The good that I should do, yadda, yadda, yadda

There is a dance step that I love. It’s part of a dance we did for the entire season of Lent at a church I used to go to. We faced forward in a line, linked to each other, one hand on the shoulder of the person in front of you, the other hand on the hand that’s on your shoulder. And we walked together: three steps forward and one step back. It’s a simple yet effective mirror of the Christian life, which is never just unrelenting improvement.

Except that sometimes it feels like three steps back and one step forward is more accurate.

I’m having a three steps back moment, and I’m hoping that writing about it will give me the push I need to actually do the good I know I should do. 


I am not what one would call “a good sleeper.” According to my mother, I didn’t sleep through the night until I was at least two and have many middle-of-the-night memories during my childhood and adolescence. I still wake in the middle of the night more nights than I don’t. On a good night, I fall back asleep right away, but if I hear a noise, or have something to worry about, or (apologies if this is TMI) it’s the few days before my period, or a dream left me unsettled, or I start thinking, or I’m on vacation and not in my own bed — any of these will mean at least an hour of wakefulness, if not the loss of sleep for the rest of the night.

Incidentally, this is how I survived my own daughter not sleeping through the night consistently until she was six — we had similar nighttime schedules.

It’s also how I avoided recognizing how much my depression was messing with my sleep: my wakefulness was worse than usual, but not terribly unusual.

All that is to say that the whole topic of sleep can make me anxious enough that it interrupts my ability to fall asleep, so I usually nod off by distracting myself. For years, it was late-night TV. Then we took the TV out of our bedroom, and it became youtube videos on my laptop or on the iPad. And then I went on my beautiful antidepressant, and staying asleep became more common, as did falling back asleep after I awoke in the middle of the night.

But still I kept with the laptop, even though I’d grown to kind of hate it. It doesn’t help me fall back asleep when I wake up in the middle of the night, because by then my husband is next to me, and I don’t want to wake him up with the light or the noise. And I began to wonder whether it was, in fact, a bad sleep habit that made it more likely that I’d wake in the night. So I fired up the Kindle and tried reading (I used the Kindle so I didn’t have to have the light on).

It was an immediate improvement. Immediate.

I fell asleep easily and stayed asleep. My sleep was more restful. I got more reading done. It was glorious. I raved about it, swearing that I’d never go back.

And then, one night, I didn’t have a new book lined up. So I went back to the laptop. I’ve flirted with the Kindle since then, but haven’t continued it as a habit. Even though I know it’s better for me. Even though I actually like it better than the laptop. The lazy laptop monkey on my back is hard to shake.

Paul got it so right:

 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate (Romans 7:15, NLT).

I’ve got no nifty solution, and there has been, as of yet, no overcoming. I’m in the midst of this fight. But I vow that, tonight, I’m going to keep the laptop downstairs, and I’m going to read the book on legal issues for self-publishers. Maybe this time I’ll be able to keep the better habit going.

Do you have any good habits you’re avoiding?
Feel free to confess them here so we can do the self-recriminating together.


Sometimes Fields Need To Be Fallow

image courtesy of Darryl Smith via


I messed up.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been “writing” (in my head) a post on being fallow. Because that’s how I’ve been feeling: like a field with tapped-out soil that’s being rested in order to be more productive later.

You see, I did what I said I’d do a few months ago and sought help for my depression. It has been a beautiful, beautiful thing. I’m sleeping (mostly). I’m not having random anxiety attacks. I’m present for my family. I haven’t visited even once. I have enough energy to make my kids do their chores.

But no writing. My drive and discipline seemed to vanish with my desperation.

I wasn’t stuck, just … still. Which made sense. I’d twisted myself into such a tight, unyielding corkscrew of disappointment and frustration over my writing that there wasn’t going to be a SHAZZAM when all was made okay in an instant. It would take time. And I’d have to decide — over and over — not to follow the comfy brain paths I’d worn in during my depressed period. I’d have to choose to put good nutrients back in my tired soil.

So I started reading again: romance, history, mystery, speculative fiction, science, memoir. While I painted and redid my kids’ rooms, I listened to audiobooks of two Harry Potter and three Rick Riordan novels.

I let myself be fallow, and didn’t pressure myself to write much more than Facebook posts and Goodreads reviews (including for The Good News of Revelation, a longer and more reflective review of which will be forthcoming in this space).

And I took some risks. The Japanese student who lived with us for 9 days was a good risk. Joining the adult “beginner” soccer league (that was not so beginner) was less so. Then there was signing up for the Festival of Faith and Writing.

Which was where I messed up.

Does anyone out there remember phones with cords? Do you remember winding the cord around itself until the only remedy was to unplug the knotted cord from the body of the phone and hold it so the receiver dangled? And when you did that, it’d slowly untwist at first, but then it’d get faster and faster? (If this is not in your memory banks, visualize a figure skater doing a tight spin that speeds up until he or she is just a blur.) Well, if all my earlier soil restoration strategies were the slow untangling of the cord of my frustration (how’s that for a mixed metaphor?), then the Festival was a giant pile of soil conditioner followed by a glorious rain that spun my phone receiver around like crazy. So that I no longer feel fallow.

I’d been so wanting to write a non-triumphalist narrative, to write about being fallow while in the midst of it. But, being fallow, I waited too long. And seeds were sown and fertilized this past weekend. Good seeds. Good fertilizer.

Because it’s how God rolls, this even fits with my theme for the year — softheartedness. The phrase that the New Living Translation renders as “Plow up the hard ground of your hearts,” appears as “Break up your fallow ground” in the New Revised Standard Version (Jeremiah 4:3).

That isn’t to say that I’ve already got a healthy crop growing. It’s not like I’ve forsaken online Boggle, or severely limited my time on Facebook, or even reduced the number of blogs I read (if anything, after the Festival, I have more). But I’ve written this, and actually have ideas and plans for more. I’m moving forward with submitting It Is You and revising its sequel again.

Resistance is already dialing up to meet my challenge. After months of waking up at 5:30 a.m., last night I decided to take inspiration from Anne Lamott and do some writing before the craziness of the day started. Resistance got me up at least 8 times over the course of the night so I’d be too tired and already too harried to write. Did it work? No. But I’ve got to give props to a good attempt. Now I have to keep at it until I wear new habit grooves in my brain.

Although I’m sorry I didn’t get you my in-the-midst post, I’m grateful for my four fallow months and for the Festival of Faith and Writing. I needed them both.

How is your field? Fallow? Fertilized? Highly productive?