When a Head Cold Leads to Paralysis

The cold virus I’ve been dodging for weeks closes with a snap around my brain one evening, and I know I’m in it for the long haul. It drags me to bed like a wolf with fresh prey, preferring to gnaw at me under the protective dark of blankets. Noise hurts. Light hurts. My head feels like it’s being digested. I force myself up far too soon (the children need me! and if not them, the laundry certainly does!) and regret it almost immediately. Gravity pulls the cold from my sinuses down to my lungs, and I’m down for the count.

This is why I haven’t been writing lately—because sickness has a way of wrapping itself like fog around the landscape of my mind until it’s all I can see, and because no one wants to read about somebody else’s head cold. That’s a fact.

With so little of color or substance penetrating this head-fog, I’ve stayed quiet, and in some ways, it’s been nice. I don’t tend to give myself slack unless I’m forced to by extenuating circumstances, so sickness can be its own form of grace. I’ve been devouring books in long, thirsty gulps, sleeping without an alarm, and letting Dan bring me hot drinks without repurposing his kindness as guilt. Rest is such a gift.

To be honest though, I’ve let the gift turn into an excuse. Quiet is a little too easy a condition for me to accept, and it doesn’t take anything more significant than a head cold to validate the lie woven into the threads of my life that says I have nothing of value to say. See? my mind asserts, No one wants to read about what’s going on in your head. This is faulty logic, of course—swollen sinuses and theological reconstruction are hardly the same kind of head issues—but it’s pretty damn hard to refute all the same.

It’s staring me in the face each time I open Facebook. Link upon link upon link to other people’s words… some beautifully penned, some slapped into a template for maximum page counts, all competing for the attention of a public simultaneously addicted to and numbed by viral posts. The Internet has gotten so loud. How could my voice possibly matter in this sea of words, in this roar of marketing machines and big opinions? Why work to put my heart into sentences when someone out there has surely already said the same thing, only better or with more impressive graphics?

Please don’t take this as a hankering to be louder or to build a competitive platform. Fame isn’t why I’m here, and God knows the world doesn’t need any more noise-for-noise’s-sake. I do want to matter though. All my life, I’ve hungered for significance, rooting through theologies and grasping at circumstances for extra legs on which to stabilize my position in this world. I’m not saying this is a healthy habit, but it’s the truth. In fact, I’ve poured far too much time, energy, and money over the years into activities that no longer worked for me simply because I couldn’t acknowledge that their significance was over. (See: classical ballet, psychology courses, and every craft in which I’ve ever dabbled. Disgruntled cross stitch samplers, anyone?)

I know that I tend to pour more of myself into time-wasters in a [misguided and ultimately doomed] attempt to make them matter, but I also know that I tend to give up on good things prematurely for fear of starting this time-wasting cycle… and it all becomes a jumble, my perspective darting around wide-eyed and disoriented in the muddy in-between. How do I prioritize without clearly glimpsing the thumbprint of significance? How do I distinguish my creative calling from the cacophony of my expectations, much less from the noise of the world around me?

In times like this, Dan often reminds me that I think too much, which, YES, CLEARLY. I’m a lifelong pro at thinking a good idea to death, at second-guessing my second guesses until the whole thing goes belly-up. I’m a serial doubter, which is different from a cynic in that cynic has pre-packaged negativity ready to slap on an issue whereas I can’t decide on which brand of negativity to use. This isn’t likely to change. (Sorry, dear.)

All this leaves me in a rather paralyzed place regarding the new year, especially in regards to writing and blogging and social media and the ever-changing face of the creative community. WHY is a pretty big question to be bringing to the table, and I’m having a hard time proceeding without knowing the answer.

However, inviting you into the discussion in my mind is why this blog exists, so here we are—on the downswing of an epic but still categorically boring head cold, searching for personal meaning on a global scale, and actively refuting the lie that there is nothing of value left in this world to say.

Join the discussion, would you? I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on navigating the noise and content overload we encounter online. What motivates you to keep showing up? What helps you keep standing on your own two feet in the fire-hose stream of input? 

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  1. I smile in recognition when I opened your blog and saw this post, because it’s totally where I have been for the last week. Am holed up on my couch right now with the worst head cold I’ve had in a long time. I so feel your questions, and ask them too. Not that I am any sort of real blogger (yet), but I am always trying to do better. Yes, the internet IS loud. But it also never gets old to read a post that speaks to me, or a great article, or find out about someone new who started out in blogging and is now writing pieces for larger audiences. I believe in writing. I believe in the inherent importance of how we grow and feel recognized and become more HUMAN when we read what others write. So I’m glad you’re showing up here with what you have. I’m glad for the things you make me think about. And I am resolved anew to show up on my blog and participate in the conversation, become a better writer, get past my fears of looking this way or that. Feel better!

  2. I have missed you MUCHLY! Very muchly. I hope hope hope you are feeling better. I navigate the noise by ignoring most of it. I don’t tweet, I rarely instagram, I forget to blog for days on end. I check FB when I feel like it, which is a few times a week, but I rarely comment nowadays. I don’t care about counts and stats and likes. I like the people who like me and I have conversations with them and that’s enough. 🙂

  3. I don’t know if I can add anything new to Willow and Liz. I blog because I want to. I blog when I have time. I really try to keep up with my bloggy friends when they write because, well, I love you guys. It is all about friendship to me. I can be in awe of your words…which I am on a regular basis, but it is really that I like YOU. That is why I get excited when I see you have posted. (TWICE! ACK! I am behind!) Anyway, you asked the question WHY? I am challenging you to answer another question: Why NOT?

    I hope you feel better! Sick=no fun! xo

  4. Willow – I love your point about feeling recognized and more human due to what we read. That’s ultimately why I love the blogs and books that I do, and if I can give that experience of feeling recognized to someone else, then writing is definitely worth it–no matter how many others out there have already made the same point. Thanks for your thoughts! (I hope your blog will be back online soon! I’ve been trying to slip over and see what you’re up to.)

    Liz – Good for you!! I haven’t gotten into Tweeting myself either, but I don’t have a great deal of discipline when it comes to FB, and I love Instagram too much to stay away long. I can’t bring myself to time how much of the day I spend on social media (or following links I’ve seen on social media), but I’m sure I could stand to spend less time there. That would probably help with the noise problem, eh? (I’ve missed you muchly too!)

    Megsie – “Why NOT?” I just love you. Thank you for that and for bringing such a bright spot of friendship to this whole shebang.

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