Pause, Refresh, and Pick Up the Pen

Recently a friend asked me why I stopped writing the blog. Before coming to dinner he'd read some of my posts (on top of others he'd read many months ago), and he let me know that my words were helpful. His question was as much a challenge as an inquiry, and I didn't have a single good answer. My stock response has been that when I ceased commuting by train to New York City, I stopped writing, because the hour-plus-long ride was the time I devoted each day to blogging. In truth, that is not a reason but an excuse, as I have ample time each day to consider, reflect, process, and proffer some paragraphs that help sharpen my focus and (I hope) inspire others to look at things in new and enlightening ways.

The thing about the commute was the compression it created—a short space of time in which I forced myself to compose, correct, and complete a piece of writing. I could easily set a timer while I sit in my home office—filled with light and set up for writing that isn't happening much now—and return to the discipline of delivering daily messages. I could easily set the timer, but I would find it much more difficult to summon the dedication and commitment, as those muscles have grown weaker during the time I've been away. Strength, of course, is the first attribute of aplomb, and strength is the quadrant of the circle where I will find the impetus to get me moving again, where I will (if I am still and listen) hear the whisper.

Coming around now to the real answer to my friend's question, it is clear that I didn't stop writing because I stopped commuting; I stopped writing because I stopped listening. I closed my ears and closed off the receptive—and vulnerable—part of myself, perhaps to block my anger and disappointment over losing the job that brought me to New York each day, perhaps to avoid the grief that came from losing my mother a year and a half later. Or perhaps because I thought—not felt (because I was not in touch with my feelings), but thought—I was done. I still wonder now if I have anything to say, but I never worried about that before, even on those mornings when I didn't have an idea before I got on the train. I always knew it would come to me, that all I had to do was find the strength to start, the patience to keep going, the wisdom to let the voice take over, and the grace to give the voice—and not my ego—credit for the result. Part of me longs to begin again, and part of me is afraid I will fail. But I can't succeed if I don't try. So, it seems, you will find me here a little more often as I stretch my muscles and work to get myself back in shape.

Refusing to listen is form of numbness, a poor attempt at self-protection that only results in isolation. If, as the musical artist Kate Tempest says, "Connection is the antidote to numbness," I need to connect, reconnect, let go, and connect again. It's no coincidence that the linked post on connection, written more than ten years ago, is about my mother, about her sitting with me on the train while I am writing, about sharing a space quietly, wordlessly, with someone you love. The post is fully self-aware, of everything from the idiosyncrasies of my writing process (which I notice as my mother observes me), to the effort she and I both made to remain connected while living 900 miles apart. I had to let go of my mother a little more than four years ago, but when we have fully connected with a human spirit, we never actually let go completely.

My mother loved my blog and always encouraged me to keep writing. And so, to keep me going, I will imagine she is sitting next to me, on an imaginary train, speeding along on imaginary tracks, heading for the very real destination called imagination. And as I turn to her, I will smile.