342. the (real) reason I haven’t been writing

I used to do my best to put up at least one post per week. It’s been a really long time since I’ve kept to that.

And there are lots of reasons for that. One of them is the fact that I’m back in school. To be honest, laziness does come into play as well, but not entirely – there’s a post about seeing Anne Lamott speak at Barnes and Noble that I’ve been working on for the last couple weeks. It’s not ready to go up yet but I just mention that to show that it’s not like I haven’t been writing at all – just not writing enough to come up with something worth posting.

But…

A couple years ago, I put up a post called running out of empty. At the time I wasn’t able to say why I was feeling so empty. The main reason I was feeling so drained was that I was working on a new CD for the band I was in at the time. Working on that CD was insufferably difficult.

It’s hard to adequately describe how much work it takes to record, mix, and master a CD. For major label releases, it’s not uncommon for there to be three different engineers working on each step because they each require particular skill sets. But I was wearing all of those hats and I wasn’t wearing them well. I don’t have great ears for recording so while I could tell that there were things about the mix that I wasn’t happy with, I didn’t know exactly what the problems were or how to fix them. And that’s frustrating, to say the least.

But the work on the CD wasn’t the only difficulty. Even though the band was still going to be together for another year or so, even back then I think it was clear that the band was falling apart. Conflicts in the band were appearing in a number of different areas and they were getting harder and harder to work through. Often I ended up being the mediator in these disputes and because I was putting so much work into the CD, it was nearly impossible to work up the additional energy needed to try to maintain the peace.

Add all this together and it’s easy to see why I was getting fed up with the band and generally burnt out. But working on the CD and trying to mediate conflicts wasn’t the thing that was truly sapping my energy. The thing that really made that time difficult for me was the feeling that all the work I was doing for the band just disappeared into a black hole. I felt unappreciated in all that I did. Even after it was done, there was no celebration. The band verbally thanked me, but… You know, I don’t know what I was expecting, but I remember thinking that maybe the band taking me out to dinner or something might have been nice. Instead, we quickly moved on to another project – one were we would work with an actual producer. We barely even promoted the finished CD at our shows since we were anticipating the new sound that the producer was going to develop for us. All that work basically went nowhere.

I don’t want to put all the blame on the other band members though. Looking back now, I can see that I was as much to blame for my misery as anyone else.

They didn’t make me do all the things I did. Honestly, I don’t even think they ever asked me to record that second CD. I just took on that job and all the work that went into it on my own initiative. And the frustrations I was feeling at the time? I didn’t share them with my band. I just steeped in my own bitter stew.

I don’t have enough time to go into all the reasons why I wasn’t able to tell my band about all the things I was feeling, but in part, I felt like the band was going through enough drama already and I thought that adding my own frustrations to the mix would just be too much. I also thought, who’s going to mediate when the mediator throws his own hat into the ring? I thought that if I added my own mess into an already messy situation that the band would finally blow up and break up. But I still wanted the band to work because I believed that our music was great and that the band really could be big and I wanted to keep that dream alive even if it meant that I had to suffer in silence. And so I stuffed my own bitterness deeper down into the bowels of my heart.

And that was a mistake. A stupid, selfish mistake.

Anyway, I share all of that to say that I don’t think I’ve ever really recovered. And I don’t just mean recovery from my frustrations with my band. I mean recovery from all the other times I stuffed down my own frustrations, thinking that it wasn’t my place or time or right to share them. I mean recovery from all the other times I worked myself ragged and raw and empty for people or institutions that didn’t even ask me to do so, thinking that that was what it meant to be a good, self-sacrificing Christian.

Foolish, selfish thinking. Yes, selfish. I see that now. I thought I was doing things for people but the truth of the matter is, I was really doing them for myself. There was a part of me that thought that if I worked my ass off then of course the people I worked for would be grateful and thankful and fall all over themselves trying to repay me. And then when that didn’t happen, I got all smug and self-righteous because I thought, “no one’s able to work as hard as me. I’m a badass.” Stupid, inverted, prideful, and shamelessly selfishness.

And now I’m trying to change. I’m trying to learn to live so that I’m not constantly making a martyr of myself.

But I don’t want to make like my life is all darkness and doom.

Thanks to things I’ve been learning in school and in my therapy sessions, I have started to learn how to live in a way that is more healthy and real. But it’s hard because it still feels really new.

And so while I don’t feel as if I’m running out of empty anymore, I do still feel as if I’m running on empty. I certainly don’t feel filled. And I don’t know how to get filled. And maybe that sounds sad, but trust me. Running on empty is light years better than running out of empty – at least I don’t feel like I’m moving backwards anymore. Not moving at all isn’t quite as good as making positive, forward progress but I’ll take that over moving backwards any day.

And finally, to return to where I started, that’s probably the main reason I haven’t been writing lately – because I just don’t have the drive to do it. See, writing is hard enough when you’re motivated and full of life, but when you’re lost and less than full of energy, it can be downright burdensome. And so if I find that I don’t have the verve or the passion to write then I don’t. I eat M&Ms and watch Hulu. Honestly, I don’t know how much writing I’ll get done in the next few weeks/months. Sorry.

Luckily, I do have a bunch of people and a church around me that’s trying to take care of me. But it’s hard, for me and for them – hard for me because I don’t know what I need to feel filled again, and hard for them because they can’t deliver something I can’t define.

Honestly, I think what I really need is prayer – other people with more spirit and faith than I have, praying for me.

If you feel so led, please pray that…again, I don’t quite know what I want or need. Pray as you feel led, I think that would be plenty.

Thanks.

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4 thoughts on “342. the (real) reason I haven’t been writing

  1. Oh Randall, I know all too well the habit of self-inflicted martyrdom and the desire for affirmation inherent in that. Good for you for owning up to it. It’s definitely been something I’ve had to confront and deal with, especially now in my marriage. It was a big lifechanger to realize that I just hurt those around me with that attitude, because I am not honest, and I create a barrier in the name of “serving” or “protecting” the other person that just separates us when we should be facing challenges together. Ah relationships-as PE says, they can really reveal our brokenness.

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