The State of the Ellie: Be Still

only for you by jeremiahketner

Hoo-boy, but it’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these. And I have to admit that coming to the keyboard is giving me the sweats. That’s not internet hyperbole — I just had to go change my shirt. But there’s a tiny susurrus of bravery keeping me here. Let’s see where it leads, hrm?

It’s been a month and a half since The Quittening. It feels like a year and more.

Every time I meet up with someone for coffee, they inevitably ask what I’m up to these days. Some people don’t know I’m not writing, some do. They all get the same basic response: “Not much. Working part-time at the card store. Otherwise, a lot of reading and video games.” An awkward, confused pause on behalf of my well-meaning friend follows, and I don’t know how to fill it. So we move on and talk about them because it’s more interesting. Their lives are filled with stress and work and excitement and hobbies and families. They’re busy. We know how to handle busy; we don’t know how to handle vast stretches of time with no particular aim.

In this age where busy-ness is idolized, it’s borderline blasphemous for me to say I quit good, productive, praised work to do nothing and am content.

Not that it’s easy. I struggle with the direction I was given, this concept of Stop What You’re Doing And Then Don’t Move Until You’re Told. I’d imagined a new wave of productivity following my author-exit. Projects I’d toyed with and didn’t have time for would burst into life, artwork I’d abandoned would be revitalized, my to-read list would be decimated. That’s how it’s gone when previous ambitions went south; a new venture arose swiftly after a period of rest.

But it hasn’t happened this time. Mostly, I’ve clocked 70+ hours across two Mass Effect games.

See, what I didn’t understand when I laid down my writing work was the depth and strength of the iceberg two years of constant pushpushpush had formed, the hulking mass of mental and emotional resources lurking beneath the writing itself. Quitting left a sudden gap. Like a smoker who quits cold turkey, I knew I’d done the right thing but wasn’t prepared for the sensation of loss, of not knowing what to do with my hands.

But rather than dive head-first into something, anything to fill the void and keep me busy, I’m choosing to be still. Rather than appeasing the fear of irrelevancy and the craving to earn the validation of others via work, I’m embracing a season of unproductiveness. I’m obeying the call to be at peace without striving. It’s odd, and few people understand, but there’s a real happiness in this space. And I’ll stay here until I’m called up again, learning to cultivate life without busy-ness.

So that’s the state of the Ellie, possums: I’m drifting along day-to-day, content for now to rest and do nothing more productive than throw the occasional dinner party. It’s different and weird for me, but I’m embracing patience. Because I laid down what I believed was my life’s work at God’s gentle insistence, I must wait for new directions from the same source, wait for a new heading crafted by the one who draws the maps.

And that, my loves, is worth waiting for.

8 thoughts on “The State of the Ellie: Be Still

  1. Sounds like you’re doing a beautiful job of listening and resting. These times are so nourishing for our spirits and lives. ❤️

  2. I like this. You sound like your sane self. I too have felt the pressure to always be doing, learning, growing, achieving, and otherwise “making myself better.” Although I long ago gave up dieting and makeup as ways to improve myself, I didn’t let go of the belief that I need to somehow be better. Letting go of the constant striving is actually a little terrifying, but in some ways I feel like that’s what I need right now. Hmm. This post reminds me of why we became friends.

    1. “I didn’t let go of the belief that I need to somehow be better”

      I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Particularly what “better” actually means, along with the concept of “enough”. I haven’t reached many conclusions yet, but there’s a thread in there that seems to keep leading me back to the misplaced art of contentment. There’s a lot of stock put in being busy, achievement, and impressing others, and it’s easy to buy into. Not that it’s all bad, but, you know – balance, brah.

      Also: I miss you. *snuggles your face*

  3. Everything about this makes me question my life—in a good way. When did we begin to equate “busy” with “virtuous?” When did the idea of doing nothing start to make us feel so uncomfortable? I’m so glad you’ve found peace and contentedness—isn’t that the reason we claim we’re all working so hard all the time anyway? So we can relax “later.” Your solution sounds very right for right now.

    1. It’s a weird thing that we do, busting our ass for approval and money so we can have a good life later and feel quasi-good about ourselves now. It’s worthiness we measure by someone else’s definition. There’s certainly value to work; the question is how it functions in our life. Which sounds very hippie-dippy and whatnot, but it’s giving me something to think about.

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