David and I recently took our first trip since Mom died. On the drive home from her funeral, I looked out the window at the passing scenery and wanted to go home, pack up the RV, and head out. Along with the sadness and loss, I felt the lifting of a burden, of a years-long task finally completed, and I wanted to live out that freedom on the open road. But it wasn’t a good time and may not be for a while. Finances are tight, and we have responsibilities around Emory that we can’t drop at a moment’s notice. But short jaunts are doable, and last week we drove to Louisiana to celebrate the Fourth with David’s family.
It was a week of focusing on freedom, on its meaning and its price. It was a week of experiencing personal freedom for me, freedom from worrying about how Mom was doing, from the nagging guilt that is the caregiver’s constant companion, from the fear of the dreaded phone call. It was a week of thinking about the freedoms Mom and Dad now have, freedom from the bonds of dementia and the pains and limitations of old age. Unfortunately, freedom can have its down side.
Trips have become a source of a lot of writing material for me. I’ve written about the adventures and misadventures of traveling with Mom and Dad. I’ve written about the uneasiness of traveling without them. I’ve written about the heart-wrenching visits to Arkansas over the last year or so, watching first Dad and then Mom slip away. But this trip was different. There was no one to prepare for but myself, no concerns about leaving duties unattended to, no anxiety about what I’d find when I got where we were going. It was almost a perfect trip, but there was something missing. I didn’t have anything to write about.
There were still stories to tell, funny and touching stories about family get-togethers, shopping trips, and honey-dos for David to do for his mom. But the muse wasn’t there. The angst that usually drives me to the keyboard was missing, and I experienced what all writers fear more than a rejection letter, writer’s block. Was it a temporary setback, or was it permanent? Would the words come back, or had I written them all?
I didn’t really believe it was a serious block, but I tend to be a bit of a drama queen in the recesses of my mind, and I fretted over the possibility a bit. A day or two after we got to West Monroe, I finished the guest blog I wrote about caregivers and heroes. I also worked on several other posts I’ve got in the works, but I didn’t finish anything else. We got back home Monday night, and I’ve added a sentence or two to those unfinished posts, started another couple, and fretted a little more over my lack of productivity.
When I first started writing, I had some of the same productivity issues. I started a lot of projects that took a long time to finish. I wrote a book that took four years and fourteen edits to complete. I had help and encouragement from people with a lot more experience than I had. One thing they encouraged me to do was to find my voice. Voice has to do with choice of style and words, but it also has to do with perspective. Up to now, I’ve written from the perspective of anxiety, turmoil, and unfinished business, but now I’m writing from a place of peace and calm and closure. I’ve focused on caregiving, faith, and family, and I’ll continue that focus, but I’m also attempting to enlarge my territory. There’s plenty left to write about and lots of new territory to explore. Now I have the freedom to find my new voice and to pursue those words that are hiding somewhere in my head.