I read recently that the real reason for writer's block is fear. There is a fear of saying something that you must, and the consequences that will follow or a fear of not saying something well enough. We move to a position where we refuse to act out out of fear.
I think that a blogger's block is different. It is mostly a byproduct of time. Time or lack thereof. Life is piling up upon itself like a stack of books on a bedside table. My wife will appreciate how this happens to me. I need to take time to move away from the entire stack for a few days, get some distance from the whole of life and get regrounded. I'm moving in quickly on my first personal retreat in far too long. I had thought that it was the first in about ten years, but I was mistaken. I went on a retreat in 2004, probably October to Maryhill in Alexandria, La. There are few places in Louisiana that I intend to return to someday. Maryhill is one of them. There is only one other. If you ever get the chance, Maryhill is a unique place that will grip you with it's silence from the moment that you step onto the grounds.
It may not have been ten years since my last retreat, but four is far too many for something that is so valuable to our well-being. On Friday, I am going to step back into that silence, though I don't expect that I will fully be able to appreciate what I am going to be doing until after it is over, maybe long over. The Monastery of the Holy Spirit is another veil of silence, separated from the rest of the world by distance that is entirely spiritual. It is a place where work is done, and often done while on your knees. And I expect that like Maryhill, it will be a time of silence that I will never forget.
And once I'm done with this retreat, I need to be better at allowing others in my life the distance that they need for themselves.
What is without periods of rest will not endure. ~Ovid
Its funny that getting Jack on an iron-clad sleep and eating schedule means so much for Jenn and me and our relationship. Now that he has set times to go to bed, we can have set times to talk. Which for me means that I need to have things to talk about. In the last few (12)months Jack has dominated our lives and our relationship. This time last year we were still trying to cope with the fact that we were going to be having a child, unplanned, unexpected and unstoppable. The light at the end of the tunnel was certainly a train coming.
Through a difficult pregnancy, and an even more difficult and ultimately dangerous labor, Jack came. Those days were difficult. So much so, I try not to think too much about the details of them, lest I start to get choked up. At one point I thought that I was going to lose both my beloved wife and my son. Thank God it didn't happen, but things looked close. Jack ended up in the NICU for a while, and Jenn and I had a chance to heal some, at least to suture some wounds, but it's been 7 months and we really haven't had much of a chance to address everything that has happened, that has changed and that is still on the way.
Jack has done amazing things for us, but it has also meant that Jenn and I put our relationship on hold. We don't do the things that we used to do as often as we once did. The letters are fewer and farther between. The small gifts are less affordable when formula is twenty five dollars a can. Date nights have to be scheduled or they would never happen. Its tough to be a parent of an infant and still fill the role of "lover of my wife" as fully as I once could.
But we are seeing definite progress. Jack has his schedule. I know that there are times like right now when I can get class work done, clean up the chaos that is my in box, scrub a sink and start to get dinner ready for my lovely wife. Last week Jenn and I talked about romance. I was surprised that one of the things that I do regularly (regularly for me is I do it randomly, but usually a few times a week), making the bed, is romantic. When we first got married, I would do 3-5 things a day when I got home from work. I don't do that any more. It fell by the wayside when I was on dad duty. It was things like check for toilet paper rolls that needed to be changed, take out the garbage, make the bed, change light bulbs that had blown. Now that Jack is on a regular schedule, that kind of thing is possible to do again on a regular basis. And its worth doing. Its a small way to make my wife's world better which is a huge way to make my world better.
Romance is back on the table again, not just in the small ways, but in the big ways as well. It has changed some, spontaneity must be scheduled. Its oxy-moronic on the surface, but it is crucial. I don't usually have time to put together a weekend at the drop of a hat, but I do have time here and there to put one together that we can go on later. I can still pick up flowers because its Tuesday (or Wednesday or Lincoln's Birthday) but it might help to put even that on the calendar... its a thought.
We've come a long way, and alot of it is backtracking to get back to where we were, but even the ability to be on the path is progress. The fact that we can take three to five nights a week to sit on the couch for an hour and talk over popcorn is huge progress and means great things for us in the very near future if we can keep it up, if we can keep the ball in the air.
Marriage and the family is proving to be a battle in many ways; a battle for hearts, souls and sanity, that has to be won. Someone told me that marriage is filled with good times and tough times. Usually you start by fighting your way up hill. Most people never get to the top because they expected to start on a downhill slope with the wind at their backs. It hasn't been that way for me. It has been tough, but its been good. Its good to have a woman to fight for, even if you are fighting against yourself(and you very often are). I'm learning how to get back up once I've fallen down, to love from weakness and to love the faults that I carry and that my wife carries. I've also learned that the woman that I married is even more heroic, gentile, loving and stubborn than I ever thought that anyone could be. We are making progress. One day at a time and one foot in front of the other, we are trudging the road of happy destiny.
Fortunately there is a way to defend against this character assassin; do the right thing, do the next right thing, tell the truth, tell it now. Do it consistently and immediately. Do it until it becomes second nature and then do it again. Just like there are no short cuts to getting out of debt, there are no short cuts to building character and integrity. It's a long walk home. Its filled with pitfalls and booby traps. You fall down and you get back up. This is a path defined and cut out of the landscape by one thing: singleness of purpose.
I've got two things on my calendar this month that are anchoring me right now. In a week and a half, I'm going to be meeting up with a couple of guys that I've known for years. We've tossed around the idea of a regular meeting so that we can support each other in a real way. I'm praying alot about these meetings. I'm hopeful that they are going to meet a real need that we have. The need that I'm feeling pretty acutely right now is for accountability and to be shown where I'm holding out with my will, uncompromising in the not-so-great kind of way.
I'm also in a holding pattern waiting for my retreat at the end of the month. I'm going to be spending the last weekend of January at the Cistercian monastery in Conyers. I don't entirely know what to expect with this. I'm trying to enter with as few expectations as possible, though it's hard not to imagine some variant of Into Great Silence. My boss has already told me that I'm not to chant over the Med Radio when I get back.
I'm reaching a point where I've stalled a bit with the spiritual life again. I'm not losing ground yet, but I do need to get momentum back. Its probably time for another general confession. This will be my fourth. I also think that I am going to go back through the steps again. If I do the general confession, there are few ways that thoroughly prepare you before hand than the first four steps, and that give direction for wat to do afterwards than 6-12. It's been 14 months since I finished them the first time, and they did me a world of good. This month is going to be good for new beginnings. I'm picking up my second blue chip, beginning--with the retreat--the next step in my spiritual CPR, and looking to learn how to be a better husband now that we have children, because that has suffered. I've got some events planned that are hopefully going to help me along all of these paths and hopefully I'll be able to get humble to the point that I am teachable again.
This is going to be a nuts-and-bolts month, relationship wise. It's going to be a bit more complicated than taking apart my washer, and its going to take totally different tools.
Add today to the list of days that I will play back through for the rest of my life; the day I became Catholic, the day that I got engaged, the day I got married to the love of my life, the day my son was born, now the day that he was baptized.
Pictures will come soon, but they'll never be able to tell you what it was like to present him for this first sacrament, to be surrounded by friends and family and to know that it wasn't just his world that was changing, it was all of ours as well. I'll never be able to tell you either.
I hope that someday this day will be as important to him as June 9th is to me.