October 4, 2011

So, here I am, one week post-op, still exhausted, still not myself, still not able to carry on many of the ordinary routines of daily life that I value more than anything.

And why should I not be all these things? Like so many people, post-op, I’m anemic. It’ll take some time for that to right itself. I’m doing all the right things: taking iron, making sure I rest, drinking water – all the suggestions my surgeon made. But it will resolve when it will.

Which will bring me eventually to writing. This morning I found myself enraged that I wasn’t progressing faster than I am. Why? Why this non-acceptance? Why this desire to heal faster than humanly possible?

We live in a culture that promises fast this, instant that. Are you sick? Take this drug, and in minutes, you’ll be out playing catch with your son. Do you have allergies? Take this drug, and in minutes you’ll be romping on a beach with your grandkids. Instant messaging. Instant communication. And all of that has lead us – has lead me at least – to get very angry, very impatient, when things take as long as they take.

Somewhere tucked in the back of my brain is the false notion that if I do everything right, if I will things to change, if I apply myself, I can change just about anything. Quickly. Of course, this isn’t true. Though right now I’d like it to be.

If an act of will could achieve miracles, I’d be fine now. But I’m not. I’m still healing. If an act of will could transform ideas into finished works of art, there would be a hell of a lot more art out there than there is now.

It isn’t that will isn’t important. Of course it is. We must want something very much in order to spend the amount of time it takes to write a book. But will isn’t the whole story. Sometimes we have to wait a long time for a good idea to transform itself into a great idea. Sometimes, no matter how hard we work, we have to give up control over our work; we have to step back; we have to realize that the book will take longer than we want it to take.

“A good completion takes a long time.” That’s something I learned when I was studying non-Western thought in graduate school. I never forgot it, though I sometimes act as if I have.

And so, here I am, one week post-op, expecting miracles and getting only reality. The reality of not feeling terrific; the reality of work deferred, postponed; the reality of the body taking its time to heal.

When I get back to my projects, I hope I remember that will can only take me so far. That work takes the time it takes.

Meantime, I can make good use of this healing time. I can let myself watch funny movies. I can let myself rest. I can let myself dream. I can let myself notice the sun moving behind a cloud. But I can only do this if I acknowledge that I can only control my healing to a certain point. Beyond that, there’s the body’s wisdom. And over that, I have no control.


26 Responses to “Will”

  1. Kirie Says:

    I felt so good to log in and see a post from you, even one complaining that one week after major surgery, you’re not back to normal! As so often happens when reading your work, I see myself in the mirror. Thanks so much! You sound great!

    As they say in one of those 12-Step programs, “time takes time.”

  2. Margaux Says:

    It’s pretty awesome to read this post after having all of my thoughts just this past Monday about not being done fast enough and without having major surgery that is! 🙂 Good work takes time, indeed! Thank you for taking the time write this post in the midst of your healing…as it is something many of us struggle with, allowing time for definition, clarity, and growth with all of our projects!

  3. Katherine Says:

    I’m so glad to see that you are feeling well enough to write this entry and to rage against the slow process of healing. It IS frustrating, and as you so wisely note, something over which we have very little control, except by giving ourselves over to it. As I struggled against/with a long bout with pneumonia this summer/early fall, I found myself often frustrated by my complete lack of energy. “What if I’m always like this?” I kept thinking. Ultimately, acceptance (and a new grandbaby!) helped me to see the possibilities that lay in this slow motion time. I wish you many funny movies, dreams to dream, and time with friends and family.

  4. Amy Says:

    Great post!! An important reminder for all of us writing and writing.

  5. Mary Beth King Says:

    Thanks for your lovely words. It’s interesting what things come our way to remind us that there is a time for being and a time for doing. You described it so well!

  6. Cynthia Says:

    “If an act of will could transform ideas into finished works of art, there would be a hell of a lot more art out there than there is now.”
    I love this and was just feeling/ thinking about something similar this morning…The minute I get a seedling of an idea, my body fills with loud noises of wanting to know how to bring the completed work into being — which truly does cause a deep sense of frustration…..Dear Louise, keep being kind to yourself. I’m sure you’re healing at exactly the right speed. Your courage continues to inspire me…..Also, since you wrote of Henry Miller, you might be knowledgeable on Lawrence Durrell? Who is my new literary love. Reading “Justine” now. Am beside myself. Do you know of other works of his on par???
    Thinking of you, my dear teacher.

  7. Angelica Says:

    It’s great to see that even though you feel frustrated with the circumstances you are in, you have found a silver lining. I wish I could do the same sometimes!

  8. All best wishes, Louise, we need many more books from you!
    And you are SO right about the fast-recuperating syndrome: bosses would rather have you half-sick, half-doped up at work, than let you be in bed for a few days nursing your illness and letting it take its course…

  9. Bianca Cartagena Says:

    Although technology has advanced us in society, I feel it has handicapped us in individuality. As individuals, we’ve become impatient. We’ve become rude when something takes longer than expected. We utter curse words under our breaths when we see the word “buffering” pop up on screens. Touch screens. Computer screens. Phone screens. It seems as if we’re always looking at some sort of screen. And as if the word “buffering” is always on it. But we don’t look away. We don’t turn it off. We don’t reboot and find a new way of life. No, we wait for the “buffering” to disappear. It seems like that’s the only thing we’re patient for because we know it won’t let us down. We know it will load. We’re programmed to want faster, expect faster. And when it’s not fast enough, we’re programmed to complain. And when there’s fast enough, we’re programmed to upgrade. Is that what we are now? Programmed? Is this what we’ve turned in to? To impatient people that are outraged with anything slower than the speed of light?

    What happened to patience? What happened to will? What happened to taking our time and enjoying any process that takes us from nothing to something? Why do we face life as if there’s a fast forward button that can take us to where we have to go without going through all the growing in between?

    I can relate to wanting to heal faster. I can relate to wanting to write faster. I can relate to wanting to progress faster. But if everything is so instant in our society, can we ever really heal? Can we ever fully progress?

    I say leave the miracles to God and embrace reality. Embrace the time it takes to make magic because although it may be time consuming, time is the one thing we can’t get back so why are we so quick to waste it? We all owe it to ourselves to make good use of healing time because without proper healing, there won’t be full blossoming.

  10. It is great to see you are feeling better even though it is not as fast as you would like. Growing up I had a very bad accident that took me over four years to fully heal. It was very hard to be so patient with the process. I learned that even though I wish I could heal in a day, it would be a very long process. It is hard to take things so slow when everything around us is moving so fast. My process did take a very long time but I was told that because of my patience I was able to heal a lot better than most patients. I couldn’t agree more with the way you are feeling. The world is always at a fast pace. People tend to forget that everything takes time, with healing and with writing. Everything has a certain time process. Great Blog! Thank you so much for writing about this. Sometimes people feel as if they are the only who feels that way but its great to see others relating.

  11. Michael Frankovic Says:

    I agree with you 100%. Patience seems to be running out for everyone it seems. I always dream of a day when we can plug into some device that transforms your ideas into something concrete. Or if we could plug into each other and directly perceive what we are imagining. But in this age, we still have to work to create our art and it takes time. We also seem to forget that the journey itself to create something is just as important, if not more so, as the end result.

  12. Charles Says:

    Hi Ms. DeSalvo,

    Sometimes, I wish I could just step on some sort of Time Machine gas pedal-I mean, really floor it-and end up in a place in my writing practice where I’m satisfied with myself. Alas, there’ll be some time before those time-altering gas pedals hit the market, so until then I’ll remain steady in practice, exercise patience, and watch what-will-be unfold.

  13. Kimberly Sital Says:

    Hi Louise,
    You are so right. Whenever I am feeling a simple headache coming on, I never hesitate to take Advil, or when spring is approaching is always remember to take Allegra every morning to prevent my allergies. I expect these drugs to work instantly. I quickly forget that patience is golden and is worth so much. Good luck.

  14. Mary Ellen Says:

    This post is a good reminder of a way in which art imitates life. While will is essential for progress, stepping back and releasing control is also important. We must use our will wherever life will let us, but accepting that sometimes things are simply not within our realm of control is the best way to deal with life’s unexpected twists and turns. I guess the same can be applied to artistic creation. It is what makes us human, and the beauty in that humanity is what inspires creativity! Thank you for the reminder, since, as you pointed out, the pace at which our society functions often leaves us all very impatient. As cliche as it is, there is something to be said for taking the time to “smell the roses.” I have only just begun reading your blog, and I see from your more recent posts that you have come along way in healing. I hope that the upcoming new year finds you with restored health and the productivity you seem to love. I also look forward to following your blog into that new year and beyond, as I really enjoy your writing. Thank you again for sharing!

    Mary Ellen

  15. Kimberly Bruining Says:

    I have also encountered the struggle of falling ill and wondering whether I will be able to write the way I wrote again. Becoming sick does take a toll on a person, but I believe that it is impossible to lose the innate skills of writing and the willpower to write a wonderful piece. This excerpt has reinforced my lessons that I have learned this semester during memoir that there will always be bumps in the road. However, these bumps in the road, no matter how big or small, are only temporary. Once we can take care of ourselves, we can emerge and fully heal through our writing.

  16. Karr Says:

    A writer uses everything in their lives, good or bad, to move forward. Embrace it all.

  17. Theodora Venizelos Says:

    Hello Louise,
    I enjoyed reading your blog and while I was reading it I instantly thought of the memoir, “True Strength” by Kevin Sorbo. Although I haven’t dealt with any major health issues, I deal with social anxiety and oftentimes become very frustrated with myself due to my limitations in social settings. Kevin Sorbo’s book may be of interest to you since he dealt with 3 strokes at age 38, and he felt a great sense of frustration due to his wish to heal quickly. I highly recommend this memoir and I cried like a baby when I finished it.

    You are right when you say that although will is important, it is also important to know when to let go. Too much control can be a bad thing, and reading your blog reminded me also of how I need to learn to let go in my own life and when it comes to my writing.

    Hang in there, and I am sure you will progress.


  18. Aly B Says:

    I really enjoyed reading this particular blog because I am a big believer of will I can agree that will involves other aspects that are major contributors. I also think that it does not always come down to how how strong your will is, but rather evaluating the situation with being as realistic as possible.

  19. marcpollifrone Says:

    I’ve also grown grossly impatient. I had rhabdomyalisis of my kidney in July and they told me it would take 6-12 months to get better and stop hurting. So in my head, I figured, “okay, i’ll be tip top in 5 months, I got youth on my side.” But, now it’s been 9 months and my side is still killing me. I just assume that time won’t take it’s time. I want everything on express. If my friend takes 2 minutes to respond to my text instead of 1, i’m usually livid because i’m like “yo, you’re ignoring me!”

  20. Hazel Santana Says:

    Dear Louise,

    I’m glad that, even though you became impatient, you listened to your doctors, and obeyed their commands (some people just, ignorantly, don’t).

    You are speaking much truth in this post. Patience is truly a difficult thing to acquire.

    Almost a month ago, Hurricane Sandy left my family and I without electricity for one week. That week left us without everything that makes life go faster and easier: we had no microwave, we had no phones, we had no internet, we had no gas (in essence, no car), we had no T.V. We were thankful that nothing disastrous happened to us, but it got us a bit desperate not having any form of electricity for so long.

    Although we became very impatient, these circumstances allowed us to get closer as a family. That week with no light, no school, and no work we communicated like never before. We talked, we made jokes, we played games, we walked everywhere, we worked together to make meals, we helped each other get around the house in the dark…we became what a family should be.

    Today’s technology and the fast pace of our lives have driven families apart. With TV, video games, Internet, cell phones, cars, meetings, homework, we have forgotten the importance of family unity.

    In a way, I’m thankful we had no light for a week. It taught me so much. I valued what I once took for granted.

    So, I’m glad that you looked at this circumstance as an opportunity to do things you would, otherwise, not do. I think that’s what life is about: focusing on how a hard situation in life could, in fact, be an opportunity to learn something, to grow, and find the positive in the negative.

    I hope you are feeling much better. Take care of yourself.


  21. Melissa Hroncich Says:

    Dear Louise,

    Each time I read a blog from you I am empowered to think positive and to be grateful. Sometimes we take things for granted and rush ourselves to get things done. I believe this is due to our fast- pace cuture of living in the tri- state area. Therefore, it is easy for us to find a “quick fix” and have a desire to rush in completing tasks.
    But I like the point you made too……. you need the “will” to be successful whether it’s earning a degree, obtaining a profession, etc. However, it is essential to embrace the process and not rush it as well.
    I’ve been teaching my middle school students since September that the first writing piece is the beginning. We use the term rough draft which they go back to several times after mini lessons are taught. They are learning the imporantce of various skills and then applying it/revising it to thier writing. Currently, they have learned leads, sensory langugage, dialogue, and endings in which they added to thier piece. The focal point is to teach them that writing is a process and doesn’t happen overnight.
    As for my personal writing and my memoir class, I am constantly reminding myself that my piece is “a work in progress.” I am so quick in wanting to complete a task or “check it off” the list. It is so easy to preach that writing is a process but difficult for me to follow. Although, the memoir class I am taking with Professor Giunta has allowed me to grow professionally as writer and opened my eyes to understand that it takes time and practice. I can see that you too believe “will” and time is everything. 🙂
    Thank you!

  22. sabrinall Says:

    I believe that this is just a result of our time, as you have said. We get everything so quickly that at times we forget that we are in fact humans and not the machines we use. Being always connected and always having what we need and want at our tips have made us unreasonable in a sense. If things are not instant now days, it is not worth our time. All of the time we save with our “instants” seem to be nonexistent anyhow. By the time we sent down at the end of the day there is barely any time left to do anything but sleep.

  23. I’ve gradually come to terms that the body is the greatest measurement of time. We do live in a culture of instant gratification/communication. This urgency is a reminder of Freud’s death drive. As outdated as Freudian theory is, there’s a semblance of truth to it. All this immediacy because we know that there will be a time when it won’t matter.

    We all seem to skim on healing time. You’ve reminded me that we race too often to reach the finish line, when all we’ve really wanted was to take joy in the process.

    You’re voice is very much appreciated. You remind us so evocatively to stop and admire the process of life’s simple things.

    All the best,

  24. oneup Says:

    Great that I’m not the only one who does not write when he feels rather bad. By reading this blog entry I realized that sometimes I should heal first and then try to write about whatever is going on in my life. I had a big break up and I just couldn’t write about it. I believe now that if I had waited a little bit more to heal maybe I could have written about it.

  25. Hi Louise 🙂

    I felt the undertones here not only about rushing life, but rushing writing. I never stop thinking about how much I just want to be DONE, how my ideas are ever-present, ever-done in my head and yet never seem able to come together and form a cohesive, single piece on paper. I almost regret that we’re all so focused on the rushrushrush of daily life. It’s painstaking to deal with wanting instantaneous results and having to deal with the process — the slow, detailed process.

    You write “work takes the time it takes” – with that, I cannot agree more, and yet I find myself being counter-productive, taking that advice in one ear and out of the other.

    – Alexa

  26. Erin Van Horn Says:

    Dear Ms. DeSalvo,

    Thank you so much for commenting about the “speed” society has placed on writers! Luckily, my current memoir piece I am drafting is not under the same speed requirements that a publisher may place on me, however, I am starting to feel the heat! It is difficult to have a “due date” for a draft or excerpt. It is like placing a restraint around my hand sometimes. When there is a date in which I am expected to finish a segment of my memoir, I either get a surge of adrenaline and produce some of the best writing I have ever written, or I sit under my desk and cry holding a can of Red Bull (exaggerating of course). Having a timeline has its positives too—I understand fully. By telling myself I need to finish by a certain day or time, or having a date placed on me by my professor, I organize my thoughts and really begin to weave in and out of creative mindset in a constructive manner. The difference here only hits a negative standpoint when my mind goes blank—enters into powered down mode that inevitably seems stalled.
    This entire blog really points, for me, towards time management—something I severely struggle with. In the past, my lack of proper time management has never led towards bad writing but in regards to my memoir, I have noticed that when I am not completely focused, I leave unintentional gaps that I later have to go back and fill. Whether this be my situation with good or bad time management, I think attempting to improve my “flaw” will do more good than harm.

    Thank you,
    Erin Van Horn

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