The Only Way Out Is Through

For the past few nights I’ve been waking up at 1:13 a.m.

In the spare room, I’ve kept a sort of vigil – reading, thinking, crying, making lists of things I have to do, trying to make plans.

If I’m lucky, I’ll write. On Saturday night, I re-wrote the whole plot line of my current novel-in-progress, re-examining the relevance of each chapter and how the character’s actions in each scene feed into the next.

But, to be honest, these nights don’t seem to be about writing.

They seem to be more about grief.

Dreams wake me, and up gurgles all the things I’m trying not to think about during the day.

Writing isn’t really helping that much, except as a distraction. Not like it did. In the early days, weeks, months after Tim’s death, it helped a lot. It became my main resilience. I wrote his eulogy and then, when I went back home to The Pas, I sank down into the novel I was writing at the time (which will be out in 2019, but the official announcement has yet to be made).

It’s about siblings coming to terms with trauma, finding a path to one another after a terrible event blows their family apart. I dreamt about Tim a lot back then, and sometimes it really felt like he was with me.

I suppose, these days, I’ve lapsed into a bit of an existential state. Those dreaded words – what’s the point? – echoing through my mind at 4 a.m., as the coyotes yip and holler in the neighbouring fields.

But then, deep in the night, night before last, I realized (I remembered): the only way out is through.

I’ve thought this a lot regarding writing.

In the midst of a hard re-write that’s testing me, that’s just asking to be abandoned, I understand that the only recourse is to not just keep showing up but to show up deeply, to go to the work with an acknowledgement of all that fear (can I do it?) and vulnerability.

Then, I know I need to take myself by the hand, lead myself bravely towards the difficult challenge of re-writing that painful scene, of attempting to achieve the seemingly impossible emotional verisimilitude, of facing the work that’s causing me to grow.

The only recourse is, as clearly as I possibly can, to tell the truth.

This is, after all, the writer’s calling. To tell a truth that will hopefully echo with other humans. That will, however briefly, cast an illuminating light.

Next week is my brother’s birthday. He would have been 52.

I suppose, during these long nights, in some way, I’ve been sitting with him. That happened the night he died. I woke up and went to the living room, a deep peace washing over me as I sat on the couch and stared into the dark, sensing in my body what was coming but numb to it.

The only way out (by which I mean ease, acceptance, and not getting over it) is through.

Through a place I’ve never been before, where my current writing does not feel primary, where I’m still not sure what is, where my hands seem to want only to flip the pages of other people’s books, knit, type emails to old friends, paint over the ugly walls in my house.

I know what I would tell a client.

Trust it. Let it be. Loosen up. Go to the work when it calls.

Figure out the difference between procrastination and resistance due to fear and the natural need for rest, contemplation, mourning.

Feed yourself with art, with creative fun.

Get some help (yes, yes, that box is checked, my friends).

To this end, I’m going to pull back a bit on my blog, writing only a couple times a month. I’m going to focus on my muddle through this time that’s calling me to turn my focus inward for a spell.

Now, what about you? How have life-quaking events impacted your writer or artist self? What surprising journey did they send you on?

P.S. I will still send out reminders for office hours (if you’re a subscriber), and I’d truly love to see you there and hear about you and your creative work (don’t worry ~ in person, I’m not quite as intense 🙂 ). Last weekend, the launch, I spent an enriching hour talking books, publication, social media and resistance in all its definitions with writers from nearby Selkirk to Syria and in between.

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10 Responses to The Only Way Out Is Through

  1. Avatar
    N.H. April 30, 2018 at 12:39 pm #

    Came to your site to look up your courses but stopped to read this post, a month late. I do marvel at and appreciate how often your blog posts reveal what is actually going on in my own heart and mind. Spooky, actually. I’m grieving up front (but failing to acknowledge it) the coming loss of my brother (terminal illness) and the ongoing loss of my youngest child to meth addiction. Every day could be IT for both of them and I work pretty hard keeping this fact out of my consciousness. But it’s there, worming its way through everything I do, think, or feel. So your blog advices me to be honest with myself about what is really going on inside. Yes, life must continue to be lived, there’s writing to do, chores to be tended to, all that stuff that keeps us going. But the heart is entitled to a drenching boohoohoo on occasion, as long as it’s crying about real issues and not about being unable to write a decent short story! Thanks again, you amazing person you, for blowing the lid off my current can of worms. Shall take a good look at those wriggling critters for a change, then get back to work–rewriting rewriting rewriting!

    • Lauren
      Lauren May 1, 2018 at 1:01 pm #

      So sorry for your losses – both anticipated and present. Your heart is entitled to whatever drenching boohoohoos it desires and needs. Hugs.

  2. Avatar
    Gail Foy March 25, 2018 at 7:20 am #

    Lauren you are such an honest, vulnerable and yes intense writer.

    I look forward to reading your blog as it causes me to reflect, digest and learn so much especially about courage and emotional growth.

    And yes, it’s time to take some time for yourself. You give so much to others.

    I thank you, hug you and think of you as you pull back the curtain and step into the unknown.

    Be kind to yourself.
    Go gently.


    • Lauren
      Lauren March 25, 2018 at 9:09 am #

      Thanks so much, Gail 🙂 Yes, this time for myself is so very needed… I hope you are back home safe and sound – or at least looking forward to that and to a lovely (hopefully) Ontario summer. Hugs.

  3. Avatar
    Angileen Gallop March 23, 2018 at 8:26 am #

    During the Fearless Finishing course, you challenged us to find a talisman to put in our writing space. I resisted this (just like I was resisting writing) but, this morning, I realized that object had been on my writing table all along. A salt lamp! Early this morning, in the dark, with its orange fire-like glow that didn’t illuminate the piles of books and papers that have collected on my writing table lately, I could only see my notebook and the cue cards that I used to create a scene-by-scene outline so that I could write from card to card to card. And that faint light made it an effort to read what I had written, so I couldn’t fuss… just write and write and write.
    Blessings to you for your honesty and the safety you create for others.

    • Lauren
      Lauren March 23, 2018 at 2:17 pm #

      So glad to hear you are back at it, Angie! Love the faint light! Xo.

  4. Avatar
    linda chisholm March 22, 2018 at 11:24 pm #

    This may not happen to young people who do not yet lose so many people they have known, but every time I go to a funeral, I grieve for all the people I have loved who have died. I wasn’t aware of this for awhile. Each funeral gets harder and harder. And since you lost your stepfather, I imagine that your grief for Tim is heaped upon the grief of Ulrich and greatly intensified. And so it may be for the rest of your life, I imagine. But that is cathartic and a natural form of healing. Experiencing grief by going through it is part of the healing that allows us to move forward toward our life’s mission and often adds great compassion and empathy for others and depth to our work.

    • Lauren
      Lauren March 23, 2018 at 2:16 pm #

      You know, I think I’m just starting to figure this out ~ the bit about healing, and that grieving isn’t like an illness that’ll resolve one day. I think I thought that for awhile so it’s surprising that it amps up so much at times. And now I know that it’ll always be like that. Sending lots of love and a big, virtual hug.

  5. Avatar
    Mary-Lynn Murphy March 22, 2018 at 7:11 pm #

    I look forward to your novel coming in 2019, and to this one you’re working through now–whenever it’s ready to be born. Thanks again for the quiet place your blog sends me.

    • Lauren
      Lauren March 23, 2018 at 2:13 pm #

      Thanks, Mary-Lynn 🙂

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