I didn’t mean to, but it seems I took the summer off from writing my column. And, well, some of the fall, too! Wow! An unintended hiatus, I guess.
I started writing several times, those germs of ideas jotted on Post-It notes still cluttering my nightstand. I kept up with my usual routine of writing on receipts at red lights, too, but every time I sat still long enough to flesh out my thoughts, guilt crept in.
My musings felt unnecessary, even trite. How can I dwell upon the details of my relatively simple existence, when so many others’ are anything but?
When other people’s children still are in cages? I wondered this a lot, long and hard. My ambivalence paralyzed me.
I suppose I had an existential crisis of sorts, and I’m hardly alone. I’m happy to report, though, that I’ve had a change of heart. Writing, and heartfelt creative expression in all its forms, is important – especially during dark times.
I have another author to thank for inspiring this shift in my perspective, Oak Park resident Elizabeth Berg, my all-time favorite novelist whose books long have populated best-seller lists. Recently, Elizabeth shared via social media her following musings on the subject:
“’God help us,’ someone writes on Facebook, after the shooting in Dayton, which came so close to the shooting in El Paso. ‘Congress, DO something!’ someone else writes. I guess we’ve all learned by now how much those pleas help.
“I am about to go on a tour promoting books that remind of the joy of ordinary life. It seems somehow inappropriate, now, like bringing card tricks to a funeral. And yet it is what I have to offer, and the despair in this country is one of the reasons I decided to write purposefully positive things in the first place: I want to make people – myself included – feel better.
“But it is not enough, I see that now. And when I return from this tour, I’m going to volunteer my services for the things I believe in. I believe we need to ban assault rifles. I believe we need to pay radical attention to the climate crisis.
“I believe we need to remind ourselves of the need for civility every single day, and act accordingly, even in the simplest of encounters. I am also starting to believe we need to take peacefully to the streets to make our collective wants – demands! – known.
“The other day, a young woman with a baby who loves music, told me why she would no longer be going to concerts. ‘I don’t like to be in crowded places,’ she said.
“I want to be in crowded places now, among people who are dedicated to making things better.”
Thank you, Elizabeth. I couldn’t have said it better. I feel similar impulses so keenly, the need to engage in peaceful reflection, and the urge to take action. (Sometimes, though, if I’m honest, most powerful of all is the paralysis of indecision. What to do first?) So will carry on in my own way, in word and in deed.
Radical self-care will make this possible, I think, and feels absolutely necessary when every dawn brings fresh news of even more lunacy, more trauma and more waste.
So let’s write like our souls are on fire, play like we haven’t forgotten how to laugh, and love like it’s our last day, shall we? I agree, the world needs it.
Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her family. Her column runs regularly in the Best of the Fox section of the Kane County Chronicle. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.