I think it only made it rain more.

I’ve been reading Acedia & Me by Kathleen Norris, which is very good. Acedia is a sort of listlessness and despair. It was originally one of the “eight bad thoughts” but never made it onto the list of “seven deadly sins.” One of the points that she makes that I need to ponder is that we as a society have bought into the idea that in order to make good art, it ought to come out of some kind of melancholy. We talk about tortured artists, and I have heard people say that the best art comes from some kind of depression. It’s part of a much larger problem that I will talk about when I write about the book, but I will just say now that it is certainly an enlightening read. I know that I buy into that idea at least a little bit. Maybe even more than a little bit. I tend to think that the things I write here are better when I am melancholy. It’s hard work to be down all the time. It’s not healthy, and sometimes I feel as if I have to create drama in order to create better art or to be more interesting, as if that makes sense at all.

Lately I haven’t felt very creative or interesting. I see people around me who are “light and bright and sparkling,” and I don’t feel anything but flat. I have met some new people lately, and I felt as if I made a horrible first impression. Why should anyone be attracted to someone as blah as I am feeling? I have been so busy that I barely have time for my friends. I have been sick twice this school year, so I’m feeling pretty run down as it is. And taking two graduate level classes on top of working is, honestly, a little bit too much. We did fun things this weekend: a cooking class, The Great Pumpkin Party, The Duchess. But I still don’t feel like myself. I felt a bit as if I was watching everyone else have fun from the outside. I took the weekend off from homework, and it was the right thing to do. But it wasn’t enough.

Last week, Emily asked why it is that people write online. I don’t want this to turn into blogging about blogging, but I write because I think the discipline of crafting something is important. Not that I always take the time to craft something, but when I do, it feels good. One paragraph leading into another until I have said what it is that I wanted to say. Pushing the “post” button makes me feel as if I have accomplished something, and that’s why I have continued. When Emily was at my house on Saturday, we talked briefly about a conversation that was an offshoot of that one, a conversation in which I had offered some advice but then said, “Of course, you probably shouldn’t take my advice since I only have about 12 readers.” I like all 12 of you a whole lot, and I am thankful and humbled that you care about what I have to say. At the same time, I struggle a lot with wanting to be liked. So it’s hard not to feel as if it would be nice to be liked and understood by lots of people. I don’t see that happening any time soon, so it’s not something I worry about a whole lot. I don’t have the time or the energy (especially right now) to do anything about it. At the same time, it seems a symptom of a larger problem – my flatness, my inability to commit to my friends, my escapism and despair. Perhaps you could call it acedia. Whatever it is, I am not sure that I would hang around me, either.

I think, though, that worrying so much about approval is not being faithful to the writing itself. Mike keeps trying to tell me this, but I can be a little hardheaded about this sort of thing. I might never write a great novel, or even a mediocre novel. But I still learn through what I write, even if it’s just throwing it up on the internet and seeing if anything comes out of it. Writing things in a funny way has taught me to laugh at myself. Taking the time to think through my indignation sometimes gives me more compassion. And writing through melancholy has shown me that I want more than hollow introspection for myself. Even if I don’t write for connection, I worry that stopping would leave me even more disconnected than I already feel. I don’t have time for my friends as it is. At least this way they know if I saw a funny yard sign while I was out. (Today I saw a sign that said “Tina Fey 2008.” LOVE.)

I don’t know what I have to offer the world, especially the internet world. I am not a mom, and I don’t make crafts. I’m not into decorating my house, and I don’t even own a hot glue gun. (God help Mike if I did – I would undoubtedly hurt both myself and our house.) I’m not into fashion or art or photography. I don’t really like to shop. I’m a reader, and that’s not exactly the most dynamic hobby that there is. But as part of my battle against my own acedia, I am trying to reclaim a bit of who I am rather than trying to be something I am not. Kathleen Norris would say that choosing faith and life are the keys to fighting acedia. Engagement, then, is the key to fighting my listlessness. This is also at the heart of what Mike keeps trying to tell me when he tells me he wants me to keep writing. Sometimes I think that keeping my body healthy is enough – exercising, eating vegetables, taking vitamins – when it’s my soul that needs the cure. My soul feels a little battered this fall. Work has been hard. Things have happened at church that have left me in tears and needing a little time to recover. I haven’t figured out how to carve out time for my soul. I haven’t made time for my friends or read very many books or talked to my mom very much on the phone. The book I am reading, the conversations I am having, and the weekend I just had are good steps in that direction. Those small graces aren’t melancholy at all. The key is processing them in ways that I haven’t necessarily done before.

If acedia is a “bad thought,” then I suppose the key to overcoming it is “good thoughts.” Melissa tells me this a lot – it’s about believing truth rather than believing lies. I have never been very good at fighting lies with facts. Those lists of who God says that I am never seem to make a dent in the wrong things that I believe. Facts don’t really do it for me, because there’s a difference between facts and knowledge, much like the difference between facts and truth. I don’t know that I know what it looks like to be more engaged at this point, what it means to embrace truth and pursue good. But like Sara Zarr said, it’s so helpful to know that some of the ways that I have felt for years are real and have a name and that people have been writing about them for centuries.

(I still have more about the actual book, believe it or not, but I have to finish it first.)

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