It has been too long since I sat down to write. It has been a combination of things, both great and small that has kept me from my writing. For the last few months I have been struggling with a bit of depression that has worn me down. I really have tried to climb out of the valley, to see that bit of sunshine on the horizon, but the darkness is still there. Like a hungry wolf it lingers waiting to pounce when I am at my weakest and once it has sunk its teeth in, I can’t seem to thrust it off. Of course there are several factors and the big one for me is trying to find my way in this strange new world of being retired. I know that some folks can’t wait to retire, the fantasize about laying on some warm beach all day, or being able to play golf or just lay around without any expectations. No more punching the clock, no more having to work in a place that sucks the marrow from one’s soul. It sounds great and I thought I had a plan, then like all good plans, life gets in the way. Maybe it wouldn’t have been such a difficult transition if we stayed up in Massachusetts. There I had my colleagues who would have helped me to find a new way. I had Grub Street, that would have kept me on track with my writing, taking courses that would have greased the mental wheels as I continued to put on paper my thoughts and feelings. In other words, I had stuff, I had the necessary social and intellectual connections, where now, there are none. Moving to Delaware, into a new state, a new diocese has been difficult. I’m not a big extrovert and I don’t get out making friends all that easily, so I have struggled finding my way. As I have watched my former parish continue to move into a new direction from afar, I sometimes feel wistful and sad, wondering what it would have been like had I not retired. Honestly, I miss the liturgy, the weekly celebration and the daily work of being with the people in the ordinariness of life. In this new diocese, I feel like an intruder of sorts, a virus that should be shunned so that nothing changes the lives of those here. Going from Diomass to Delaware, is like going from a corporate size parish to a family parish, there is a different mindset in the smaller diocese. Like a family parish, there are the matriarchs and patriarchs who one must engage with. Not only that but one needs to deal with the bishop and here, in Delaware, the bishop is new and he has his vision, which may or may not work as well as he hopes. It is just another layer in this labyrinthine world of the church and I have not felt, nor have I desired, to be a traveler along these roads. Yet, here I am, stuck in the middle not knowing what to do or where to go. Sure, I’ve done some supply, preached a couple of times, even helped with a book study, but that is like giving a drop of water to a thirsty soul, it doesn’t help. So the big question for me, is what do I do with what I have been given? That’s great because at this point I have no idea. This week I will attend my final writing class at Osher, well let’s be honest, it really isn’t a class in the real sense, it’s just a group of older people who write and hope what they write makes sense. This class has not helped to motivate me at all even though I have tried to get something down. So for the next few weeks, months maybe even year, I will endeavor to sit my butt down and just write. It doesn’t have to be pretty, or even make sense, all I need to do is write. I have plenty of books on writing to read, I have books on poetry, memoir and all of that to help motivate and guide me. Another way to help me out of this funk is getting back to my blog that has laid dormant for the last few months. Just lay it out there for all to see, lay out the struggle and the pain, the deep insecurities as well as the darkness that lingers.
I haven’t been doing much writing lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking but that’s nothing more than just internalizing all of my thoughts and not giving them space to breath. Today, as I was out cycling, I began thinking, once again internalizing, about what it is that is keeping me from actually writing. I think it’s because I have yet to come to terms with being retired. I just don’t feel retired, I don’t yet have any grasp on the intricacies of retirement. I have been actively engaged, either as a student or a worker, for the better part of my life and now here I sit trying to sort out what this all means. So much has happened in the last few months, leaving Trinity, then selling our home in Melrose, moving to Delaware and finding a new home here in Smyrna, which I still haven’t gotten used to, yet. Now, the season of Advent is almost upon us and I have nothing to prepare for, no services, no annual Christmas fair, no visits to be made, no Christmas pageant to prepare, I just sit here while “Church” happens. To be honest, I miss Trinity, I miss the people, the activities the whole community and yet, I needed to leave, it was time. It doesn’t mean I have to like leaving, but it does mean that I now need to refocus my energies. The good news is that in a couple of weeks I will be taking a retreat up at Holy Cross Monastery in upstate New York. This retreat is actually a poets retreat, a time to get away and in the silence and solitude of the monastery to help me to get some perspective, not only my poetry but all of my writing efforts. Stories are everywhere and I do have stories to tell, I have poetry to write and so much stuff rolling around in my head that if I don’t write it will burst out anyway. One thing I need to do is get back into the GrubStreet mode, write everyday, don’t worry about being perfect, just write. That poem lurking back there among other thoughts that litter my mind, go ahead and write that also, stop worrying, no one is perfect. Take that chance, write that story, set down those internal thoughts on paper or in this case, the iPad, and allow it the space to grow in the light instead of festering in the backwash of the mind. Maybe, if I write down these thoughts, it I take some time to explore them as they take shape on the pages, then I might just discover something about myself that has lain in the dark for so long.
for all the poor poetry
that I write,
breaching every rule
the weak reflections
to mask my languor
as a writer and poet.
I should read
more of your poems
that are manna
feeding the psyche,
bridging the chasm
in need of words
that soothe and soften
of anger and deceit.
Will I ever know what it means to be a writer,
will I ever compose that one great love poem
or guide a reader into a realm they’ve never seen,
or am I doomed to just sit here in the darkened space
struggling with finding those elusive words
that just won’t come no matter how much I call
sitting outside of my vision taunting me as I write.
So, I sit here alone surrounded by the wisdom
of writers who have struggled in their own right
and the ghosts of so many who have long since gone
who wrote those now classic works that live still today.
Will I ever know what it means, really, really means.
Cycling gives me time to think, if only I could figure out a way to get those thoughts down on a page then I would be golden. As it is, a thought is fleeting, there for but a brief moment the lost to the myriad of other thoughts that blaze across the screen, that is my mind. One though did stick and I need to journal a bit about it and this thought has to do with my blog. Yes, I have a blog on WordPress, I’ve used it to write some of my musings, poetry and an essay or two, but really haven’t caught on to the blogging concept. Good blogs have something that grabs peoples attention. There is something in the way a blogger writes that is engaging, informative and needed by those who subscribe and read the blog daily. Readers offer comments, many are helpful, some complimentary while there are the few who are negative if not down right mean. My blog has not caught on fire, even though I have over 200 followers, my blog is missing that “it” factor, the thing that makes it interesting, a blog that people want to read. So I thought, why not make my blog about writing from my novice perspective. A blog about trying to overcome all of the obstacles that stand in the way of my writing. I could use it to vent on a shitty day of writing, or ask for some advice on a piece I’m working on, or just tell about a possible project I’m attempting. Maybe someone will read it, maybe someone, another novice writer, would find it helpful. I can’t say that it will bring me fame and fortune as a writer but it does get me out there in a way that is accessible for most folks. Whatever I do, it will be raw, filled with mistakes and poor grammar. It truly will be a shitty first draft and maybe that’s not so bad because it’s from those shitty first drafts that I learn from, and hopefully will help others learn. Throwing oneself out there can be a two edged sword but that is the nature of the beast. Writing without any kind of critique is just a lot of words on a sheet that mean nothing, writing that is exposed is writing that has potential, we just never know what that potential is until we hit the publish button. So, here I go, I’m going to now take what I’ve written, copy and paste it into my blog, and then see what happens.
What is the measure of one’s life?
In the still moments where alone I sit
writing out the words that play
along the horizon of my mind
darting to and fro
seemingly solid at once
then becoming ghosts the next
whispers that speak in the dark
that have no meaning
as I try to grasp what to do
my writing is weak
my poetry is nonsense
but the words taunt
they jump about,
just out of reach
the feelings are raw
how do I measure my life,
by what I do,
or what I don’t do?
Is it worth the effort
or the critique of a thousand voices
that all yell and scream.
Life is measured in the seconds and minutes
in the hours of the day
in the seasons as they change
in watching the summer fade
and falls colors drop away
as winter winds blow them around
down empty streets
where lovers clasp each other tightly
holding themselves against the cold
of their own feelings and doubts.
What is the measure of my own life?
What will I leave behind to be read
and thought about?
Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?
Those who linger late over wine,
those who keep trying mixed wines.
Do not look at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup
and goes down smoothly.
At the last it bites like a serpent,
and stings like an adder.
Your eyes will see strange things,
and your mind utter perverse things.
You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast.
Day one of retirement, day one and looking ahead and behind while trying to remain present in the here and now. Feeling like there’s something I need to do, something not quite finished, like the final touches on a painting or that last piece of a gigantic puzzle. Retirement comes with no prepared packaging. You enter at your own peril and you make of it what you will but it can also become one’s master. Finding solace, time to write, time to read and do what I like will require some discipline. New habits need to be formed and made a part of the daily routine without turning the daily routine into a rut. Reading Morning Prayer the passage from Proverbs warns against imbiding too much on wine. We could say that imbiding on anything for too long is not good and one of the dangers of being retired and without the daily habit of work, is to get lazy, bored and possibly depressed. Unfortunately, I have been down the depression road, I have been stuck in the ruts and have needed help to claw my way out. Depression is not something we easily talk about, especially men. We tend to travel down the dark path with our chin up denying that we are indeed down in the dumps. The truth is we can’t do that and survive, not to deal more openly leads us into even darker waters, abusing booze, inappropriate sexual liaisons will only create a deeper rut. Our eyes will see strange things our minds will wander and our hearts will break but that needn’t be the only path. I’m just now testing these new waters, dipping my toe in carefully to see whether or not I’ll take the plunge. That plunge is actually trying to see if any of my babblings are worthy to be published and read by others. I have the time, I just need to get over my own fears of being ridiculed and rejected. In a way it’s not about me personally but then again it is if I take rejection personally. I guess that the idea is never to quit trying, to write, send out a query letter, explore the genres and continue to try. Anne Lamott talks about writing as taking it word by word, writing that shitty first draft then purging it later of the adjectives, adverbs and useless words, writers tend to use. Then get down to really honing the craft. So here I go, day one of retirement, my shitty first draft in need of revision, but at least I wrote and didn’t drink that wine