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Why I Stopped Writing

April 19, 2015
'Writing' by OuadiO via Flickr.com

‘Writing’ by OuadiO via Flickr.com

I stopped writing here. I never intended to do that. It just sort of happened. I didn’t even know why.

When I began bloggin in 2006 at Buddhist in Nebraska, it was a personal journal and a means for me to connect with other Buddhists who were geographically distant. I wrote from my direct experience and reflected on the teachings as I encountered them in daily life. This was very fulfilling and for four years I filled the internet with over 500 posts.

Then I moved to California to pursue Buddhism with even more intensity. I migrated and renamed my blog to its curent incarnation, Dharma Cowgirl. I also upped the ante. Although I still included personal reflection, I also began to write more scholarly articles on Buddhsim. I wanted to write less about me and more about things I believed my audience would value. This blog should be more of a teaching platform, I thought, less personal, less egocentric.

I am not certain if the quality of the posts improved, but over time their frequency dwindled. It was always the need to personally reflect, to think “out loud” in words on paper, that had motivated my writing. That motivation was slipping away, despite the fact that my teachers encourage the act of reflective journalling. They see it as both personally fulfilling and as an academically valid practice for a scholar and theologian.

Yet, I wrote less and less….and less and less I knew why. There is another thread here that must be pulled.

I have never been private. In person, I am often reserved. It is the ethic with which I was raised. One does not inflict one’s negative emotions on others. One does not even necessarily talk about them, so my emotional vocabulary is, in some ways, deficient, although it is growing. However, there is not much point in trying to hide what is happening from others. They will find out and then it will be the worse for having been secret. There is a certain ethic to living your life in a way that you needn’t keep anything private. Never act in a way you will regret and there will be nothing to hide, even when mistakes are made, as they inevitably will be. There are many things I do not tell because I feel it would make the listener uncomfortable, but there is no question I would not answer if you really wanted to know.

This has always been my ethic. It made blogging easy, natural.

However, this is not everyone’s ethic. Others need privacy to feel safe, secure. Others express their emotions freely, but trust those around them to maintain their confidentiality. Others see the world differently than I do. I can sometimes only guess why they do as they do, feel as they feel, think as they think, and I am constantly aware that my suppositions may be wrong, flawed, biased by my own lenses.

In the past few years, my life has become intertwined with the lives of others as it never has before. I gained a wonderful partner, whom I now live with. So much of my emotional process is now bound up with his. How do I write about attachment without writing about him and sounding like a sentimental sap? How do I write about aversion without writing about some annoying thing he did that I did not like and making him into the fool? How do I write about delusion without writing about the things I have learned in this relationship, often the hard way?

I do not know how to do this, so I stopped writing.

On top of the belief that my writing needed to be more academic, less personal, more “useful,” whatever that is, there was the need to respect his privacy in a way I never needed for myself. In addition, there is a third factor: I began my work as a chaplain.

I cannot tell you how much I have learned through the process of clinical pastoral education, the internship most chaplains go through. I have learned about others, about myself, and about the Dharma. I want to share so much what I have learned, but I must also respect as a binding vow that which makes it all possible: confidentiality. People share their stories with me because they know I will honor them with confidentiality. Aside from my chaplain supervisor and cohort, who are bound by the same confidentiality, I keep their secrets safe. I literally cannot tell you.

Yet there are lessons embedded in my experience of CPE over the past two years that I can share without details of the people involved. Just as there are lessons from my relationship that I can reflect upon while maintaining the trust of my partner. And perhaps, just perhaps, the need to write in a “scholarly” way is just an excuse for not talking about the things that really matter because I’m afraid I don’t have the words anymore.

Other people have found ways to blog in relationship, to blog with a caregiving practice, to reflect personally as academics and theologians. I also want to find a way.

I miss writing. I don’t want to stop.

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