I am months behind in my blogging. We are somehow now less than two weeks from the end of 2022 and yet – writing life-posts chronologically as I prefer to do – I’ve most recently only written about my May/June road trip to the west coast.
As I have dealt with personal and family illness, workplace disappointments from Juárez, the January curtailment halfway through my Mexico tour, and confusion from the suicide of an old friend for most of this year, this blog has not been the platform to write about some of the darker grief on my mind. I’ve had good blog posts in draft for months, on topics from our late summer trip to the Balkans, to getting promoted in the Foreign Service, to a follow-up to my wildly popular post about Foreign Service housing, all in various stages from partly-done to mere sketchy outlines.
But perhaps it isn’t surprising given the level of turmoil and sadness I experienced in 2022 that I’ve lacked the concentration to finish writing, editing, and hit ‘publish’ on any of these pieces. I haven’t been completely myself for the past several months, or maybe even for the past year and a half.
From day to day, I feel happy. I get my work done. I see people. I make an effort.
But on a certain level, after nearly three years of pandemic and the accumulation of other issues I have written about (and some I have not), I sometimes am unrecognizable to myself. I forget I have a bill due. I walk away from the house leaving my keys hanging out of the door. A forgotten memory from decades ago can send me into a prolonged reverie and floods of tears, while I can’t recall details of what someone said to me seconds ago. And I realized, all of this is life, and it is wonderful to be in the United States on a domestic tour closer to friends and family vs. overseas while I have so much to work through. And after seven years of being mostly overseas, we are grateful to be home in Virginia. Everything this summer seemed close by, even if it was across the continent.
I actually wrote a lot this summer, but most of it was private or for small groups rather than for the blog. I spent several weeks writing for a grief course that allowed me to explore subject matter that either wasn’t relevant to the blog or wasn’t something I was comfortable with sharing in such a public-facing way.
I have struggled with my own form of writer’s block and at times, a lack of energy to take all the wonderful things around me and shape them into Foreign Service-related content – an unusual problem I’ve never had before. It’s less a lack of ideas, and more a lack of ability to execute. I overwrite, can’t organize, and get mentally tired. Attempting to edit just makes the writing longer and more convoluted until I give up.
My response to this annoying phenomenon has been to let my brain rest, and the desired results have slowly begun to emerge. I never felt writing for the blog was a chore – and still don’t. I have just been dealing with my own limitations lately, which sometimes feel like a particular form of brain damage. The answer must be brevity, and simplicity, for the time being, although even that can also be deceptively challenging. “I would have been more brief, but I didn’t have time!” a colleague will apologize in an email. And I get it.
This past summer seems blurry, not only because it happened six months ago, but also because I muddled my way through it in an altered state of consciousness. I formed so few memories and retained so little information about anything I had to scroll back through photos on Facebook and in my phone to remind myself how we spent our time. Grief brain is real. I was pleasantly surprised to note from the outside, it looked more in-focus than I could have anticipated.
A couple of weeks ago, I received an appreciative email from another blogger who recently joined the Foreign Service himself and shared he’d read all my posts over the last two years. He used such words to describe my blog as “influential,” “inspiring,” and a “lifeline” to others considering this career.
I was truly touched by this message, to which I have not yet responded, and it served as a powerful reminder and motivator for why I do what I do. Yes, I write the blog for myself in many regards, but there is an element of joy in knowing other people read it and find it informative or at least entertaining.
It gave me a boost towards doing what I already wanted to do – finish off 2022 with some posts I have been wanting to publish.