Another Wasted Wednesday

My part-time position affords me time to write. If I take it. The afternoons I have off quickly fill with grocery shopping and meal prep, but once or twice a week, I stop for coffee and an hour of writing before heading home. Those cafe hours usually yield scattered writing.

This year I have Wednesday mornings off. I thought:

New work!

The first Wednesday I sent Justin and the kids to school, I locked the door, looked in the mirror and found the tweezers. I shaped my brows. I examined my pores. I decided I should do something so I ran my kilometers on the treadmill. Then I went to the kitchen and ate ice cream from the carton.

Next Wednesday, I said, I must write.

Every Wednesday has taken a similar shape. We have no more ice cream. But I bake good cakes; I sliver off slices. I run. I shape my brows. I think how I should put together a few pieces for another lit magazine. I think why bother.

This morning I spent two hours online. I sat in bed and navigated my favorites in a fruitless loop of frightening, thoughtful and unnecessary news. I ate part of a chocolate bar I brought back from Vienna. Finally, I ran my kilometers, did a little kitchen work and headed to school for my afternoon class.

I must figure my Wednesdays out. There is a kind of hope and dread every Tuesday night when I see the promise and the waste ahead.


More Than My Chosen Portion

Another round of overthinking. I wish I were blind to my heart sometimes. This from my WP, an extension of previous posts and essays. I am near desperate to write the one that says I’ve got the whole thing figured out.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed I have a beautiful inheritance.
Psalm 16:5,6

There is a church song with a line in its chorus that says “Christ is enough for me” and when I sing it I want it. There are days when I am ready to abandon my nets and let the dead bury the dead. There are minutes when I see my stuff and my body as dust. There are shifts in my perspective when I get an eternal eye and want more than anything to follow the radical Christ who says I must be willing to lay down everything.

The state of my heart hammers me. The last few years have stripped me of pretense. I have no desire to play Christian. Instead, let me be refined so that I am. Still: I want what isn’t mine and am jealous to keep what I hold. I am afraid to lay down everything, unsure that Christ is enough.

I want more than my chosen portion.

I want what’s over there. I want what you have.

And in my relationships – I am not always a servant. I am not always loving. Sometimes I want your approval. Tell me you like me. Flatter me. Chase me. Need my thoughtful insight. Want my clever brilliance.

Tell me what you see in me is good.

In Christ, I am good. Whole, covered, free. Why do I seek more than my chosen portion? Why do I not trust that this marriage family place church work body moment is my pleasant place? I bang my head against these questions, again again again.

May Revision: Essays That Nearly Killed Me

I revised five pieces this month. Let me tell you a little about each, most waiting for a better title than their topics:

Comparison: I pulled this piece from a long rant, bringing into focus my insecurity about parenting. This insecurity comes and goes. And that made revising this piece difficult: while I have hope for myself and my children (let us quit the comparison game!), I still wobble. There isn’t a tidy summary to this unflattering view of me.

Envy: The second piece pulled from the aforementioned rant, with an eye on wanting what I can’t have. For years I was sure I shouldn’t have become a mom because I can be so selfish. I looked at the childless people with an envy that occasionally bordered on hate. In this piece I write about contentment. I am really sad for that stretch when I couldn’t see the joy I possessed because my eyes were on what I didn’t have.

Rose: Rose is a woman whose death brought my own sin into painfully sharp focus. She was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer and died within a month. And that month for me was perhaps the peak of my anger and discontent at being a wife and mother. I can see that now, a little over a year away: a shift begun when I thought about this mom who knew she wouldn’t see her eight year old son turn nine. The challenge of returning to this piece, and a couple of others, is that I wanted to write about the experience as I see it now, or as I have (or haven’t) grown since.  Instead, I kept the piece in present tense, editing to tighten.

The Year After Grant: Also about a year ago, I wrote two essays back-to-back about the year following the birth of my son. That year was wonderful and awful and I was looking for a way to say all of it. With this revision, I combined the two pieces. The challenge was finding an appropriate tone. I’m letting this piece sit right now: it’s stronger, but not finished.

To An Affair I Haven’t Had: A Confession To My Husband: Oh, the one piece with a title. Also written a year ago. This essay partners with a couple of my fiction pieces. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I returned to this piece: it is hot, raw, sad. I center on the fight of flesh and spirit, knowing right and wanting wrong (Romans 7). I returned to this piece less concerned with keeping the details of my own situation accurate, and more concerned with writing a work that encompasses the absolute despair and suckiness of wanting an affair you can’t have. And shouldn’t have!

Title of my first collection: Wanting What I Can’t Have. Joking. Kinda. Sometimes in the middle of WP or drafting, I write God. I might follow that with a quick prayer like help or I might take a page to pour out the spiritual or faith side of topic. When I returned to these pieces, I did pray. Because I get shaky writing these things honestly, now with the intent to share. I am fast reaching the point where I don’t care what ugly bits of me you see, so long as you also see my faith worked out. So during this month of revising (and drafting) tough pieces, I returned to this question: what purpose does my transparency serve?

Swear Jar

I am not settled on my use of swears, but I think about the purpose and context of my written and spoken language. I’ll write on this again, as I’m thinking through.

Yesterday I wrote the word fuck in my post. Before publishing, I thought about finding another word or phrase, but fuck had the connotation I wanted.

I didn’t grow up in a blue household. I heard my parents swear only a few times. We didn’t even say dang, shoot or what the heck. When I was in third grade I swore about a failed spelling test and got grounded from the Brownie troop overnight trip. During adolescence, if I swore, it was under my breath, behind a closed door. Even in college when the wheels came off, I kept my mouth clean, a hallmark of good Christian living.

The first time I wrote a character who swore, I read the scene thinking my parents would be disappointed, and edited the F word.

The F word: effing, frick, friggin’, freaking. I don’t understand swear subs.

Here is where I am now: I use swears sometimes. I rarely say dammit, because I don’t want it damned. And my language toward or about people is affected by my belief in our inherent worth. But some situations remain shitty. When I titled a draft Comparison Shit, I called it that because saying stuff or junk connotes a yard sale or a drawer of pencil stubs and loose change. Shit gets to the point: a mess no one wants to examine closely.

I read the book of James often. Chapter three opens with a passage about taming the tongue. My emphasis added:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

James 3:1-12 ESV

I used to read that passage with a small mind, thinking the main reference was swears. There is more truth contained. I can start a fire without putting a quarter in the swear jar.

Essay Revision: Practiced Avoidance

I need to practice revising personal pieces.

But a few are so personal:
Contentment (as in: my plea for complete)

Some pieces read like first thoughts. When I read them, I feel where I was. And then I wonder where I am. I read some pieces and sense refinement bringing me a breath closer to holy. A year ago I wrote a piece called “To an Affair I Haven’t Had.” I read it now, to rework it, and know I was spared. I didn’t fuck up my marriage. I only wanted to.

I only wanted to. That is why returning to a few of these pieces is tough.

The other day I showed Justin my sunglasses, the inside lenses speckled with tiny tear drops. My car cries, I call them, when I turn the radio off on my commute home and wrestle through whatever lump is in my heart. Some of these pieces I want to revise might have been written last week, rather than a year ago, or two. I drive fast and cry about wanting what is wrong. I drive fast and pray to want what is right. To really want it.

I am not returning to these pieces to tidy my story. I write confessional pieces to remain confessional. I remember writing about lust and thinking, I am not the only person who has felt this. But I named it on a page. I see no reason to hide my sin. And I see no reason to hide my desperate faith. I have no shame in its desperation. If I lived in a cave, I might have a meditative faith, but I live in the middle of full days and my faith is worked out on car cries and in my pages.

When I return to some of those pages this month, I pray I go with compassion and honesty.