I wasn’t writing much this winter. I would try to blog, sit in front of a new notebook thinking maybe if I had clean lined paper I would be able to think. Later, I summed up my case of writer’s block to no words. I just didn’t have anything to say. I wasn’t doing much of anything exciting, I was living a life of routine so what would I have to write about that?
I challenged myself on January 1st to a year of “quiet,” whatever way quiet may take shape in my day-to-day life. It was in these quiet moments I noticed not a blank mind, but a racing one with too much to say.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say, it was that I had too many words.
I thought about this terrible phrase – you don’t eat an elephant whole, you have to eat it bite by bite. Gross, I know, especially since my love of elephants run deep and the thought of taking a juicy bite out of the side of a giant animal sickens me a bit. The idea is true though, I couldn’t tackle the “Disease of Too Many Words” all at once, it would take time.
So my poor and once flawless notebook was the victim of my disease’s side effects. I started writing, and once I started I couldn’t seem to stop. Page after page, I was working through pulling the words I had stuffed away for later, up and onto paper.
Some days I would write something down and when I came back to it hours later, I was surprised at what I had written. Was this really how I felt, where did that come from?
But I guess when I’m honest with myself on paper I need to be honest with myself outside of it too.
One repeating theme (now I’m imagining a classroom full of students going over my life like a book report) is this fear that I don’t want to be forgotten. I don’t want to be left behind, the after-thought. I don’t want to live my life in such a way that when I’m gone no one remembers me. That conversation with myself lead into how I wanted to be remembered, if what I wanted was for people to remember me.
It was this cycling thought-process of me whining, to recognizing my complaints as just that, complaints, to working at changing them.
Eventually, I broke it down – myself and my fears – to unveil that what I was experiencing was loneliness. I was feeling alone, and forgotten was the next step. I found myself with barely a handful of friends and some superficial acquaintances, but really I was alone.
In all honesty, once I admitted how lonely I felt, it may have made it worse. A pity party ensued with me on this island sad and alone with a bundle of balloons. How do you pull yourself out of a pit? How could I leave the lonely island after realizing I was stuck?
I’d like to tell you I suddenly snapped out of it. *Poof* And then all is good.
The answer was far more painful than a magical change of scenery.
I say painful because I want to be true to myself with how I felt. I would like to look back and say it was easy and simple, but I know that’s not the truth.
I dragged my feet for a while. I stayed on the island with my mouth willingly zippered shut and the only phrase that slipped through was the murmured, ‘I’m fine’ nonsense.
The day I decided to make a change, I didn’t want to. I didn’t even know I was going to until the words were being pulled out like a magician’s tied handkerchiefs that kept coming and coming with seemingly no end. That was the painful part: admitting to someone beside myself and the notebook pages my real feelings.
Once I had confided in one person, it was easier to find the handkerchief words again and pull them out one by one. The catch was that all this time I was under the impression I was the only person who would understand. I’m the only one who feels lonely, I thought. I’m the only one who doesn’t want to be forgotten.
Seeing those words on paper, I have to laugh. Like really? How could I have possibly scrounged up this idea in my head that I was the only person on this earth or even in my friend group (the one I believed had left me behind) who had these feelings?
As I revealed to my friends where I was at in a real and honest place, I was surprisingly understood. Other people knew what I was saying, some were feeling the same feelings, some were in a similar season.
I wasn’t alone anymore. I was surrounded by people who never judged or even joined my pity party. Instead, they were tossing down the ladder to help me out of the pit I had put myself in. They were the rescue boat to my abandoned island (that wasn’t actually abandoned).
All too often, I hear of people, who have these secret, silent battles. They have been struggling, trying to work through something on their own for a while. Maybe, like me, they have been in denial there was really ever a problem.
I can’t help but think though – what if I had told my friends sooner, what if my fears weren’t shoved down deep into hiding, what if I had opened my mouth to share my feelings and at the same time, opened my eyes to see that this season of loneliness wasn’t a new thing. I wasn’t the only one with these thoughts and fears.
Maybe then, the silent battles wouldn’t be silent any longer. Maybe then, the battles wouldn’t be fought alone on an island, but rather fought side-by-side with the ready and waiting army. Maybe then, the healing could have begun.
I read a historical fiction book recently about a woman and her sister who were alive during WWII. They each had their own part in hiding and saving people during that time, but years had passed and the woman had hid this piece of her life from her children. Now, she is older and her family never fully knew the woman she was. She has this moment of self-awareness that has stuck almost annoying by my side since:
“I always thought it was what I wanted: to be loved and admired. Now, I think perhaps I’d like to be known.”
Like this woman, I think I too, would like to be known.