I gave up.
I threw in the towel.
I put down my pen and walked away.
I got discouraged and quit. ‘Who cares anyway?’ I thought. ‘So what if I don’t write? What is my voice among the cacophony of others?’
I stopped using my voice and not just here on my blog. After writing about Covid lockdown being an opportunity, I sank into a funk. I stagnated rather than created. It stretched on past the lifting of lockdown. Observing the creativity of others, seemed to emphasize my lack of it and I shrank. I immersed myself in others voices, reading books and more books. A few very good ones. The thing is, when I started each book, I knew I was putting off my own creativity in some way or another. I hid behind the book covers. Reading is great, except when you’re using it to avoid and escape your own life.
Two things bring me back here. The first is just a nagging feeling I should – not as a chore, but because I have freedom to do so. There’s a tug on my heart. A prod in my back nudging me on. A friend once said to me, ‘Emma, you have a voice.’ I think I was being prayed for at the time. I’ve learned encouragements are often given to be stored up for a time when you least feel like those words. God knows there are points in our lives when we hit major ruts in the road, when the opposite of what He has promised seems to be true, when, to be frank, you seem to have failed, travelled backwards, or, like me, have come to a halt in the pit of discouragement. At the time when my friend said that phrase to me, I thought, ‘Okay, great.’ This summer I thought, ‘I think she was mistaken. Wrong person!’
So when I picked up a random non-fiction book from the library while I waited for my next fiction read to come in, I didn’t expect it to be anything of a revelation, or for God’s kindness to reach through it. ‘Outspoken’ by Veronica Rueckert is about learning to use your voice. It’s about scaling the obstacles to being heard. It’s more focused on speaking than writing to be honest. She talks about physical obstacles like posture and breathing as well as the cultural obstacles that get in the way of being heard. Rueckert talks about the way women tend to be encouraged to take less and less space both physically and in speech. This is not news to me, but I came away from it asking myself why I would silence myself, why I would shrink back. Which voices had I decided to listen to? It reminded me and brought me back to those words, the little nudge from God through a friend, ‘Emma, you have a voice.’
The second reason is I feel sad about not writing. On top of my generally depressive state of mind during 2020, not writing has made me more, not less, miserable. Who cares if I don’t write? Apparently, I do too.
The summer has not been all moping around at all. There were some adventures. We’ve been on various hikes and trips around our province. For years I wanted to climb Mount Carleton, the highest mountain in the province, and this year I made it there with one of my daughters and a good friend. The day was beautiful. The view is amazing from the top – a view of 10 million trees no less. At one point in the climb we came out onto the first peak, and for a minute we thought we were almost at the top before we looked across to see a dip before the last climb. On that first peak I had a wobble. I love mountains, but I get vertigo when I’m out in the open at a great height. There are ledges and edges and, in my mind, anyone could fall at any moment if they get too close. It makes me dizzy and shaky and I have to take a few deep breaths to help me get a handle on myself again. Despite all that, I love the challenge of climbing over rocks and boulders, of pushing myself physically to get somewhere and conquering my fear of heights each time. The thought of seeing the views along the way as well as right at the top keeps me taking each step, even if the thrill of being at the peak makes me a little wobbly as well.
With writing, and with a few other things in life, I forgot the fun of the climb. It didn’t seem worth it to even try. Finishing anything seemed like a far off mountain peak. Failure seemed inevitable. I sat at the bottom of each of those mountains and stared at the obstacles. I made excuses for why I should remain motionless, and silent. I guess from time to time we all find ourselves in this place. Thankfully we are not alone in those times, even if we feel it. God’s kindness reaches down to us in unexpected ways. His voice breaks through all the others if we care to listen.
And yes, I know it is may be a clichéd illustration, but, I’m taking the first shaky step on my way back onto one of those mountains.