Words have not come easily to me as of late. It’s a problem with which every writer struggles and none have found a surefire cure. I’m not sure the root of my current bout of writer’s block, but were I to guess, I would say fatigue.
Now, I feel like a bit whiny complaining of fatigue with my current life circumstances. I’ve been out of work for awhile. I’ve been job hunting, trying to keep house a bit, doing some writing projects on the side… but mostly, I just have lots of time on my hands to sit with my thoughts. I think of grandfather, WWII vet who worked on the railroad most of his life to support his wife and four daughters. He was a hard worker. Sometimes I imagine him looking down on me from heaven in disgust. Of course, he wouldn’t. He loved me dearly, but I my mind runs away with me sometimes. He was my model for strength. And I feel weak.
This year has been an exercise in feeling small. I haven’t been the father I want to be, the kind who more than provides for his kids. I haven’t contributed much to the world. I don’t feel like I have much impact on the world. And the world… well, it feels like a big, scary place right now. That seems a childish thing to say, but it’s real. The world feels unstable, unmoored. It feels at times like reality is coming apart at the seams. And in the midst of it I feel small, like a little boy in a rowboat, paddling against the waves of the ocean. I feel my own impotence, my own insignificance.
The thing I have had to contribute to the world as of late is my writing. It feels like not enough. It feels like not much at all. I’m not a great writer. I don’t know that my words have much impact. People have told me on occasion that something I wrote moved them. I am always grateful to hear those words, but I oftentimes feel that they are being polite. Or that I’ve just struck upon something that someone else said far more eloquently than I could. There’s also the fact that I’ve tried in recent months to make some money from my writing and well, that hasn’t gone as I hoped. Don’t get me wrong, I never expected that writing would become my full time job, but I had hoped for a little better. Like it or not, there is still a great deal of my value based on how much I earn.
I hadn’t realized how bad my depression was until just a month or so ago when I got on a medication that works. As much as I want mental health to be without stigma, there is still a part of me that hates that I need a drug to maintain. I spend so much of the little energy that I have trying to understand my own brain. I take a big orange pill every morning and that keeps me from thinking about killing myself. That kinda feels like a low bar to clear, but at least now I’m clearing it.
I’ve been trying to run again. This is maybe my fourth restart in as many months. It’s frustrating. In 2013 I ran a half marathon. Now I get winded after ten minutes. I’ve gained so much weight since I ran that race. I feel fat and sluggish. It doesn’t help that since August my asthma has been worse than it’s been in years.
I fell alone a lot of the time, even when I am with people. This has always been the case for me. I’ve always felt like an outsider, an oddball, a misfit. Sometimes I relish my special snowflake status, but the truth is that I want places where I belong. I want community and camaraderie. I want a tribe.
Lest you think this whole post is just a big pity party, it’s not. I feel weak and tired, small and alone, impotent and insignificant. And it’s Advent. It is an excellent time to feel these things.
On Sunday, I attended my friend Harold’s funeral. Because he was a pastor, he planned his own service and chose the first part of John 1 as one of the readings. Though we rarely read this as a Christmas text – there’s no manger, star, or shepherds – this is as much about Jesus’ origins as any of texts in Matthew or Luke. Jesus is, for John, the light that shines in the darkness, the light the darkness cannot overcome.
Jesus came into a world that must have felt like it was splitting apart at the seams for many in his community. He came to those who felt weak and afraid. He came to those who felt powerless and insignificant. He came to those who felt small and unworthy. He came to those who felt depressed and alone. He was their strength. He was their peace of mind. He was their hope.
A line from the Christmas hymn “O Holy Night” has jumped out at me as of late. “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth”. What does it mean for a soul to feel it’s worth? To me, it means that all of the external markers of value are stripped away and the Divine spark that resides within all of us emerges as the thing that truly counts. The soul’s worth isn’t based on your income, title, strength, health, nation, race, rank, or status. The souls worth is based on being created, known, and loved by God and the light dispels all of the shadows that keep us from seeing our inherent value.
It feels like dark days are ahead. And though I will do the little bit of good where I can when I can, there will be times when the darkness feels overwhelming. There will be days ahead when I will feel weak, small, and alone. It is in those moments that I will need to be reminded that the darkness, both in the world and in my own heart and mind, cannot be overcome by the light of the world. And that The Light has called me to be light as well, dispelling the shadows that make others feel small, weak, and alone, reminding them that their soul too has worth.
I hope that you will remind me. I will try to do the same for you.