We gotta get outta this place



I’m stuck in a hole. I’ve been here since the beginning of summer. It’s a comfortable hole, a scenic hole, but a hole is a hole is hole is a place you need to climb out of.  A place to bury things. A place where the sun don’t shine.

I landed here gradually, busy as I was with other people’s concerns, busy with attending, cleaning, reacting, watching, consuming, travelling, packing, unpacking. But for a small nagging voice that told me I was wasting time, that worst of American sins, I hardly even noticed. To call it The Mean Reds* or a crisis of confidence would be overly dramatic. It’s been more like low-level unease and a waning of confidence.

Isn’t that where so many people are, post-pandemic? Slightly anxious and apathetic, drifting away from obligations and activities once so important? I could take comfort in that except I can’t blame the pandemic. The pandemic didn’t cut my job, dating, health or interpersonal prospects—life carried on pretty much as before.

The list of what I didn’t do makes me wish I had excuses. I wasn’t writing. I was hardly reading. Not cooking as much as I used to. Not keeping up with old friends, not volunteering. Each week I’d plan to get back to my old ways. As soon as I’m finished with this thing. Or that thing. Other people’s things. Things that were not that important. But if you don’t have your own thing, there’s always another thing. Daily life abhors a vacuum, to paraphrase. And if I were restless, vacuum I did. Vacuuming keeps you from feeling completely useless.

The further I got from writing the closer I got to a soul-killing question:  What’s the point?  What’s the point? is a bottom-line question. It’s a question for linear-thinkers. Effort plus time should lead to something, not just a circling back to more effort and more time. If there is no point, why put in effort? What’s the point of writing this blog when so few read it? What’s the point of writing another novel that’ll never get published? What’s the point of finishing an essay I’ll never send out?

In a linear mindset, What’s the point is just a few points away from despair. So you see where this is heading.

Thank goodness creativity guru Julia Cameron is here to stop the train. “No matter what your age or your life path,” she writes in The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, “whether making art is your career or your hobby or your dream, it is not too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity.”

 I read that and remind myself that I’m a better person when I’m writing. I’m happier, more cheerful, less apt to get out of my own lane and into my adult children’s.

It’s not that there’s no point. It’s that there’s no simple answer to what the point is. And I’m not going to find the answer sitting in a hole doing nothing.

So maybe you’re in a hole too. Maybe you’ve been stuck as I’ve been stuck, maybe you’ve wondered what’s the point of climbing out, it’s comfortable, you’re not bothering anybody and it wasn’t so great above ground anyway. Okay. But you weren’t meant for this. Let’s get out together. I can’t tell you how. I can’t tell you what you’re headed towards or how many tries it will take. But when you’re ready—I’m with you, sister, brother. Let’s go.



*Mean Reds: “Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of” —Holly Golightly



      1. Elizabeth

        I didn’t know what was wrong, been wrong for awhile, a long while. Now…
        Because I’m going to bed I decided to check my emails. I saw poemelf and was excited since I’ve missed reading those very meaningful writings.
        What I think happened is that the universe decided it’s my turn to climb out of this hole!
        Thank you poemelf! Thank you for filling in those blanks, you gave me direction.

  1. elsink359535

    Love your honesty. I don’t know why Stephen Mitchell’s hilarious poem below feels like an antidote to our current angst, but it does for me.
    Thank you for what you do.

    Stephen Mitchell

    Born in third-century Illyria, he soon established a reputation for spilling his food, bruising himself, and tripping over non-existent objects in the street. His parents wanted him to become a doctor, in the hope that the rigorous training would make him more attentive. But he refused. Instead, he spent his time looking for angels in the dark alleyways of his native town, and feeding the stray cats. Even his martyrdom was botched. He felt so terrified, as the wild beasts approached him in the amphitheater, that he forgot the words of the Lord’s Prayer.
    He has become the patron saint of the clumsy, the tactless, and the unqualified. They are instructed to leave a candle burning for him once a month (making sure that there is nothing flammable in the vicinity). His intercession is said to do more good than harm.

  2. Chris

    You have been greatly missed.
    Any new adventure begins with a first step on a path…..however small that first step might seem and whatever the path might be, take it!

    “Reading dreams. That’s what started her walking down the road. Every day she’d walk a little further: a mile, and come home. Two miles, and come home. One day she just kept on.”

    – Truman Capote, ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’.

  3. Chris

    Dear Poem Elf

    This is actually more of a PM and personal encouragement to you, rather than a blog page comment.

    In life it can take a very special form of courage to ask certain questions of ourselves, but so gratifying when the right questions bring to us the right answers.

    You asked – “…… why put in effort? What’s the point of writing this blog when so few read it? What’s the point of writing another novel that’ll never get published? What’s the point of finishing an essay I’ll never send out?”
    These questions are not dissimilar to ones that most Creatives ask themselves at times, usually from the “holes” that they suddenly find themselves residing in!

    Those words of Julia Cameron bring to you a transformative change for your good I hope, in the currency and the medium that means so much to you and to those who receive joy and delight in reading your blog…that currency and medium being “words”.

    My initial response to you yesterday in quoting those lines from Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was quite correctly noted by you as being a speedy response by me, with words that personally mean a lot to me. Upon reflection, I also recall the words of Pascal Mercier in his novel “Night Train to Lisbon”:
    “That words could cause something in the world, make someone move or stop, laugh or cry: even as a child he had found it extraordinary and it never stopped impressing him. How did words do that? Wasn’t it like magic?”
    “Isn’t it true that it’s not always people who meet, but rather the shadows cast by their imaginations?”

    You boldly asked yourself “right questions” and I hope that the answers that you’ve gleaned are the right ones….the ones that move you forward in the things in life that you love and mean so very much to you. I rejoiced at the discovery of your blog – and I don’t subscribe to much out there, two or three in total of different kinds. Of late I have missed yours, greatly.
    Please keep being Poem Elf in all that you do!!
    With my thanks and appreciation to you,

    1. poemelf

      Chris, Somehow I missed your reply to my reply. Wow, this is such a thoughtful and beautiful meditation. I can’t tell you how it resonates with me and how it gives wind to my sails. Thank you, thank you very much.

  4. Patricia Rawlings

    Poemelf, you hit the nail on the head. I’ve been feeling the same way lately. Had Covid and got over that and now face the blahs…. But I can’t NOT have my hands doing something–either writing or painting or crafting. So I got some 23.75k gold leaf to coat little papier-mache bowls I’ve made; watching papier-mache dry is actually fun and takes so little effort–lol. Creativity gets the blood moving and the heart racing and the mind stimulated. I used to take big hair curlers and throw them under the bed and get down and collect them one by one as a way to wake myself up. But gold is a better way–as is COLOR! Thanks for sharing your latest reflections and making me feel not so alone……

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