Writing, Writer, and Illness


So, here I am, about a month after “The Illness” began, now wolfing down protein to satisfy the hunger that reappears every 2.5-3 hours.  My body craves the protein for healing.  In fact, my body and its needs have been front and center for the past month.  I’ve hardly thought about writing at all, much less actually done it (except for doing my best to keep up with e-mail — what a pain!).

For the first time in years, I feel no guilt about not writing.  I’ve had hours upon hours of free time which I’ve filled with some reading, a lot of sleeping, necessary eating and still dealing with doctors.  In the back of my mind, I’ve held the gist something that Tobias Wolff said to a writer friend who’d been gravely ill and couldn’t write (I think it was Andre Dubus III but not sure), that is: we see how illness and injury affect the physical self but not how they affect the soul.  The soul needs time to heal too.

What does that mean?  Well, first of all, it means that we need time to process what’s happened psychologically and that involves the mind and the imagination.  My illness seemed to come out of the blue and I’ve spent time during the last month piecing together the clues that my body had been giving me that something was wrong, and that I didn’t notice until my body needed urgent help.  I’m usually better at listening to my body, but I was distracted and busy.  Then I’ve gone over the hospital and surgery experience to learn from them.   Same thing with my recovery and the issues that came up during it.

Second, I’ve needed to make my body and its care and healing the No. 1 priority.  Here’s where I’ve been struggling.  My tax returns needed to be completed and mailed.  I needed to notify an editor that I would not have an essay for her this time.  Dishes needed to be washed so I could cook and eat.  E-mail needed to be cleaned out.  Each day, I had one or two “chores” that needed completion so I could care for myself.  I live and work alone, and although friends have helped me out a lot, these kinds of tasks were for me alone.  I realize now that as a result of splitting my priorities and focus, I’m behind with my healing.

My body needs protein.  What does my soul need to heal?  Rest and quiet from the world.  Amazingly hard to achieve nowadays.  Lots of sleep (for my body too).  No cares but my healing.  For me that means lots of J. S. Bach’s music on my stereo, lots of good novels, and sleep.  I think it also means the caring concern of friends — their contact by whatever means they choose.  And Time.  The soul cannot be rushed.

I also need to banish worry.  Everything will work out just fine.  I’ve begun thinking about impermanence, nothingness and meditation again.

In the last week, I’ve noticed I’ve been dreaming up blog post subjects, sometimes literally dreaming them.  Several ideas fly around for future essays for that editor.  I have purposefully slowed down my life.  I sleep when I need to sleep.  Obey my stomach’s hunger for protein.  My next task is to walk more now that I’m sitting longer and longer.

Should I feel guilty for not feeling guilty that I haven’t been writing for the last month?  The writing will come, when my soul is ready……

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