest, and loving. I want to be a rock, and I want to rock it out.
Enter the gap. The friend I want to be is not the friend I am. Mental illness influences my friendships more than I’d like, but I let it do so more than I should. It becomes easier, after a time, to give up. Depression is the song that never ends.
When you look into the past, what do you miss most? After people? Moments. I miss moments. I miss climbing the fence into the neighbour’s yard in the early morning to help in the garden and get slices of hot bread with jam. My five-year-old self loved it.
I miss riding my bike in the sunshine with the wind in my hair.
I miss innocence.
I miss family time when I was young, when I hung out with my brothers and my parents and didn’t have responsibilities of my own. We played in the dark on summer nights, woke up too early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons, and our cares were mostly small.
I miss my childhood dog. I miss a million things, nothing and everything, all at the same time. I grieve losses I’ve yet to experience.
I miss not being in physical pain.
What do you understand about your life today that you didn’t a year ago? I’m so pleased that there’s another question. I may have to reconsider my position on the triggering nature of this Q and A series. What do I understand now that’s new? Life is what you make it.
Not a new cliché, for sure, but not one I appreciated in my bones. I understand that my life is up to me; I’m just not executing it well. The life I’m making is not yet fashioned after my heart’s desire. Probably because I have no idea what that is. Maybe it comes up in the workbook I set to one side?
Has your greatest fear ever come true? No. I still have my three children. I try not to go there in my thoughts: it’s a dark place. No parent is prepared for that kind of loss.
Who do you compare yourself to the most? I’d say “everyone,” but that’s another flip and easy escape. This essay isn’t as short as I’d hoped.
The most honest and accurate response would be to say, “it depends.” I compare myself to whoever is in the room, generally to the negative. My legs aren’t as thin as my mother’s. My chest isn’t as large as my friend Barb’s. I’m not in a relationship, like most of my friends. I don’t have a job. I struggle with mental illness.
I compare myself to everyone to my detriment. It’s a waste of time that changes nothing but my mood. It doesn’t improve it.
When do you feel most like yourself? When I’m alone. The world is complicated, but most of the difficult comes from people. People come with demands, expectations, and feelings of their own. It’s very inconvenient. Other people’s needs often don’t align with your own. I often find other people a challenge simply because of the energy they require. Also, the hypocrisy. It’s very annoying, and I include myself in their number.
I also feel most myself when I’m reading. It’s odd that, since when I’m reading, I tend to disappear. I like books. They’re undemanding most of the time (although my pile of purchased unreads causes stress). Books are mostly easy, though I can get weirdly and firmly attached at times.
What’s your biggest trigger? Liars. Also, liars. Be honest. I don’t like a lot of the things people say, but I prefer them to say it. I don’t like lying, fibbing, dancing, hedging, tweaking, or massaging: I’m tired of untruths and misdirections. It’s probably because I’m a longtime liar myself. I want honesty now, even if it stings. The lie revealed later burns more.
[ii] Not a great graphic, but a graphic nonetheless.
[iii] Hating your body while recovering from an eating disorder is not a contradiction. Recovery happens in stages. The first step is stopping the behaviours that are killing you. The second step is dealing with the mental stuff. Some of it you do simultaneously, but most of the mental stuff has to come after you get clarity. Which happens some time after you stop starving, vomiting, and otherwise trying to self-destruct.
[iv] The snotty voice in my head telling me nobody makes you feel things without your permission can shut up.