>Revisiting Acedia & Me and The Thing With Feathers


It’s been seven months since I blogged about my old friend, acedia.

Not because we haven’t been hanging out at all during those months… he’s never too far away. But I try to keep busy, which helps, some. But obviously not enough, since he launched another full attack at me during this past weekend, when I was BUSY: hosting a party on Friday night, watching the air show over the Mississippi River and then enjoying a rehearsal dinner at Spaghetti Warehouse on Saturday night, attending a wedding (which my husband officiated) and dancing at the reception on Sunday night, and then having good friends over for a cookout on Monday night. So how was it that throughout all those festive events I felt the presence of this demon?

Picking back up Kathleen Norris’s book, Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks & A Writer’s Life, I read Chapter XII: “Day By Day.” While Norris’ circumstances at this point in the book were more acute than mine (her husband was dying and she was diagnosed with perpetual posttraumatic stress syndrome), I can identify with her feelings of emptiness, numbness, and nothingness. It’s just that I can’t “excuse” them with such circumstantial reasons for having those feelings. But they are real. And they are mine.

These words of Norris’s help:

“Acedia contains within itself so many concepts: weariness, despair, ennui, boredom, restlessness, impasse, futility.”

So, boredom and restlessness share the same sentence as despair and futility? I read on:

“Spiritual dryness is the state explored by the sixteenth-century Carmelite John of the Cross, a patron saint of poets, in his long poem Dark Night of the Soul. His characterization of the signs of this condition is easily recognized by anyone who has ever felt stymied, whether in writing, art, prayer, marriage, or parenting.”

Stymied… in writing. Yes, I think that’s what’s going on with me. I’ve been so BUSY that I haven’t carved out the necessary time to finish revising my novel, and that makes me feel bored and restless… irritable, even. (You can ask my husband.)

But I wouldn’t have related that boredom and restlessness to spiritual dryness, as Norris does. Here she quotes the Carmelite Constance Fitzgerald:

“The most confusing and damnable part of the dark night is the suspicion and fear that much of the darkness is of one’s own making.”

I almost quit reading at that point… the last thing I need right now is another shitload of guilt and self-loathing. But I did read on, and discovered that Norris (through Fitzgerald) was about to point me in the direction of “psychologists and theologians, poets and mystics, who over many epochs and in diverse cultures have insisted that ‘impasse can be the condition for creative growth and transformation if the experience of impasse is fully appropriated.’ In other words, the dark night must be entered and endured. There are no shortcuts, only the passage through.”

Shit. I was definitely hoping for a shortcut. But the events of the weekend have reminded me that drinking (and over-eating) isn’t the answer (did too much of both) and that surrounding myself with people also isn’t the answer. Not that I didn’t enjoy the party, the wedding and the cookout. But I won’t be content until I work through this impasse—in general, and until I finish revising this book.

To that end, I’m going to pull in from a busting social life for the next week or so (except for one previous commitment) and work on revisions. That also means not checking in on Facebook and emails all throughout the day, which is really hard for me. Someone suggested taking my laptop somewhere to write where there’s not wi-fi, but I love my “room of my own” too much to leave it right now. As I swivel in my chair and look at my book shelves, my eyes rest on a small pottery plate I purchased from a new friend a few months ago, which says:

Hope is the thing with feathers.

It’s from Emily Dickinson’s poem, which continues:

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches on the soul

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops at all….

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