Hi all. I have emerged from my silent hermitage.
I have been doing a fair bit of mulling these last weeks. I’ve been in a listening place–a place where even when I wanted to write, I couldn’t do it. My attempts were fruitless. Perhaps this is because I needed to be quiet and hear what I needed to hear.
I’ve been learning.
This post is my attempt at recording some of what I have learned.
I can’t share all of it. It’s just really intensely personal, and some of it is really sacred. Which makes for a prickly process, since my writing is basically this electronic version of me yelling all my innermost thoughts and my most difficult experiences over a figurative PA system that basically everyone I know (and some people I don’t know) can hear. Oy vey.
All of this is to say, I have been at odds with social media. I’m no longer addicted to it. Now I just don’t care about it. It doesn’t interest me much. I admit that I am drawn to hilarious tweets, but in order to find them, I have to sift through so much blather and Twitter toxicity.
So why is this problematic? I don’t know that it actually is, but here is what I have been grappling with: I’m not prepared to entirely forego social media because a) how the heck else am I supposed to share all the writing I am theoretically producing? and b) I guess I just don’t want a complete cultural disconnect.
At the heart of my angst has been the still-in-place understanding I have that God very clearly told me to write about the stuff in my life and this expectation has not been lifted from me, despite my pushing against it with every bit of my rebellious heart.
In sum, I want to scream into the void, do a Celtic battle dance, and then delete my Facebook and Instagram accounts. . .
. . . And drastically cull my Twitter feed, but I am holding on (under duress) because I am compelled (not by my own desires) to write about all my most painful and personal things and share said things with people.
Also, why am I like this?
To better illustrate this point, I’m going to share something that happened to me of late. It also happens that the reason I am even able to hack out this post is because of this very experience.
I had been in an unsettled state while preparing for a long family vacation with all the transitional anxiety that besets me at times like this.
I felt guilt at the fact that we were going to a subtropical paradise just for funzies, while there are literally 70 million refugees currently displaced throughout the world.
I felt taut and upset following a difficult interpersonal interaction I’d had before we left. I’m being intentionally vague, yep. Just know that it sucked and that’s all I can say about it.
I was worried about traveling with a seven-year-old who has sensory processing disorder and who eats three foods, total.
I stress-cleaned my entire house before we left, because of the slim possibility our flight could crash and my entire family (sans Jack) could die, and then someone would have to come clean out our house and dispose of our belongings and oversee Jack’s care (everyone thinks this, right? No? Just me?)
I wasn’t in a calm place, you guys.
Jeff and I had a conversation on the patio of our vacation condo where I told him I didn’t want to write anymore. I wanted to retreat introvertedly to the woods hereafter, living an ascetic life (except with cold Diet Cokes and a nice soft bed).
And then I told him about a dream I’d had some months before.
In the dream, I was with a group of women who were collectively trying to solve a problem which involved lots of hands-on field work. I kept leaving the group and going ahead of them to gather information from various distant locations. I was doing research and reconnaissance, basically.
I had a tablet with me on which I recorded everything I discovered. The things I wrote on the tablet automatically uploaded to the cloud, and the rest of the group was reading it and following along, even though we were in separate places.
At the end of the dream, one of the women, who I know IRL and who I find challenging to interact with due to her untreated emotional issues, walked up to me and said with sincerity, “Thank you for doing this. You are a rictus and it means so much to me.”
I woke up and immediately wrote this down, mostly because I didn’t know the meaning of the word rictus. I knew this didn’t come from my subconscious.
Then I promptly looked up rictus in ye olde Merriam-Webster dictionary app, where I learned that it means an open mouth. An alternate definition is a wide grimace. Ha.
This felt pretty symbolically obvious to me in lots of ways. You are free to make what you will of it, but as I recounted this dream to Jeff, it’s meaning was once again clear to me.
“I don’t want to keep opening my mouth,” I said to him. “But the fact that the person in the dream thanking me for opening my mouth was a person who bristles and visibly dislikes me, sorta tells me that the point isn’t me being happily shut up in a silent cabin in the woods. It’s not about me, and it’s not about being comfortably quiet.”
Then I said, “I don’t know how to do this,” to which Jeff replied, “You will figure it out.”
FYI, this is the sort of answer I hate.
The next morning as I brushed my teeth, I listened to the 8th chapter of Alma in the Book of Mormon, which is about Alma preaching in Ammonihah to an unsympathetic audience who straight up didn’t want to hear the gospel precepts he taught, and who essentially kicked him out of the city. This summary is euphemistic.
While he is walking away “being weighed down with sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul because of the wickedness of the people,” an angel appears to Alma and essentially is like, “you are so good and so faithful, so props to you, but by the way, you need to stop crying ‘cuz you gotta go back and do it again. To the same people who rode you out of town on a rail. Sorry. Off you go.” This paraphrase is my dramatic interpretation and is not euphemistic.
The angel also gives him a few insightful tips and then, bless Alma’s courageous heart, he goes back in (surreptitiously) to Ammonihah. This is when he meets Amulek, a man who’d had a vision telling him he would receive a prophet into his house, and feed him and be blessed by this association.
They go to Amulek’s house, Alma eats and is sustained, and blesses the entire household, giving thanks to God.
This is the point at which God spoke very clearly to me on an island in the Pacific about something that had been weighing on me for many weeks.
I listened as verse 27 of Alma 8 said, “And Alma tarried many days with Amulek before he began to preach unto the people.”
I’ve read this chapter like 87 times before and I never picked up on the fact that Alma didn’t instantly run back into the fray.
He did return to Ammonihah when the angel told him to. He did find the gift of sustenance that God gave him in the form of Amulek and his goodness. But HE TOOK SOME TIME, yo–to rest, to heal, to prepare, to think.
In 2019 we call this self-care. Joke’s on us though, guys. This is a not a woke modern concept. Turns out self-care was around anciently, and Alma the prophet practiced it.
Incidentally, Jesus also practiced it. (See: The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).
He tarried many days.
You guys, I am no Alma. But.
I read this and I felt a divine awareness of my predicament, my anxiety, my unsettledness, my worry.
I felt the spirit telling me that it’s okay to let the blog lie fallow for a season.
That it’s okay to be grateful and enjoy the blessing of a special vacation with family.
It’s okay to sit still and be quiet.
It’s okay to recuperate.
It’s okay to not always be productive.
That it’s really seriously fine to hate doing something and then work at finding the will and the desire to keep doing it because it’s God’s idea.
I felt relief.
Was it the dream? Was it Alma 8? Was it the nice long vacation in paradise? Was it having space to sort through my concerns and think through my purpose? Was it the gift of clarity following a storm of turbidity?
It was all of this.