March 23rd, 2021

📝 Writing, Anxiety, and Humility

Why have I felt so anxious about writing?

While I was making this new website, I had to endure looking back on my previous posts a lot. They seem like they were written by someone who really wants to be clever, and who's disconnected from life. For a while I thought of disowning them, but I will just leave them as they are.

I started this year with an intention to write, and I've gotten into it quite a lot, but it's always felt stressful and anxious. I remember trying to calm down by drinking tea slowly and mindfully, but the whole activity of writing itself didn't seem compatible with a relaxed mind.

In fact I write as a kind of escape. It's the thing I do that isn't taking care of a Toddler and a Household.

Childcare and housework feel quite literally humiliating to me. I have to humble myself. I would rather be reading an interesting book than chasing a crayon-wielding toddler, or cleaning the floor for the fifth time today. And this urge to do something interesting feels like it drives an enormous amount of tension in me.

I've been reading some Christian books. In the 15th century 📙 The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis, I read this paragraph and sigh:

A person who is weak in spirit and who is still controlled by his need to be important has great trouble dragging himself away from the things that most attract him in this world. Such a person is unhappy when he does restrain himself, yet his anger flares up if anyone stands in his way. What is more, if he does get what he wants, he is at once stricken by a heavy conscience because he has given in to his weakness. *

Every day I'm torn between interesting self-expression and staying humble and obvious enough to do the simple things I need to do without resentment. My Conscience is usually quite heavy, and the virtuous Humility professed by this book seems far away.

Knowledge is not to be blamed, nor is the simple understanding of anything which is good in itself and which is made to be so by God, but a good conscience and a virtuous life are always to be put first. *

A more recent book, 📙 Improvisation (2004) by Samuel Wells, is about seeing the Christian life as playing with a theater troupe.

In terms of theatrical improvisation, every actor must learn to avoid trying to be original. Few things paralyze action more than one actor refusing to engage unless he or she is able to do so in an original way. The only way it is possible to keep the drama going is to be obvious. *
Improvisation is not about outstandingly gifted individuals who can conjure rapid-fire gags from a standing start. It is about nurturing a group of people to have such trust in one another that they have a high level of common understanding and take the same things for granted. *

Reading 📰 Becoming a Parent During the Pandemic Was the Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done helps to realize there's some extra reasons why life feels difficult right now, and why I feel this need to escape from Family life.

My babies are almost eight months old and I can count on one hand the number of people we’ve spent time with since they were born. Other than my husband, not a single person I love has really seen me being a mother. This new person I’ve become since I gave birth is a person virtually no one knows. *
Every second during which I’ve been a mother has been defined by closing off, shutting down, and retreating into a space small enough where the four of us can be safe. *
But then the winter came, and we found ourselves inside and alone once more while COVID-19 rates skyrocketed around the city. The pieces of normality we’d managed to gather all fell away. My husband and I started to gauge how well we were doing mentally by how many of our jokes were about ending it all. (“Twinkle twinkle little star,” I’d sing to the babies when they abjectly rejected the concept of naptime, “I don’t want to live anymore.”) *

Again I have spent too much time on reading and writing today. I will go do something obvious, humble, and useful.

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