>I used to think that addicts were drunken bums lying in the gutters of Skid Row. Now I realize that I am one.
There are at least two things I’m addicted to: email and spider solitaire. I’m not addicted to surfing the net or dialoguing in chat rooms, just to e-mail. And I’m not addicted to online games with a network of other gamers, just to spider solitaire.
Nevertheless, I’ve reached that point where I can stand up and say, “My name is Glenda and I am an addict.”
One of the worst things about my addictions is that they kill my creativity. When I meditate in the cozy cocoon of my pre-dawn bed, curled in my own warmth and communing with God, creative thoughts come to me. I can easily get up and go into my office, but if I check my email first thing, I am distracted by a host of other subjects and most creative thoughts disappear. And, while playing spider solitaire may produce the occasional brilliant bit of dialogue, it is not as productive as actually writing. Even mining stream of consciousness ramblings would unearth more gems.
Elizabeth Bishop wrote, in a 1953 letter to Kit and Ilse Barker, “I am sorry for people who can’t write letters. But I suspect also that you and I…love to write them because it’s kind of like working without really doing it.” I identify with that sentiment.
Since dealing with email is kind of like working without really doing it, that’s part of the reason I check my email first thing in the morning and frequently throughout the day. And it is part of the reason that I sometimes write lengthy replies in response to emails. I find myself spending a long time on a reply, trying to get the wording just right. And then I think, “Glenda, this is only an email!”
That also may be part of why I play spider solitaire. I have plenty of work that I should be doing, but I don’t always know how to tackle it. When I play spider solitaire, my mind placates myself with subconscious notions that at least I’m in the office at the computer and at least I’m relaxing and allowing my mind to think creatively.
But if I really assess my thought processes while I’m playing solitaire, I have to admit that it’s not all that relaxing because I am consumed by guilt. And it’s not all that creative because I primarily rewrite dialogue from recently viewed movies—a somewhat plagiaristic and definitely unproductive mental pursuit.
Worse than merely being an addict, however, I am slothful. I was recently convicted by a discussion on sloth in The Teaching Company’s excellent set of tapes on “Hell, Purgatory, Paradise: Dante’s Divine Comedy” (a course that is apparently no longer available, although Dante’s Divine Comedy is). When Cook or Herzman said, “Sloth is doing something other than what you should be doing,” I was stabbed in the heart.
Even before I heard that, I often felt overwhelmed by my extraordinary sloth. In a 1937 letter to her friend, Marianne Moore, Bishop wrote, “I am overcome by my own amazing sloth.” I strongly identify with that sentiment.
She went on to say, “Can you please forgive me and believe that it is really because I want to do something well that I don’t do it at all?”
Yet again I identify with what Bishop writes. My fear of failure is the foundation for my addictions and the primary reason why I procrastinate. My fear paralyzes me. I wrote about this in my poem “Invocation.”
O Lord, if only You might pour on me
Abundant grace of Milton’s heavenly muse!
That this gray mind would empty shadows flee
And into golden praise itself would lose.
But Lord, I’m paralyzed with Barak’s fear
and blinded by my Pharasaic sight.
My hearing’s grown as hard as Pharoah’s ear,
While empty echoes rise to Babel’s height.
You, Lord, gave Milton songs of worthy praise
And You alone can cause me to grow bold–
Explode in reminiscent rhythmic phrase–
That I, like him, might sing a song of gold,
No deathly talent hid or Lord denied,
But God in every line be glorified!
When I began freelance writing, I felt as if I had finally unearthed my one talent and put it to work for the Lord. Only He can help me overcome my addictions and their fearful foundation in order to use my meager talent for His glory.