Why we write

I was talking to my friend, Stan, the other night about what’s going on in our lives. We hadn’t caught up in a while, and he was telling me about his realization that God is working good things through the very things that are making him miserable. We’ve always been pretty real with each other and were sharing some deep stuff. I’m not sure how we got on the topic of writing or what makes us feel better about getting our thoughts on paper (or computer), but he said something that really stuck with me:

“We write from our brokenness.”

I’d never thought of it that way. But as I look back over the course of my life, I realize that I have always had some sort of writing outlet. When I was a little girl, I kept a diary. It was a silly little-girl diary, with mundane things, wishful thinking, secret crushes, and imaginary conversations I wished I were brave enough to have. I don’t have that diary anymore . . . as I recall, I rediscovered it in my room when I was in high school, read through it, decided it was crap and tossed it in the trash one day.

When I was in high school, I kept an informal journal/diary in a spiral-bound notebook. High school meant writing real things. Worries of not being smart enough (I was), as pretty as most of my friends (I was not), or successful enough (I was, in the areas I was passionate about). Serious pain and heartache borne of the intensity of young “love,” mean people, and parents who didn’t understand that I, as myself, was enough even though I was not a clone of my older sister. I wrote from my brokenness, even though I wouldn’t have put it into those words at the time. Everything inside me was poured into that notebook, which became two notebooks, and then three—until my mother read through them one day and held my private thoughts against me. I waited until I was alone one day shortly after that, took the notebooks to a private area behind our neighborhood playground, and burned them after reading through them one last time. I didn’t dare write from my brokenness again, because that would only provide written proof that could be used as ammunition against me.

As a young adult, a few years after I was married, I was part of a women’s Bible study that required us to journal on a regular, if not daily, basis. So I journaled. In fact, I journaled my butt off. But when I found that particular notebook many years later, I flipped through it and realized it wasn’t about me at all. In fact, I didn’t recognize myself in the writing. My first thought was, Wow. I must have really been deep at the time. This is some profound stuff. As I read further, though, I came to the realization that I had been writing my “private” thoughts in that book with the idea always in the back of my mind that someone else would find it and somehow end up reading it. As a result, I was writing what I thought would be approved. Safe. Not open for judgment.

Basically, I wasn’t journaling anything that would help me at all. And I didn’t write for years. Decades, actually, because life with four children doesn’t allow a lot of time for self-reflection. We’re busy keeping the little people alive and healthy—which is a good thing—and are completely absorbed in the needs of others to the point of ignoring ourselves—which is not a good thing, but it happens all too easily.

When I started writing again, it was on SparkPeople, where people were encouraged to share their fitness-related struggles and achievements. I tossed a little post on my profile page one day and felt as if I’d exercised my brain in a way I hadn’t for years. It was a release and an easy expression of me. I deleted that account after a couple years of use, but it had served its purpose: I caught the writing bug again.

I later began my editing blog to get my name out there and to give writing advice from a copy editor’s viewpoint. Again, I felt at home. The posts ranged from serious advice to author interviews to the completely silly (but such a blast to put out there). That blog has gained me more than clients; it’s provided me with long-term friendships, solid acquaintances, and a sense of community that has nothing to do with politics or anything controversial—only like-minded people with a love of what we do best. When I had to take a break from it due to busyness, it killed me to be away from it. Starting up again put me back where I belonged.

Somehow I ended up with this blog as my personal one. It’s been a good one for me, because I can write like myself once again. Yes, I do filter a bit, but not much. For the most part, I figure I write for me, and if anyone happens to read it and gain something from it, that’s a bonus.

And that brings me back around to my epiphany, courtesy of Stan. We write from our brokenness, he and I. Not everyone does. For me it’s a regular thing. When something happens and I need to process it, I write. Everything that’s on my mind comes through my hands and onto paper, or into a document on my laptop.

It’s kind of funny, because when I’m happy, I tell people all about it. I can’t help but share my joy or excitement about something great. But when I’m sad or hurt or angry, I write. Maybe there’s something in me that says, Don’t scare everyone by telling them how you really feel, because you may say something you’ll regret, and you won’t be able to take it back. When I write out my sadness or frustration, I can reread it and think more clearly. I process what has happened, review it, and figure out how I’m going to respond. Or I process it all in writing because in some cases, there will never be an opportunity for resolution.

Recently, I shared some of my deepest thoughts with a friend in a heartfelt letter, only to have a third person read them (without my permission), misinterpret them, and use them against me. Once again, writing from my brokenness was invaded by someone who took it upon themselves take ownership over something that was my own, intended for another. Believe me, there is not much worse than having our own words used against us by those who don’t have the first clue as to where those words stemmed from, the history and emotion behind them, or why they were written.

And yet, I continue to write. Brokenness leads to healing, and if I write from the former, I trust that it will provide the path to the latter as a result. Writing serves the dual purpose of not only getting it all out, but of providing a way for me to look back and realize how far I’ve come.

And that “looking back” thing? That’s why we write.

 

Why do you seek the living among the dead?

I try not to be a person who makes sweeping statements or who makes everything into a drama, but I can say—with absolutely no exaggeration whatsoever—that 2017 so far has, in a word, sucked. Let’s even use two words and say REALLY sucked.

The year is young, only one quarter complete, so I’m hoping with everything in me that the trend will reverse itself. And by the very nature of grief, it must. Yes, it could get worse, but I’m going with the law of averages here and assuming things will ease as the months go by, and my heart will once again soar on a regular basis.

I haven’t posted anything on this blog for so long that it almost feels like starting completely from scratch. The past couple years were a whirlwind of activity and life changes that took everything in me to keep afloat, and every time I started to draft a post, I would find it irrelevant by the time I got back to it, months later. This blog has always been my “dear diary” of sorts, the most personal version of myself, and many of the things I began to draft were not the type of thing that could even be posted, because sharing what I was struggling with would have only hurt others . . . not that any of them read this, but I would rather err on the side of grace when I can (great advice given to me by a friend and coworker).

Last year was especially hard on many fronts, so I was looking forward to that magical fresh start that always comes with the turn of the calendar page to January 1. To be fair, January actually wasn’t so bad. It was full of determination, introspective moments, busyness, silliness, promise, and a few surprises. I had some new experiences opening up for me for work (both jobs) and for personal growth.

But then in February, I lost a close friend. Not due to a death, though it’s just as permanent. One day things were fine, and the next, the friendship was ripped from me with no recourse on my part. I spent most of the next month reeling, denying that this was my new reality and trying to make sense of it in my mind. It still seems unreal in many ways. The sadness of not getting my birthday phone call or texts that start with “I have this great idea . . .” out of the blue only cemented the oh-my-goodness-this-nightmare-is-real feeling.

All the while, life had to go on. I still had to work. I still had to love and take care of my family. I still had to get up each day and function because there was only one person, my bestie, I could talk with to try and sort it out, so the hurt had to be kept a secret. Talking about it hurt too much, and holding it in hurt no less.

I tried writing out my thoughts and it only made me cry more. And then it made me angry. And then cry again. Angry. Crying. Angry. Crying. What an awful cycle. Toss in a lot of bewilderment and disbelief, and self-medicating was starting to sound really good, though I didn’t go that route. I wondered if my former friend was hurting as I was hurting—as I still am hurting—or if it was a simple thing to dispose of that part of life, to dismiss it with an “oh, well.” In my worst moments, I wondered if the friendship was only on my end, and that our rapport was not what I thought it had been.

But the single phrase that keeps going through my head (and has been for weeks, in fact) is this: Why do you seek the living among the dead? Straight out of the Bible, that one. Luke, chapter 24. In that passage, angels at the empty tomb are speaking to the women who have come to tend to Jesus’ now-absent body. He’s not there, and the angels even tell them, “He is risen, just as he said.” I was struck by the thought once again as Easter approached.

Why do I seek where there is only empty space? Why do I seek joy where there is only disappointment? Why can’t I turn away from what is irrevocably gone and look toward the good things? There is plenty of joy around me, and I bask in it. And yet . . . why do I seek the living among the dead? Looking harder only reinforces that there is nothing to be found, and creates more of a downward spiral.

In my case, I am still struggling with the “dead” part of it. I am looking for a friendship that is no longer a living, vibrant, fun and active part of my life. I am looking for what once was, because I simply cannot believe it no longer is.

There is life all around me, and though I am enjoying it in a compartmentalized sort of way, the times when I’m tired or alone with my thoughts are still a huge battle. I sincerely appreciate the good things—and there are many, thanks to a spectacular husband, great kids, a bestie who knows all of it from start to finish and still listens to me, and wonderful coworkers—and yet I still feel the empty space. I replay conversations. I remember good times. And I get angry at myself that the good things don’t always feel like enough, because they are. In fact, they’re more than enough if I allow them to be. In fact, I have to allow them to be, because I have no choice; this is my new reality.

But I think it’s kind of like when you lose a child . . . something I’ve had experience with. There are the other children, and they are a great comfort, but it doesn’t negate that there is grief to be processed and someone is still gone. Those who remain are no less essential, but they don’t fill in the space and replace that which was lost. They can’t. Each space, each person, each relationship, forms a specific shape in a person’s life, much like a puzzle piece.

To lose a friend is no small thing. Not if that friendship was real. That puzzle piece is as unique as God created them to be. And only God can fill the empty spaces where no other piece fits. He has allowed me to be broken in many ways over the past few years, and this is now one more addition to the list. Have I mentioned that I hate being broken? It hurts like nothing else, at times a physical ache that rivals the heart-hurt.

The good news is that God’s pretty decent at brokenness. He’s waiting for me to give it over to him—fully—and believe me, I’m trying because I need to move on and stop looking behind me. I’m trying. I really am. I’m tired of feeling broken and I’m tired of not being myself anymore.

But Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells me this: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

In other words, he has given me a longing which nothing else can satisfy, except God. I can’t grasp his plan. I don’t need to. Because he knows me and is waiting for me to hand over what is dead so he can point the way to what is living.