TROUBLE CITY

The Labor of Grief

Articles, Real LifeTravis NewtonComment

I'm at a loss here. Nick asked me to get some content ready for the launch of Trouble City, and I've got no clue what to write. I haven't written a single thing other than notes since February when I decided to throw in the towel at my previous gig. Since then, my dad died. I'm guessing that has a lot to do with it.

The passion for this, whatever this is, comes and goes. It's always been a labor of love, a chore I'm usually glad to undertake because the satisfaction outweighed the labor. But earlier this year when the satisfaction waned and my father's health began to plummet, I had to re-prioritize. Now it's been almost three months since he died. In desperate need of distraction, I thought I'd get bit by the writing bug. I thought it might even be therapeutic. But it hasn't happened yet, and the words don't come easily. I'm not sure they ever have.

Grief, like writing, is laborious. Even when the wave is receding, when you're "taking it easy" or "giving yourself some time," it's emotional labor. It's genuine labor, too — my dad left a tangled web when he died. He was an engineer, a problem-solver. He liked things complicated. But given the circumstances of his illness, he explained very little about how to manage the complicated strands of his life: his routines, his business, his finances, his belongings. There was a lot to do, and a lot of sweat expended to tie these threads off as quickly as possible.

But today the threads still dangle, though there aren't as many. The labor goes on, albeit at a slower pace. The breakneck race of settling his affairs wasn't sustainable. Now I have to allow myself to be exhausted. And as someone who depends on staying busy to thrive, permitting that exhaustion may be one of the more difficult parts of this.

And I really, really wish I took more comfort in my writing. I wish it helped more. But grief makes it nigh impossible to feel passionate enough to undertake the labor of writing. Trying to write a take without passion or a paycheck is like pulling teeth. But what keeps me going, in writing and in grief, is that I'm willing to let them be difficult. I guess that's something.