Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Regaining Focus

My mind has been a little topsy-turvy the past few months. My recent divorce and my relationship with the ex (is it going to be civil or ugly today?) plays more havoc with my emotions than I at first realized. You tend to think that you're ok, that you've made it out of the black hole, that you're going to be just fine, thank you very much. And then loneliness strikes on a Saturday night and you realize that there's not a man to cuddle with on the couch and watch a movie with, or a man to go out on a dinner date with. While I do not need a man in my life right now, that loneliness tends to tell you differently. Getting through those times is difficult, but a necessary part of the grieving process.

I never realized how many different emotions would be involved with a divorce. Even when I'm not thinking about it, it's still there, lingering in the background. After being with a person for ten years, building a life together, and watching it systematically implode in a variety of ways, it's incredibly difficult to just forget about it. And really, I don't want to forget about it. Instead, I need to work through it, step by step, to see where I went wrong, to fix those things about me that impeded the relationship, and find healing. I journal a lot, and do probably too much thinking, but again, it's a necessary step.

All of that takes a lot of energy, both physical and emotional. While things are getting better, it's still hard to figure out this new relationship with my ex, one where we're not husband and wife anymore, not really best friends, but friends nevertheless for the sake of our daughter - and darn it, friends because we do still care about each other, despite everything that's happened.

Maybe that's why I'm having difficulty losing myself in my story. I'm not quite connecting with my characters yet. Perhaps it's because my emotions are engaged elsewhere. Yet that isn't acceptable to me right now. Maybe I'm being too harsh, but the reality is that I love to write, love to dive into a story and immerse myself in my characters' lives, and in essence take a vacation from my own struggles. I need that right now.

So I plan to take all those emotions I'm experiencing in my personal life, put them in a room in my mind, and shut the door when I'm writing. When I'm finished writing for the day, I can open that door and let those emotions back in. The key here is to take a break from the personal emotions and instead let my mind dwell on my writing and my characters instead.

To that end, I'm working to regain focus on the writing. And I believe that when I do that, it will give me the necessary perspective to look at my life differently. To me, the writing life encompasses so much more than the writing - it's our emotions, our thoughts, our everyday experiences. It all shapes the words on the page.


  1. Hi, Mel.

    Sorry you're going through emotional havoc right now. Relationships are tricky, sticky things, even when they're going well - and as for relationships with ex partners...

    One of the things you said jumped out at me:

    'I journal a lot, and do probably too much thinking, but again, it's a necessary step...'

    As you know from my blog, I've been writing about the problems created by thinking recently, and it seems to me our habitual, addictive thinking is the root cause of many of our emotional problems.

    Have you considered the notion that you may need to STOP thinking in order to find the mental space you need to start healing?


  2. John, that's an excellent point. I think some days are better than others, where my brain isn't constantly whirring with too many thoughts. I'm getting better at just trying to write stuff down when it gets to be overwhelming and that truly has gotten a lot better in the past month or so. But then like I said...the loneliness starts to take over and you think, "Did I make the right decision?" even though I know I did. I've always been one for overthinking, though, so I'm hoping to learn to deal with it differently.

  3. Elizabeth Parker9:52 AM

    Here's just a thought. Maybe, instead of journaling, you could write a novel about it all?

  4. Sounds like a major trial. It sort of reminds me of Jaquiline Mitchard her husband died and she lost herself in writing a novel that following year to help deal with it. 'Deep End of the Ocean' went on to be a bestseller and a movie.

  5. It takes time to come to terms with such a massive change in your life. I like Elizabeth's suggestion though, sounds good.

  6. Easier said than done, I know, but maybe that deep-thinking could fuel your writing. Your emotions and everything you've been through could go a long way in voice, like T. Anne mentioned above.

    Thinking of you, Melissa.

  7. Thanks, all, for your thoughts. I've actually thought of writing about it, but my fiction writing is more of an escape for me and I guess at this point I'm not interested in writing a novel about it. That may change someday.

    And really, somedays it feels more like a trial than others. Sometimes you think you're moving forward, then something happens (the other day I got on the elevator and whoever was in it before wore the same cologne as my ex - I felt a deep stab of longing when I smelled it) that puts you back again.

  8. Hang in there Melissa. What you said is so true. Focus on the writing, it can heal you and help you find your way.

  9. I do think you need to take a break from your emotions. Its too easy to focus on this stuff. Maybe you need to find some activities not related writing that puts you in contact a variety of different people. I don't know, but I think you need to find an outlet that takes you out of yourself.

  10. Well written. Even if our situations aren't the same, we all can understand the need to "get away" from emotions. I always feel the need for a new "sanctuary" of writing. Find a new place to explore! And maybe some day you'll be able to use the current emotions for new characters. God's blessing-

  11. Writing is such a great escape if we can get past the earthly trials and emotions that weigh us down and hold us back. Hope you're able to find some refreshment through your creative world!

  12. You're really wise, Melissa. That alone will take you far. Give yourself the time you need - and deserve - to be present in the craziness. It will dissipate when it's time. Promise.


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