Monday, November 19, 2012

On Being Off (or The Just Showing Up Blues)

by Ben Howard

It’s Monday morning and I don’t have anything to say. Well, that’s not exactly the case. I have a lot of things to say, but none of them feel that exciting. None of them are lighting that spark of inspiration that makes me think, “Yeah, I need to write about that.” So instead I find myself writing about not writing.

I could write up one of the premises I have in my head and I could push through it and there would be about 600-900 words of something vaguely theological on the other side. I mean, I’ve done that before. I have this idea about dancing or something about our limited perspectives, maybe one of those will click in the next few days. It’ll be an okay piece I hope. Nothing special, but it’ll be serviceable.

I know, as the author/self-promoter, I’m not supposed to tell  you, the reader, that anything I write is less than a tour de force, but that’s just not honest. Some of the pieces I’ve written I’m really proud of, some of them I think are terrible and some are perfectly average. That’s how life works; you aren’t always on your A-game.

Anne Lamott always tells writers to just write. It doesn’t matter if it’s a terrible first draft, you can always go back and fix it. It’s just important to put words on the page. It’s important to go through the process.

Today is not a day for my A-game. I’m not feeling terribly thoughtful and I don’t have anything profound to say. Today is a normal, average to possibly below average Monday and I am going through the motions. I’m going through the process because I know that learning to write and communicate clearly means sometimes you slog through the mess when you just don’t have it.

This is also the untold story of Christianity. We focus so much attention on the beauty and the majesty and the awe and the profundity that I think we miss sometimes that there will be plenty of days that just…are mediocre, that we have to force ourselves through.

Don’t get me wrong, the beauty and the majesty and all that good stuff exists. It definitely exists. There are flashes and glimpses of brilliance and divinity all the time, but sometimes you reach out for those things and they just aren’t there. That’s not a bad thing. It’s not a bad thing to feel normal. It’s not a bad thing to have a bad day or feel a little off.
Sometimes all we can do is the religious equivalent of putting a bad first draft on the page. We go to church, we listen to the sermon, we say the prayers, we take the Eucharist, we sing the songs and it just doesn’t click; at least not today. Sometimes that happens. You’re still learning, still growing just by going through the process, by learning the rhythms.

I’m sure your pastor or priest feels the same thing. Sometimes they probably go to preach that sermon thinking, “I’ve got nothing,” and that’s okay.

I’m trying to say that it’s okay to not experience the profoundness of every moment in life. It’s okay to just…not feel it sometimes. Woody Allen once said that 90% of life is just showing up. I think there’s some truth to that. A good chunk of life is dedicated to learning how to show up so you can be ready to participate in the truly transcendent moments.

This Monday morning I just wanted to tell you that I showed up.


You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenHoward87 or email him at benjamin.howard87 [at]

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