‘Acedia & Me’

Day 7 #iWriteDaily

In her book, Acedia & Me: Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life, Kathleen Norris explores a concept that dates back to the 4th century.

The word “acedia” was used by monks to describe a sense of listlessness and boredom that can lead to feeling discouraged, a lack of interest and wanting to give up. The routine of their quiet monastic life was predictable if not downright tedious sometimes, Norris says. The reason they came to the monastery in the first place, the life they wanted to pursue there, became why they left — or at least wanted to.

Acedia is sometimes used interchangeably with “sloth” or “depression,” but the meanings are not the same. Norris says the root of the word in Greek means “the absence of care,” as in being in psychic discomfort or even pain, but unable to drum up the energy to do something about it.

What a great word.

This week I wrote about being stuck in sadness because of all the hurt in the world. I feel myself numbing, pulling away, even from the thing that always given me the most joy … writing.

In an interview with Spirituality and Practice magazine, Norris talks about how acedia impacts her writing.

At times I’m tempted to think of acedia as a fancy word for procrastination, but I know from experience that it is more than that. It deadens the creative instinct. The problem with acedia is not that I grow slothful, and fritter time away, but that I am tempted to give up on the vocation of writing itself, losing faith in the whole enterprise, and in my abilities as a writer.

Today I remembered: It’s compassion fatigue. I’ve been here before.

I am slipping into shutdown mode, into acedia. Caring too much leads me from time to time to not caring at all, and fearing I never will again.

But past experience says acedia is not forever. My heart just needs a break. I can pull the metaphorical covers over my head and rest.

I give myself permission.

5 Replies to “‘Acedia & Me’”

  1. Spring relentlessly pushes us into rebirth after the slumber and rest of winter. Our lifestyles, professions and responsibilities rarely allow for the deep sleep that recharges and renews. Thank heaven for seasons turning yearly, spinning us along with them! When do we allow ourselves the space to rest without recrimination? When do we allow ourselves to rotate in our own seasons, resting and renewing ourselves each in their own turn, each equally valid and acceptable?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, self-care and stepping away a little and then starting again slowly, incrementally. Thank you for reminding me of Kathleen Norris and this book. I have it somewhere, and I think I’m due for a re-read, as I’m feeling a little done in myself. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I remind myself every day not to ‘should’ on myself, meaning, “I should feel…I should do…I should be…” One of my most important lessons. Whatever we need to do to get ‘better/safer/happier” is what we need to do. Love your writing and how you are bringing in these other writers!

    Liked by 1 person

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