What am I?

I’m attempting to implement a more disciplined writing schedule for myself. Seeing as how it’s been about a week since I’ve added anything new to the fictional work I’m in the middle of, I would take any schedule not defined as “sporadic” at this point.

 

I’m a closet introvert with occasional people-pleasing tendencies that can cause my self-esteem to wobble, so I’m prone to battling some pretty ridiculous mind games. I’ve had a few things published, giving me great joy, but there’s always that little, persistent voice saying, “You won’t be able to do that again. That was a fluke.”

 

Part of the problem is that, for me, my writing practice and eventual product can’t easily be categorized. Is it my job? Well, I don’t make enough to support myself or add much to my family’s expenses with the proceeds of my books. When someone asks me what I do for a living, I pause, wondering how pretentious it would sound to say I’m an author. Is it my hobby? Hobbies are great, but that sounds too casual. It doesn’t adequately express my attachment to this process. Is there such a thing as a jobby? Anyway…

 

Unless I place an appropriate value and priority on my writing plan, I will always push it to the back, that dark, overlooked room in my brain where I list things like: clean the top of the refrigerator or dust the ceiling fan blades. Those are tasks that I should do but other things just seem more pressing.

 

And then there’s the ever-present fear of failure and humiliation. When you write something and put it out for anyone to read, you invite all kinds of criticism. It’s like you’re saying: “Here’s something I’ve created and I love and I’m proud of. Please pick this apart and tell me I stink.”

 

Another possible hindrance to choosing words for sentences and sentences for paragraphs, is the Fame Dilemma. Am I doing this for the sake of art and the chance to create something brand new or is it so I can meet Oprah? In certain circles, ambition is a dirty word, especially for women (hopefully that becomes less of a cultural issue with each passing decade). This desire for success seems innocent enough until it starts to feel wicked and vulgar, and I question why I even attempt to get anything published at all.

 

Such is the battle being waged upon my psyche.

 

I say all this because I’ve been thinking a lot why I started a blog in the first place way back in 2011. Originally, I wanted a place to update friends about our adoption. The 4+ years that slogged on without our son home made me rethink the purpose of my blog and ultimately find my voice. I grew to love my voice and find joy in refining the language that spoke to the hearts of others.

 

So every once in a while, when I’m in an Ideas Desert with no words to make sentences and no sentences to make paragraphs, I feel false and empty. I plop down on the dry ground of that metaphorical desert floor and weep into my hands because all of my thoughts are jumbled and imprecise. My emotions are high and my understanding is low. And I’m afraid the fairy dust has dissolved and the magic is gone.

 

But eventually, I discover something new I want to say and my voice returns. And I write, not because I want money (though that would be nice) or fame (is that Oprah calling?), but because words have become my favorite medium. I like to try them out, chewing them in my mouth briefly before choosing the best one for my taste. I like constructing sentences, long ones with plenty of descriptions and short ones with abbreviated emphasis. I like to look at the jagged margins where I can watch my paragraphs building a story or a series of thoughts like a staircase.

 

I like writing, and I’m going to try to employ this quote from the legendary tennis star, Arthur Ashe: “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”

Whatever this is, it is mine.

 

My name is Abby and writing is my jobby.

Just a regular Wednesday

There are some mornings when it doesn’t pay to get out of bed. Take this morning, for instance.

 

I killed a wasp in my bathroom. Getting to our master bathroom involves a series of turns—five turns from the front door, to be exact—so it was a bit of a surprise to see it buzzing around my mirror. I had a bad reaction to a sting this summer, so I have to admit I went a little Rambo on the poor creature. I ran to the garage to get wasp/hornet spray. I drenched the insect (and my mirror and everything on my side of the sink) with the horrible stuff until it fell, paralyzed, into the cup full of Q-tips. Then I dumped out the cup and beat the wasp to a pulp with a flip-flop. Not a very romantic way to go.

 

My nostrils full of pesticide, my husband texted me from work to say he left his coffee on the kitchen table. I told him I was having a similar kind of day.

 

Then I listened to a voicemail from my bank saying my debit card was suspended due to questionable charges. Seeing as how someone once stole my credit card to buy a subscription to Soap Opera Digest, I took the call seriously. I got it all sorted out and wheeled my bike out of the garage to go for a ride.

 

I paused in the driveway, weighing the risks. With the way the morning had been going, would it be more prudent to stay indoors?

 

Because that’s a lot of what my day boils down to: balancing the risks and the rewards. Should I drink the milk a day after the expiration date? Should I stop at the yellow light or keep going? Should I introduce myself to that person? Should I quit this job to take that one? Should we buy that house? Should I start an adoption?

 

As I walked my son to school this morning (before the wasp episode and the call from the bank), we talked about his classmates and what the day might bring. He told me that he was worried no one would play with him or talk to him. He feels unsure of how to make friends, though we have seen him win over most anyone in a one-mile radius of him with a giant smile and a side-hug. I asked him if he thought he should go back with me and do school at home. He chewed on the thought for a few seconds, then he said he should go to school.

 

“Me make friends,” he said, adjusting his backpack and squaring his shoulders resolutely. “School hard but good.”

 

Risks and rewards. Totally worth it.

Driving lessons

One of my 15-year old daughters just passed her “knowledge test” (a.k.a. driver’s permit test). Now comes the hard work of teaching her to do the thing I do nearly every day without really considering how I do it.

 

The first time I took her to a church parking lot to practice driving, she spent the first half of the 30-minute session just coasting. She didn’t use the accelerator much at all. When she did finally give the gas pedal a gentle tap to get the minivan up a slight incline, we reached the minimum speed to make the automatic locks click, giving her a bit of a surprise.

 

While she was behind the wheel, most everything had the ability to surprise her—a leaf falling from a tree or a low flying bird. All her senses were on high alert. Code orange! There’s a lawnmower! Watch out! Don’t hit that curb that’s coming at you at 5 MPH!

 

After a few more parking lot only lessons, she took a short drive on a real road. I don’t know who was more nervous, me or her. It consisted of driving from one church parking lot, down a back road, into a different church parking lot, and back the same way to the first place. (Thank goodness for so many church parking lots!)

 

There are many skills we have to learn slowly, step-by-step: you have to walk before you can run, learn your ABC’s before you can read, tie your shoelaces with “bunny ears” before you can do it the grown-up way.

 

We often want to skip all of those first steps. We’d like to think we can get where we want to go without learning the lessons along the way. We want to make the perfect pancake from that first pour of batter. Maybe that does work sometimes, but mostly we have to make several ugly, misshapen pancakes before we get a good one. We need someone to teach us which pedal is the brake and which is the gas. We need a teacher to sit next to us and tell us how to use the blinker (and how to turn off the windshield wipers when we move that lever accidentally instead).

 

Research shows that it can take as little as 2 months and as much as 8 months for a new behavior to become a habit so don’t get discouraged if it takes a while for a new habit to stick. That’s a lot of little steps to complete a journey. That’s a lot of choosing carrot sticks over candy bars. That’s a lot of driving lessons before we hit the interstate. That’s a lot of weird-looking pancakes.

When there’s no instructions…

When my twin daughters were 3-years old, I walked in the dining room (though we called it the “yellow room” because, obviously, it was painted yellow and seeing as how there were no table or chairs, there was also no dining happening in there) and found them standing by the low, open windows taking turns punching through the mesh of the window screen.

 

After I pulled their tiny fists out, my next move was to say, “Why are you doing that?!”

 

Their response was: “You never told us not to.”

 

That’s when I knew I was in trouble. How could I ever think ahead enough to give them the rules and guidelines for every situation before they come up? It was an impossible task. I had never dreamed that it would be necessary to sit my sweet cherubs down and say, “Listen up, girls. It’s a beautiful day so mommy wants to open the windows. This metal screen is here to keep the bugs out. No matter how fun it might seem, don’t start punching it. Got it? Great.”

 

Now that I’ve been a mother a bit longer I see that specifics aren’t always required. My girls have been with me for nearly 15 years, so even though we don’t have rules for every scenario, they know my basic feelings and they can speculate what I might say or think or feel on the matter. Over time, they have discovered the essence of my parenting just as I have learned so much of their strengths and predilections.

 

When all else fails, the whole idea of “When in doubt, don’t” comes to mind in these instances or at least “When in doubt, ask mom or dad.”

 

Of course, that’s not to say they always do just as I would have them do. They aren’t robots. But I am fairly certain that they have a twinge of guilt when they do something that doesn’t line up with our family philosophies. At that moment, I want them to pay attention to that slight to painful spasm so it doesn’t become commonplace and calloused.

 

This is how I feel about reading ancient texts from God’s Word. I wish God gave Moses “Ten Commandments for Your Teen and Her Cell Phone” along with the other Ten. I wish God had inspired Paul to write a postscript to his letter to the Ephesians stating exactly what to do when the only people running for political office are yahoos you wouldn’t hire as a babysitter. I wish we had specific rules for when these specific issues arise, but that would make the Bible so large and cumbersome to study that no one would be able to get through it all. Let’s face it, it’s hard enough to get through ONE book of Leviticus.

 

In place of step-by-step instructions, I want to humbly learn the character of God. What does it mean that God is love while at the same time He is a consuming fire? He is unchanging yet we can come to Him looking for mercy. He is perfect and just and faithful.

 

Even when I don’t know for sure what to do, I can look at God’s reputation and His preference for righteousness. I can listen to that soft voice of the Holy Spirit whispering to me of God’s direction for my life. I can hear it saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”