Slow Journey

I’ve spent the last three weeks in one place doing one thing. And, although I will leave my mother’s house two days from now with a stack of manuscript pages, I will also leave with a great deal more knowledge about how I get in my own way.

There are people, many of them dear friends of mine, who can’t wait to sit down alone and shape their thoughts and feelings into sentences and paragraphs. I so wish I were one of them. There are some who have learned to trust their creative process, others who entertain a muse, some who simply feel most alive when they are creating. I am not any of these people, either.

For me, writing is a slow, halting journey from experience to thought to written word. It is a wonder I do it at all, given how inefficiently I travel, and how adept I am at coming up with countless more “productive” ways to spend my time. Show me a sink full of dirty dishes to address, or a few emails to answer, or an 8 a.m. yoga class, and all my mental synapses go into flight and alight mode. My house is never cleaner than when I have a deadline, my yoga practice never stronger than when I’m in the middle of a writing project. Here in Florida, in my mom’s back bedroom, flight is not an option. I came all the way down here to sit in a chair and fight my own little battle with myself.

Last week my friend, the extraordinary (and extraordinarily prolific) author Beth Kephart wrote this about the craft of memoir: “We are speaking about how we shape what we have lived, what we have seen. About how we honor what we love and defend what we believe in. Makers of memoir dwell with ideas and language, with themselves. They counter complexity with clarity. They locate a story inside the contradictions of their lives—the false starts and the presumed victories, the epiphanies that rub themselves raw nearly as soon as they are stated.”

Dwelling with myself. That really is my challenge. It is so much easier, so much more tempting, to turn away, to get busy doing something else, to skim along on the surface of my life instead of stopping, sitting still, going inside, and going deep. To write, or to read, about the inner life is to believe that what we think and how we feel matters. To be a friend of memoir is to stake a claim for the significance of the examined life. It is to say that our inner narratives are as important as the activities and achievements, the successes and failures, that fill our days. It is to say that locating the story within the contradictions of our lives is a worthy pursuit.

“We read,” wrote C. S. Lewis. “to remember that we are not alone.” It is also why we write. To remember that we have much to learn from our most difficult conversations with ourselves and with each other. And that in sharing the truth of who we are and how we struggle, we remind another struggling someone that they do not journey alone.

Thanks to all of you who contributed suggestions to the “Wholeheartedness” playlist. Next week my in-house tech support son, Henry, will be home. Together, we’ll compile the list and post it here. Till then, feel free to add your favorite songs. (I’ve been listening to the ones I didn’t know and I have to say, I think we’re on to something: it’s a great list of heart-opening, uplifting music!)

for my reflections & inspiration

your comments

  1. I’m proud of you for weathering through and doing what you needed (seclusion) to get those thoughts finalized on paper. Look forward to the results!

  2. Check out Joy by George Winston. Beautiful!

  3. Judy Berna says:

    Sorry I distracted you last week! Hope you were productive anyway. So happy you got to spend time with your mama, which counts for as much as your manuscript.
    And I admit, I’m like you. Even in college, I couldn’t study until my dorm room was clean…not because I’m tidy, but because it was a nice distraction from deadlines!
    Happy New Book!

  4. Shannon Whiteside says:

    It’s hard for me to believe that you have trouble writing when you write so beautifully! You are my inspiration, and I always look forward to reading what you have written.

  5. “What better time than right now, the dawn of this new year, to give up my own unnecessary suffering, suffering that is all about believing I need to be someone other than who I am?”

    Sound familiar? It screamed out to me January 2 from your writing on Wholeheartedness. I wrote in down in my gratitude journal and decided that this is my theme for 2012, one minute at a time.

    I look forward to each and every post of yours. Thank you for continuing to listen to the call of your soul. I receive more than I can ever even try to express. <3

  6. Katrina, I am so honored to be here among your beautiful words. There are many, many, many days when writing feels tremendously hard, almost impossible for me. I’ve hit a skid like that right now. When that happens I turn off all distractions> Walk away from the computer and the phone and go to the couch and the sun and close my eyes. I dream. When I wake, there is a sentence waiting for me.

    The discipline of silence.

    Sending love,

  7. Lovely post. Thank you.

  8. To be a friend of memoir is to stake a claim for the significance of the examined life.

    This is the most daunting task in the world. Thank you for taking it on!!

    Like everyone else, I selfishly await for your book. Thank you for writing it.

    My new favorite wholehearted song is Chant by Peter Bradley Adams. xoxo

    Safe travels home!

  9. “writing is a slow, halting journey from experience to thought to written word.”—but that is EXACTLY why I love your writing. It isn’t a bunch of pretty words strung together, or what we’ve been told we should feel about mothering, or growing older, or friendships-it’s true, and real and so relate-able. When I read what you write I say, “That’s it! How did she get that into words-that’s exactly it!”

  10. Peggy Dlugos says:

    As always, another good read.

  11. Joni Bouchard says:

    Katrina, your last paragraph plays over and over in my mind. To know that I am not alone in my life journey is worth everything. Even though you write that you struggle with your story, it is that that makes you human and so relate-ABLE. “Slow Journey” means a lot of things. Slow, to me, means that maybe I need to savour life along the way. You’ll get there when you need to get there. So, along the way, drink tea, practice yogo, walk your dog, fall in love again with your husband, clean your house, wash the dishes (oh, how I love a sink full of warm bubbles), nap, and bake cookies (ha!)… life is about the journey, not the destination… and slow can be a good thing! Can’t it?

  12. So important to know we’re not alone—and yet this underscores how we can all relate to that feeling. I remember wishing more than anything I could just stay home and write, be paid to stay home and write… and then it happened, and I’d never been so miserable. So began my journey into therapy, and eventually becoming a psychologist… lately I think that I write indeed to be less alone, the writing might be like something one brings to the potluck (and even if our own dish sucks, we always, or almost always, find someone else’s brownies or cookies to enjoy)… Here’s to feeling the way we imagine we would feel if our dreams came true—or better yet, realizing that when we love and our honest, they sort of do come true in their own odd way. Namaste

  13. Great stuff, I am so glad that you do get to writing, as your words are so inspiring…
    Also, a song for you Wholeheartedness CD:
    Snatum Kaur’s By Thy Grace.


  14. Wow, can’t believe it’s been three weeks already (although I bet YOU sure can!). I really admire your fortitude. I imagine that writing a book is like running a marathon; by nature, I tend to be a “sprinter.” What an accomplishment — and I can’t WAIT to read it!

  15. I tend to read with a pen in hand and a notebook open next to me. As I read this post, I started writing down the phrases that leapt off the screen into my heart and now I have filled two pages. Maybe I should just copy down your whole blog, for what you say about mothering and, today, about writing, sings to me.

    Thank you and safe travels. xo

  16. Katrina, when I read your work I can feel the “digging” you have had to do and am even occasionally daunted by the self examination required! You motivate me to dig a little deeper to find the meaning, the joy, the strength ,etc., and live that wholehearted life you clarify so well through your writing. I am reading Brene’ Brown’s book, “The Gifts of Imperfection” (you recommended it in ” …an Ordinary Day”.) Between God, you and Brene’, I am being transformed into a happier, more relaxed mom. THANK YOU for your vulnerability and dedicated work! I’m really looking forward to your next book! XOXO

  17. PS: Did you read this? Talk about synchronicity!

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      I JUST read it; you’re the second person today who thought we must have inspired each other this week. It really is a comfort to know that we aren’t alone! We’re all experts in getting in our own way. I love Dani’s challenge to create new habits. And I think I need Freedom, too. . .

      • Katrina! I just read this. As usual, we are on the same page, my friend, but this time even using some of the same language! It is a comfort to know that being alone with oneself is difficult for all of us. Beth’s words are beautiful as well. Thanks for sharing them.

      • I use Freedom when I really need some distraction-free time: highly recommended!

  18. Hi Katrina,

    This was a wonderful and beautiful post…I appreciate your transparency and honesty…if you read my blog post today you will see that I am swimming in the details of the day to day with my little ones and discouraged that I am not writing in a more formal way…that said…Oi! To live with myself…I know that when I have the time I will be struggling through the writing! Even when i have the time now I struggle…it is encouraging to know that I am not alone…

    For what it is worth, your book Mitten Strings for God has been a LIFELINE in my parenting…read it last year and am going to pull it back out today. I KNOW that I take these days for granted and I won’t get them back…

    I look forward to your next book!


  19. I am just picking up the metaphorical memoir I began last summer in Taos, with Jen Louden – who would agree with every word on this page, too.

    This feels so true, so comical and so close to my heart.

    From Mitten Strings forward, you have been a wonderful guide and companion on my path and I am so grateful, especially as we come up to the off to college phase in the fall.

    Thank you. I am so looking forward to this playlist – something I hope will spur me on…

  20. Thank you so much for this. I am very much the same way. I will write in my head, but show me a basket of laundry and there I am. And yet, look how much you’ve done. There is hope for me yet!

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