Finish Lines

It’s Wednesday evening, and I’m thinking about this year’s journey through March.  I hurt my foot the other day (I don’t know how), and I joked to the other slicers at my school that I was literally and figuratively limping to the finish line.  My foot feels better today, though.  

I started the month by writing about how the ticking of a clock could sometimes untether me from the present, sending me back into all sorts of memories.  This month I wrote car memories and called them auto-biographies.  I wrote writing memories stirred by old letters and postcards.  I wrote reading memories inspired by my favorite books.  All of these memories grew out of entries by other writers in the Slice of Life Challenge.  I also wrote pieces about the people (and the animal) I live with at home right now and the people I live with at school right now.  So, that’s the past and the present.  I didn’t write much about the future.

This morning I was talking with Jess, a fellow slicer I have the privilege of working with.  She spoke about her husband saying that her slices had made their family’s life “cute.”  That’s not the adjective I would have used, but even so, I don’t think that she does that in a bad way or a disingenuous way.  I think she chooses what she wants to capture, the nuggets that the sieve holds back while other moments slip through.  I told her that I’ve had a little tug of war going on in my head and heart this month.  I have wanted to write the truth, but I’ve also tried to focus mostly on positive memories and observations.  I’ve worried that in doing so I might seem glib, writing mostly about the good or silly moments, even as world news has felt so grim.  I may have curated these posts to the point that someone reading them in the future might think life was pretty great in 2022…or I was pretty shallow.  I think I wrote to cheer myself up or to remind myself that every day holds positive moments or to remember that positive memories have pulled me through other difficult times.  

Tonight, though, my ticking clock has me thinking about the future, and I admit that I have fears and concerns.  The leader in Russia makes me angry and sad and apprehensive.  The former leader of our country makes me disgusted and worried that he might rise again.  The divisions and the anger in our country give me pain.  And some of the behaviors I see in school make me fearful about the mental health of our kids.  We have scars from this pandemic and the years that preceded it, and it may take a long time for us to heal.  One person I read said we, as a country or world, are collectively grieving the things and people that we’ve lost over the past two years.  I think he’s right, though some may be in denial.

Those thoughts played on my mind throughout this month.  That I didn’t write about them much was partly a choice made out of self-defense…and perhaps out of mercy for the people reading my entries.  As Jess said this morning, “I’m thinking about the energy that I’m giving off.  We have more than enough of the negative kind.”  

As someone who is well-acquainted with grief, I think there are some lessons in this writing challenge that can help anyone who is grieving.  One is that writing and drawing and photographing can help us find and preserve the things that we love and value.  Another is that reading the words of other people, learning about their loves and their daily struggles, can make us more aware, more empathetic, and more human.  And finally, responding to those “others” by looking for the good in their words and finding the connections to our own experiences, makes them feel less like “others” and more like “us.”

I’m so grateful for the people at Two Writing Teachers who made this community possible, and so grateful to all the writers who shared both their stories and their feedback.  I don’t have the energy to continue this kind of writing every day of the year, but I know that when I pass the finish line and land on April first, I will really miss this community.

21 thoughts on “Finish Lines

  1. Your honest slice today names the struggle I also have. You did write some great, silly moments which I enjoyed. And you state it so wisely here: I think I wrote to cheer myself up or to remind myself that every day holds positive moments or to remember that positive memories have pulled me through other difficult times. Know that your stories did cheer me up and the positiviiy did keep me going. I am glad to add you to my list of slicers I enjoy reading. As we struggle into Spring and the end of this 3rd pandemic year, I hope you continue to write, even though it is hard to find the time. I’ll look for you on Tuesdays and in March, 2023. Congrats on a great March, 2022 writing month!

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    1. Thanks so much, Sally. I’ll be around on Tuesdays, though for some odd reason I find them harder. Maybe we’ll meet up some day in the DMV. My mom still lives in the area.

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  2. Great reflection. I’ve appreciated having you as a thought partner over the years and I’m especially grateful to have you as a writing partner. I really liked this bit: I think I wrote to cheer myself up or to remind myself that every day holds positive moments or to remember that positive memories have pulled me through other difficult times.

    I think that’s always my takeaway, that there is good.

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  3. There is great depth in your post today – the lines between realities and perceptions, truths and surface-level energies – – the things we choose to share and the things we choose not to reveal. I’m there a lot, too, trying to write to the bone. Your blog post yesterday was deeply moving to me, so much in fact that I took my laptop over to my husband and barged in on his reading. “Read this,” I told him. “So cleverly written and inspiring the way he touches past, present, and future and links them all together.” I saw your timelines and considered the way you tied generations together, responding from the present to the past when today was the future back then. I notice you mention clocks, and when I looked over and saw the backdrop of your blog with the cogs, it seemed to illustrate the ticking you were talking about. Congratulations on limping across the finish line. It matters not that we soar across, limp across, crawl across – just that we cross!

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  4. Yes, I worry that my slices may be more positive than I feel somedays, but I concur- sometimes I write to cheer myself up. I also write lots in my notebook that should never see the light of day (complaints that will not benefit anyone but make me feel better to “say”).

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  5. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your slices this month. Focusing on the positive memories that were inspired by fellow slicers is very responsive, somewhat spontaneous. The “big” event of our world, our country, are heavy. You can and do write about this. You have a way of capturing it that makes me stop and think. I admire these reflective words and appreciate your honesty. This line made me smile — I think it really captures one of the reasons I believe so whole heartedly in writing, in journals, in soft start. “One is that writing and drawing and photographing can help us find and preserve the things that we love and value. Another is that reading the words of other people, learning about their loves and their daily struggles, can make us more aware, more empathetic, and more human.” Thank you so much for showing up, sharing, and always making me think. Congratulations!!

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  6. Such a deeply thoughtful and insightful reflection to end this month of writing. I wrestled with some of the same questions and wonderings when it comes to writing about the things that are heavy on my mind. My blog isn’t an accurate portrait of the state of my mind (or the state of the world) AT ALL. But I’ve come to see slicing, for me, as a particular kind of discipline in finding the celebratory and the joyful, in almost forcing myself to find a little moment of presence that is hopeful and positive. It is not easy some days, and our blogs don’t always or even often reflect that struggle. I love what Jess says about energy. I like that my blog has a certain kind of energy that I can return to and reread and find restful.

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  7. Thanks for the reflection that wraps up the month and what it means to all of us who are part of this community. We are at a time when the immediate past we’ve all lived through has been difficult, causing many scars. In the present, we grieve and try to heal. Yes, there are still joys…and the writing helps us remember that. We are hesitant to say too much about the future. But our writing shows that we are moving forward…

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  8. This slice really pushed me to think about my own writing. I would like to explore some darker places with my writing, but I’m not sure this is the place for it. I agree that my posts are not a reflection of the world around me. I guess I am creating my own safe and happy place by writing about some of my happier memories and experiences. I’m so glad you wrote every day. I always look forward to your slices!

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  9. You tell many truths here – even if you don’t tell all. I often think about the energy I am putting out in the world and decided from the start that my blog needed to be uplifting (for myself first, then others). There IS already too much negativity dragging us down… I haven’t ever interpreted your words as glib. Your wit is real, honest, and needed. I don’t tell all, either – that’s the great advantage of authoring your own blog and telling your own stories – they are yours to be shared as you see fit. I have never come away without smiling and being glad I stopped by to be refreshed. For example, “auto-biographies” -that’s fantastic! My best to you and Farley and all; see you on Tuesdays!

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  10. I was just talking with another slicer today about the different choices we make for writing and although I think often about what’s happening in our world, I chose to pick positive topics. I have reasons for this for this challenge, but I might tackle other topics in another place. It was great reading your slices this month!

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  11. First of all, I loved and appreciated the wordplay of your title. That, and the honesty you’ve brought to today’s post. Looking back over my post, I think I’ve probably done something similar, in that I haven’t used my writing to explore the anxieties and frustrations that I’m feeling, both in my personal life and about the world around me. For me, I think a piece of it is that I’m not quite sure what will happen once I crack that open – perhaps it’s better to keep it off to the side until I find the way to pull them out.

    Thank you for this post, and for the chance to read and reflect.

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  12. Whelp… you did it again. You’ve named so much of what I’ve experienced this month – from trying to keep things light even when I didn’t feel light (though I tipped away from that several times) – to the extraordinary paragraph about grief and community and looking for the good. I’m really glad you’re here, Peter – and I’m glad your foot is feeling better, too.

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  13. This is such a powerful reflection and the string of comments shows why this community is so powerful, too. I think many of us have been grappling with some of the same questions. I could pick out dozens of lines and full paragraphs that really resonated with me. Your penultimate paragraph says it all. I don’t think it speaks only to those grieving, I think it has a message for those trying to live their lives well–notice and preserve the best, seek to connect and empathize, work to change from “others” to “us”. Your words have been so welcome this month, Peter. I’m so glad you participated and hope to see you on some upcoming Tuesdays.

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