Sick Leave

This is the first I've sat at the computer to write in days. I caught a cold last week that, while we were in Vermont, turned into something quite awful. I couldn't drive us home Sunday and spent Monday on the couch passing in and out of sleep, sneezing, barking a wet cough, and wheezing. This morning I am foggy, but able to sit and type while listening to music. Doesn't sound like much, but it's a world of improvement.

Throughout the sickness I maintained the habit of writing three Morning Pages each day. The pages are in my basement office and I'm too tired to go inspect them. Good. There's almost nothing in them. I wrote how sick I was and how far from finishing each day's pages. I trudged through those pages.

Is there a point to that kind of thing? Yes and no. Start with no.

Nothing of consequence came out of the words on those pages. Nothing in them will come out and become some new piece of writing. Nothing. Not a word. Four days of pages like that means over three-thousand words of nothing. I should have slept instead.

But I don't really believe any of that

As of this morning, I've done 1,747 days in a row of Morning Pages. Even sick and completely fogged over, I wrote three pages. The exact number of days is unimportant, but that many days adds up to a feeling. The habit of beginning each day with writing has become so important I do it even when sick and far from home. This isn't willpower. It's that it has become a reflex, a comforting habit.

Another habit I have been trying to establish is posting to the blog each day. Well, I blew that this weekend. I couldn't get a good piece together when I was that sick. Three things come to mind about that:

One: I can return to posting now that I'm healthy. There's no penalty for having missed a couple days. No one is grading this. I can forgive and understand the lapse. To suffer guilt or give up are the acts of a fool.

Two: Technology gets in the way. Morning Pages continued because pen and paper are simple. Blogging requires all sorts of mediation. I didn't bring a computer on vacation because I wanted to be with my family. The first morning at the hotel, I used a computer in the lobby. By the second morning I was too sick to go down there. Paper and pen are always available. Computers and wifi, not so much.

Three: I should bank a few blog entries to draw on in times of trouble.

I'm getting healthier and understanding things about myself and about writing as I go. Being sick yesterday I read, slept, and daydreamed. I found a possible approach to a book idea I've toyed with for years. The idea has to do with Morning Pages, health, and the ways in which the two feed off one another.

It feels good to be back to blogging. It feels good to have stayed with Morning Pages. It feels good to have shed the worst effects of this cold and to know that things will get better with each passing day. Mostly it feels great to know that I'm still a writer in sickness and health, until death do us part.

Can It Be So Simple?

I woke this morning after a very bad night's sleep. It was four-forty. I turned off the alarm but lay there until five thinking, "I just can't." Everything, including getting up to pee, felt impossible.

Then I got up.

Maybe it was the urge to pee, but I think it was the pages. Though I want to know the reasons for everything, it probably doesn't matter. I got up. I peed, showered, and pulled on clothes. I went downstairs and considered coffee. Not today. I took my pen down to the basement nook to write Morning Pages.

That required:

  • Three pages of blank, lined paper
  • My favorite pen
  • Forty five minutes

That's it. Well, that and faith that I can fill three pages freely and that doing so may benefit me and the people I love.

Morning Pages aren't complicated. Get out of bed, pick up a pen, lay out three pages and start writing. Don't stop until the bottom of the third page. Tomorrow morning do it again. It's enough to get you out of bed. And if that won't do it, your bladder will.

Sick In Bed

Woke this morning with a headache at three in the morning. Go back to sleep, I told myself. I tried to relax my closed eyes but clenched them against the ache, bringing it on even more of course.

I woke next at ten to four, headache still there. A not-so-dull aching that pulsed with my slowly beating heart. I remembered signs on the highway saying that if I'm having a stroke say, take me to Crouse. In the midst of a stroke I doubt I'd speak or think so clearly. I drifted deep into that thought.

The alarm sounded at four-forty. I turned it off and closed my eyes against the headache and the morning. My stomach felt clenched. The word swoopy came to mind. What does that even mean? I wondered. I lay there, swoopy, for half an hour, my head beating like a second hand.

Out of bed just after five I went downstairs. The cat said it was time for food. No deal. Learn to read a clock, I told her. She meowed in time with my headache and the swirl of my stomach. I skipped coffee, grabbed my pen, and went down to the basement nook to write my Morning Pages.

I wrote about whether or not I could make it to my job and through the school day. My headache made its argument, my stomach concurred. I finished the three pages, went upstairs to the computer, wrote and sent in lesson plans.

That done, I returned to bed with the computer thinking I might write. I got as far as the title of this then, squinting at the screen, felt myself sliding, maybe falling. I set aside the computer, lay down, closed my eyes, and tried not to count the beating of my pulse through the ache in my head. Last I saw, the clock said 7:55.

Then it was eight-thirty-something, then quarter to ten, and finally ten minutes to noon. The headache had mostly dissipated. My stomach was still off balance. I got out of the bed, changed out of pajamas into khakis and a sweater. I went down and ate a toasted bagel, drank a cup of decaf, sat on the couch and read for an hour and a half.

Then I picked up the computer again. I had the urge to write something. Who knows what? It wasn't this. This came much later, after dinner, when the headache had begun its return. I wondered what the point of it was, the long writing I had done in the afternoon, this shorter piece at night. It had me thinking of the Morning Pages. My 1,735th day in a row of doing them. That number has to mean something. Maybe with a clear head and stomach I would be able to say what that is. Probably not, but when I'm feeling sick and so unsure, it's nice to think that all I need is a clean bill of health and the mysteries of the world will open enough for me to write them down.

Until then, I'm going back to bed.

Prayer & Writing

I don't want to complain too much. Talking about my job and how ill-suited to it I have become is worth only a certain number of pixels and I've exceeded that number. I'm sure I'll go deeper into the red on that, but here I want to talk about falling behind, feeling rushed, and the accompanying feelings for writing. Some call this writer's block, but it's something else entirely.

In the few moments I've had for writing the last three days not much has happened. I've been tired, rushed, and doubtful about any of my ideas. This isn't writer's block. I just lacked faith and didn't have time to let writing take me back into the land of believing.

These things happen.

Though I haven't written a blog post every day, each morning I wake early and write three Morning Pages by hand. No one will ever see those pages. I wrote them for myself and just to be writing.

Morning Pages are one way to keep in the habit of writing and that daily practice builds faith. I imagine it like prayer for the doubtful and am reminded of this Thomas Merton prayer:

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

I replace God with writing and think of Morning Pages as a kind of prayer. I fall behind in publishing the blog and assembling pieces for submission, but I return to the daily practice of the pen, the pages, and the act of writing. "I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire" and trust that I will, someday and in some way I may not yet understand, find a lasting rhythm that carries me through my days.

Given that I began this day, as I have every day for almost five years, filling Morning Pages, maybe I already have.