note to self: it’s okay to be a writer

Your quiet is good.

Your reflective is necessary.

Your words encourage someone.

If you’re awake at 4 a.m., you might as well get up and write something.

Instead of peering over the edge of the bed, staring into the tiny screen of the smart phone perched on the side rail, trolling the internet, go ahead and roll out to the dining room table. It’s summer in the northwest. It’ll be light in about five minutes.

* * * * *

There’s always something. Some reason not to write . . .

You write for a living and sometimes have nothing leftover. You’ve spent your words at work.

You’re a perfectionist. You write and write and can’t seem to make it right. See that seventeen-inch high stack of papers that should be a book by now?

What if no one reads it? What if it angers people? What if I say something stupid?

Everybody writes. What could you possibly write about that hasn’t been written?

The bathtub and shower need to be scrubbed. Look at that grout! It’s a disgrace.

You let the slugs eat the lettuce you planted. All of it.

You have a hundred thousand pictures in boxes and on hard drives that should be organized into albums.

You have a stack of patterns and fabric in the loft, waiting, waiting, waiting.

You would so much rather look at houses, recipes, magazines . . . imagine renovations . . . Why weren’t you a Home Ec major again? (Oh yeah, maybe the neglected bathroom, lettuce, photos and fabric . . .)

You feel guilty.

That’s it, isn’t it?

You start to write and remember messages you haven’t answered. Phone calls to make. Thank you letters. Birthday cards. Friends you’ve neglected. People you keep saying you’re going to have over and never do. That prayer group you’ve been thinking about starting for seven years — wow, has it been that long?

You beat yourself up about failures. You know that, right? You let them get the best of you.

Yes, some of that guilt is good. It’s a reminder to pull your head out of those deep thoughts and see the people around you. We all lean toward our own interests and not the interests of others. You’re naturally self-centered — just like everyone is to one degree or another — and sometimes have to fight it off with a baseball bat. For you, a person energized by solitude, this is often a real struggle. But a worthwhile one. Make yourself act on the small voice whispering call, go, speak. Face your fears.

You have a tendency to fold inward, especially when you are feeling inadequate. Which, if you haven’t noticed, has been happening more and more. You are less confident than you have ever been. And for you, who once thought she knew it all, that’s actually a very good thing. But there is a time to unfold.

Sometimes, though, you need to understand . . . your failures aren’t really even failures. It’s just how you’re made.

You’ve always, always, always written your thoughts. (You’d be the most amazing pen pal if you weren’t so easily distracted.)

You’ve always been a dreamer. A strategist. You have thoughts about so very many things.

You are a ponderer and you are becoming more of one every day.

You see story everywhere. Even walls speak.

You see a connectedness in things. You stare at a clover and see the Trinity. 

You see possibilities. There is always a way.

Your quiet is good.

Your reflective is necessary.

Your words encourage someone.

You are a writer. The multi-cat, messy house, crazy hair, absent-minded sort of writer. In twenty years, you’re going to be just like every odd writer you’ve truly loved. Maybe by then you’ll even have finished a book.

Unfold the pages of your life and hit publish, dear writer.

Someone, somewhere has insomnia, too.

* * * * *

Photo credit: Esther Bubley, photographer, 1943
Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-fsa-8d27122

filters for our words, part two

This forum is so immediate. Not like the “old days” when reaching an audience of more than a couple of friends was a very big deal and took time.

Social media has been kind of a gift to me. You, too?

I ride the fence of introvert/extrovert, so it’s the perfect blend of safe and risky. I get to ponder my words, instead of self-consciously searching and stumbling over my imperfect mouth . . .

No, I don’t always think through what I post on social media — I can be just as reactionary or impulsive as anyone — so I don’t want you to think every word is calculated and weighed, because . . . frankly . . . well . . . It isn’t.

But here, on this blog, I have to take time to process and pray. Because I could inflict a lot of damage on my home.

I started blogging two and a half years ago, and I visit this question every time I post: where is the line between what is helpful for the reader and harmful for my family? Which might explain a little of why I blog so infrequently . . . it’s a pretty effective filter.

But over and over, God makes it clear to me that people need to know that drug addiction isn’t just for dark alleys and crack shacks, that drug addiction is as possible for a pastor as it is for a prostitute, AND that it’s possible for a family to be ripped to shreds by the nightmare of drug addiction and yet make it out the other side intact.

The problem is, though, so much of this is really Dave’s story to tell.

So, I show Dave the things I write about him and let him decide if it’s too much. Because if it were reversed, if I was the pill addict who dragged him through hell over and over until one day I was done with that life forever — I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to read the ugly past through his eyes. I think everything in me would just shrivel and hide.

And yet . . . it was the secrets that had us buried in shame. When the closet door was opened and the skeleton fell out, relief of release came in waves concurrent with the pain. It wasn’t long before we wanted to share this freedom, give warnings about the pitfalls of pills, AND hope of recovery and grace.

God has used Dave already to reach so many people — many because he was willing for me to write about the hard things here.

However, being so vocal, even guardedly, isn’t for every relationship. It definitely wasn’t always like this for us.  He had a few years of recovery before we put our story out into cyberspace.

In “real life,” I made it a practice long ago not to talk negatively about Dave to people. Not because he’s faultless, but simply because it’s how I want him to treat me — as  person who makes mistakes. It’s a good rule of love.

But I want to make an important distinction here, though, because I erred on the side of silence for too many years.

I had to find balance. Hiding your pain and suffering alone, and airing your grievances with your husband to everyone you know are two extremes of the openness spectrum. If your husband is an addict or abusive, you need to get help.  Tell a friend, counselor, recovery group, sister, police officer, lawyer — keep asking until you get actual help. Venting to your 300 “closest” friends on Facebook, on the other hand, can be extremely destructive and defeating. Maybe not for you, but definitely for an addict in recovery. It’s just not a safe place to share. Not remotely.

I do believe there is nothing more powerful than hearing/reading how someone else gets it and you are not alone. But if you value your loved one’s recovery and want them to succeed, caution is critical.

If Dave is uncomfortable with the amount of “my truth” I share on the stage of life, filtering my words about him, through him, is the most loving thing, and the least I can do with the story that is just as much about him as it is about me. Words can wait.

Some writers can do truth-telling without tearing down their home. They’ve calculated the cost and are carefully walking the tightrope of saying enough to help others while protecting their family. I respect that. My short time in this forum is showing me it takes great discipline to walk that line. Discipline & restraint — things I’m not so good at with a keyboard in front of me.

Over the last month, as I’ve worked on our story, I’ve really had to sift. And sift. And weigh. And sift. And even invite a few people — including Dave — into the writing to help me weed out not just words destructive to Dave, but others as well.

This forum is so immediate. Not like the “old days” when reaching an audience of more than a couple of friends was a very big deal and took time. To actually send words off to someone you had to care enough — and care long enough — to grab a pen, paper, envelope, call and get an address, drive to the post office, buy a stamp and mail it. Time. Time to consider and weigh. And to share with the world? Getting published took years — and editors. Filters, filter, filters.

We have to make our own filters today. There is so much power in words.

The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint. Proverbs 17:27

[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  I Corinthians 13:7

The wise woman builds her house,
but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.  Proverbs 14:1