It’s finally starting to hit me that I live with nuns. When I tell friends or family stories from my day, they all comment on what a “weird” and different life I’m living compared to most people. Overall, I’m happy with my decision to do this. There are certainly hard times. Lately I’m struggling with a lot of negative thoughts about my writing. I’m getting kicked down by thoughts like, “You’re not disciplined enough to write a book,” “You’re not talented enough to publish a book,” or worst of all “No one cares what you have to think or say.” Needles to say, it’s hindering my productivity. That sort of negativity is a downward spiral. It prevents me from writing as much as I’d like, but then I feel bad about my lack of writing, so the thoughts get worse. It doesn’t help I get a lot of comments like, “What do you do there?” when people ask me how writing is going, and I answer honestly.
The other night, it all got to me. It’s a good thing Laura, one of my best friends, is down-to-earth and patient with me. I complained about my lack of success and said, “Maybe I am lazy. And I’m probably not disciplined enough to write a book. What DO I do here?”
She answered rather quickly, “Well, this week you did: an hour of yoga every day, attended daily mass in addition to a separate daily prayer time, got trained to work at the front desk, worked at the front desk, reflected a lot, blogged, stayed in touch with people, read insightful articles and books, had 3 meals a day every day– which involves socializing for extended periods of times with people 4 times your age, AND you still managed to write some. I think that’s a lot.”
When she put it like that, I felt better. It’s hard for me to remember I’m living a completely different lifestyle than I’m used to. It’s not the sort of life where I am conventionally successful. It’s teaching me to look for value in other things, which is proving to be great for my healing process.
I’m reading all sorts of deep thoughts that I’d never made time for. It amazes me that more people don’t read. I feel like I gain so much wisdom by having access to thoughts and life experiences by some of the greatest minds of all ages.
The grounds I live on are phenomenal. When I’m blue or lonely, I remind myself I’m living every writer’s dream. In fact, I recently found out a brilliant writer/nun, that I’d once heard speak on NPR, stayed on these same grounds for 6 months to write a book. This inspired me to check out more of her work. I’m reading one of her latest books called Welcome to the Wisdom of the World. She takes texts from five major religions and uses it to reflect and advise readers how to live a spiritual life. I’m a bit star-struck that this woman, Joan Chittister, stayed here to write. She’s such a wise individual. I’ve been writing quotes down as I read (normally I underline them, but I’m borrowing this book from the library, so I actually have to write them out).
Here’s a thought that stopped me in my tracks. I’m doing a lot of reflecting on it:
“Life, we think, is simply a series of tasks to perform, a list of things to do: get the job, buy the house, finish the degree, have the children, do the work. It takes years to figure out, if we ever do, that life is not a task at all. Life is far more difficult than that. Life is the process of coming to see what is not seeable, to hear what is not said, to become what we are but never knew we were” (Chittister 45).
I learned this, without being able to articulate it, after my three hospitalizations and two separate partial hospitalizations due to depression. Losing my health (and mind), made me realize I’d been working my ass off all my life without knowing why or what for. I’d been under the impression that if I got those degrees, published a book, got married, had and/or adopted kids, and just lived life according to this imaginary plan, I’d be happy. I’m thankful when writers like Chittister can help me articulate thoughts I didn’t know how to express before. In retrospect, it’s interesting, because I read insightful articles and listened to wise people speak long before my hospitalizations. I technically knew that life is supposed to be about the journey and not the destination, but somehow I couldn’t believe it with every part of me. Glad to know my head and heart are starting to agree on things.