I have not written on my blog since June. I have a list of six blog posts in note form that haven’t been fleshed out yet. Sometimes that is what summer needs to be–not the continual post its of to-do lists. And now that I am looking at the tail end of August I find myself wanting to process through what this summer was and I’m starting to crave the structure of fall and the mental comfort of post its. I thought it would be low key and in many respects it has been. But then I reread A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller and realized that my summer has been filled with challenge–in a good kind of way. It kind of snuck up on me, though.
Miller’s book came out of what he learned in the process when two guys wanted to turn his book Blue Like Jazz into a movie. He studied what I call in my classroom the “mountain of action” of a story–exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution and came to the conclusion that people can write better stories for themselves–and the book chronicles his attempt at writing a better one for himself.
One of his insights that stuck out to me the most was when he said: “Part of me wonders if our stories aren’t being stolen by the easy life,” (186). If the end goal of existence is comfort, then there hasn’t been the tension and the challenge and the pain that make a good story worth reading. I realized as I was reading that this was a lot of my thinking behind a lot of my pursuits this summer–I got scared that I was getting into patterns in my life that were too easy.
Mentally, I’m trying to be committed to a larger writing project that I have been dreaming about for over a year. I started it last summer and then put it away for the year. Apparently, it’s much easier to watch Netflix Instant for a few hours than it is to sit down, think and write. I’ve had my fair share of days where my ideas seem too jumbled and I feel stuck. In fact, that’s where I am now. But. I’m hoping that I won’t give it up just because it is easier to sit on the couch with a book or my laptop or because it is more fun to make plans with friends every night.
All that to say, I don’t want to settle for an easier story. Miller also wrote: “Pain then, if one could have faith in something greater than himself, might be a path to experiencing a meaning beyond the false gratification of personal comfort,” (196).
The only addendum or way to close this conversation about the notion of challenge is that it is so much more bearable when walked with friends and family. I have an ongoing conversation with two of my best friends about what the perfect place to live is. The only place we keep coming back to is anywhere, as long as we’re neighbors with good people. The reading challenges get finished because I read them with a friend. Running becomes bearable because I have friends reminding me I can do it. Loss becomes lighter because there is a room full of people who loved the way you did.