So tired recently. Work is so tedious and relentless and endless, and, when I’m this tired, so close to overwhelming. Lately I can scarcely muster the energy to get myself home at the end of the day and get myself into bed when I get there, and then the effort of doing so leaves me too tense to sleep. I’ve read the first two books I want to review for the Women Unbound challenge (I still read, however tired I am, because it keeps me from falling asleep on the bus-ride to and from work), and not been able to summon even a few sentences about them - unsurprising, when I’m so tired I’ve sometimes found myself unable in conversation to string a coherent sentence together. I’ve been cancelling almost all social engagements. Sometimes this is a misplaced impulse and it’s only company and exchange and focusing on others that would give me more energy, but this time I think it was right - when I’m meditating most days, as I have been again in recent months, I’m less cut off from my feelings and know better what I need.
After this has gone on for a few weeks, I start thinking about giving up on the blog. If I can’t do this regularly, if I don’t practice enough to feel the words expand and flow, what, I find myself thinking, just what is the point? Why bother to go back to it at all? I’ve returned repeatedly to what I found myself writing recently about my Dad. Sometimes you idly put into words a knowledge so taken for granted that you’ve never bothered to articulate it, and it lingers and resonates and you realise you’ve verbalised something very important that you need to keep before you all the time.
I keep returning to the imagined figure of a father who sometimes painted pictures or sometimes scribbled things down in a notebook and how utterly different this person would have been from the father I knew. It wouldn’t have mattered if he did these things often or rarely, impressively well or not really very well at all. If he’d done them at all, of course I can’t be sure that he would have been a different person inside, but he certainly would have seemed to me a different person. I never encountered his inner voice, and neither as far as I know, by the time I knew him, did anyone else. I have no idea if he still had one, or if his head was a silent, echoing place with no stream of thought, the only impetus for words and actions a long-established, blindly followed routine. I suspect there must have been some words in there, at least from time to time. But as far as I was concerned there might as well not have been. His only reality for me was the one painted by my mother’s many, many words on the subject of his inadequacy and the unhappiness and disappointment it caused her.
This is so awful. This is what was worst about his life. Not his lack of friends. Not the fact that he worked at boring, junior jobs far below his ability. Not the unhappiness of his marriage or his lack of engagement as a father. Not the way he gave up the creative pursuits, the political activism, all the things he once did outside work. Not even his habitual grumpy silence, occasionally interrupted by a small outburst of not very convincing belligerence. These are all sad. But even sadder that I never heard a word from that inner voice. This is what shows me the extent to which he’d given up.
I know now, have long known - though I was middle-aged before it hit me – how much I resemble him. I keenly recognise the strain of weakness, the impulse to warmth and kindness often hidden, overwhelmed by apathy, the sinning by omission which can harm others (as his silence harmed me) just as much as active and intentional cruelty. These are the aspects of my character I struggle against. I know I’m lucky that life has brought me cultural, political and spiritual experiences and interests that go deep and sustain me in something more than apathy, however pointless the daily round is feeling just now. Sometimes I feel like I’m losing the battle – well, don’t we all sometimes feel like we’re losing whatever our deepest personal battle happens to be? But mostly, I’m fortunate enough to be able to pinpoint what will make the difference: I must not let my inner voice go silent. Writing and taking photos really is a way to save my own life. It’s not about quality, or audience, or even regularity. As long as I just do it, here or elsewhere, when I can, that is enough to stop me dying inside. Quite a thought.