Today, a close member of our family had major surgery, and another had a minor procedure that concerned me a bit. It’s hard to focus on work when you’re worried. You tell yourself that everything will be fine and you must assume the best. You tell yourself you are “professional” enough to not let fear affect your work. After all, everything will likely be fine. 

You try to push all your concerns to the back of your mind and do your job, but you jump every time you get a text, and you think you hear the phone ring when it didn’t. You wonder if there’s something more you should be doing or saying. You wonder if you should prepare for the worst or if that’s jumping the gun. You remind yourself this is life. There are always going to be worries and distractions, and if you let them all get to you, you’ll never get anything done. You tell yourself not to be such a worry wart. 

And you go back to your desk and try, but your mind is foggy and your brain is tired and the focus just isn’t there. So, you give up and accept that it’s okay to fall behind sometimes. Some things are more important. And you sit with the worry and the fear and the emotions, because you know that this, too, is part of working and creating. 

I was listening to an interview with someone the other day (I think it was John A. Powell) and he said, “You can have suffering without love. But you can’t have love without suffering.” And that struck me in so many ways. Sure, we’d have more time for our work and better focus if we weren’t distracted by the people and things we care about. But would we have the heart to do the work we do? Would we have the empathy and compassion to make the connections we need to make? 

This past week I also had a major disappointment with my own writing. I sent a poem to a contest with the highest of hopes and tremendous confidence. This piece of writing had seemed divinely inspired, like it flowed through me. And it was something I’d longed to write about for decades. In the end, I not only didn’t place in the contest, I didn’t even make it onto the long list. And after twenty-six years of writing and submitting, all the old worries and insecurities came flooding back. “Maybe you’re just not good enough. Maybe you should give up writing and do something else. Great job, you once again misjudged what was ‘meant to be.’” It was discouraging to think after all these years, I have not grown beyond doubt and insecurity and the hurt of being rejected. 

And then I remembered, with love comes suffering. And I love what I do. I love writing. I dearly love that poem that didn’t make it. I love the fact that I wrote a poem at all. I love that I got to feel high on hope and creation for the time it was under consideration. 

Some weeks, everything goes our way. The good news comes in threes. The future looks bright. Other weeks, everything falls apart. Bad news comes in threes. The future looks dim. But through it all, our art is there. Love is there.

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