Perhaps by accident, it’s been almost three weeks since my last blog post. Silly me to think that I’d land stateside with my hands on a keyboard and content ready for you in a matter of days.
Instead, I returned from the Dominican on Saturday and then left on Sunday for my grandmother’s funeral in Michigan. She died on the Friday morning before I went home. We were driving to the beach when my phone magically found cell reception long enough for me to get a deluge of messages, one of them holding the sad news that she was gone. Her funeral was on the following Tuesday, and then I came home to a mountain of emails and office work.
And then I just kind of let myself live this past weekend without my computer. I met dear blogging friends Kristin and Brenna and Tammy for breakfast on Saturday morning at the Lucky Platter in Evanston. (Go there and try their apricot cheese flakey immediately. Also, go visit my friends’ blogs. They’re wonderful people.)
And then, because my best friend just graduated culinary school and I haven’t seen her face in almost a month, we celebrated Saturday evening with a leisurely dinner at Bavette’s, a new place in the Rivernorth neighborhood with a 1920’s Paris atmosphere and a menu that’s, well, … c’est maginifique. I’m still dreaming about their peppered duck and goat cheese terrine with apricot mustard.
All this time, I’ve barely sat down to write. I didn’t take my laptop with me to the Dominican, thinking I wouldn’t have much time to write anyway. And I was right, I didn’t, but I’m glad I left the temptation behind. I journaled when I could, but being digitally disconnected for a whole week freed me from the stiffness of sitting at a computer for twelve hours a day so that I could walk through neighborhoods that were economically impoverished but rich in tangible love and community, and put my muscle behind a shovel and pour out love in the most literal ways. (If you’d like to know more about the service projects we did in the Dominican and the wonderful communities we got to connect with, read this post from our friends at Iglesia Communitaria Christiana, one of the churches we partnered with.)
Writing makes me present in my day to day life in a myriad of important ways, but my trip to the Dominican and this whole whirlwind month was an affirmation for me of something I’ve wrestled with for nearly a year :
It will be here when you get back.
It’s the total antithesis of what blogging experts and literary agents tell writers about platform and audience. But whether or not that’s good for a writer’s platform, as people, we need to hear that it’s okay to step back from things and take a deep breath. The blog is a means, not an end. And the blog has to be secondary to the actual writing that you feel called to do. It has to be secondary to the ways we live out life tangibly, whether it’s having dinner with friends or serving a community in need. It has to be secondary to actually making time to process our lives on a deeper level.
For the first half of 2012, I needed the rhythm of blogging to keep me going as I grieved the loss of my mother. And then, my grief turned a corner without my permission or will, and what I needed was to be still. What I needed was to be filled up by the words and ideas of others, instead of always pouring out my own. What I needed was to rethink the way that blogging works for me as a writer.
The people closest to me – offline and online – gently encouraged me with those words : It will be here when you get back. We understand.
It was a radical act of self-care that was made with a measure of sacrifice that I haven’t really regretted – less traffic, less comments, less attention. That stuff comes and goes. And while I’ve given up some things, I’ve also gained a lot from the decision.
I needed to learn to be more realistic about the time it takes me to think critically about the things I want to write.
I needed to be more present in my life – in my home, my work, my marriage, my faith.
Blogging less often has afforded me the time to take on bigger, long-term writing projects.
And as far as writing goes, blogging less often has also given me more time to craft blog content that is more meaningful and challenging to me as a writer.
I’ve also had more time and energy to invest in my work community so that I can do things like lead a group of students on a service project in a foreign country. And blogging less has allowed me to process my grief more naturally, because grief is unpredictable, and it will never be over nor neatly packaged in a few blog posts.
And so that’s where I’ve been and what I’m doing. Breathing deep and learning a new rhythm, being faithful to the deeper callings in my life. And of course, this community we’ve cultivated after nearly four years of this blog (!) has been nothing but supportive, even when I haven’t felt ready to hash this out. I’ll probably stay at the one-post-per-week pace on this blog for the foreseeable future while I work on those writing projects.
Maybe I wrote this for myself more than anyone else, but but thank you for your patience and grace. And if you are feeling fragile and broken because the pace and rhythm of your life has spread you thin, please be encouraged. Go out for a breath of fresh air, or a meal with friends, or a chance to invest in community in a new way. We understand. We’ll be here when you get back.