my daughter, now six
Being a writer is hard. I love the feeling late at night when I finish an essay, like I crossed a finish line or finally caught a breath of mountain air. I like getting positive feedback as a balm to my itchy insecurities. And when I sent my novel – my baby child that stole nights and weekends and so many rivers of tears– off to my editor, I was grateful when she said it’s good. It’s actually really good. And yet agents email me saying “it’s not you, it’s us” and “we are so sorry for this rather impersonal rejection.” It’s a literary black hole, and you have to hold onto the railing to keep from being swept under.
I wish I could roll up my sleeves and go have a meeting with someone. I wish I could just go make something happen. I’d curl my hair and put on my heels and pound my fist on a desk. Progress will be made. Things will crawl off dead center because I know how to make people jump. I got a job once by making an appointment with the CEO. Somehow a job was created. A job I dreamed up in my head and convinced them they needed.
And yet here I sit alone, eating pistachios and drinking coffee and reading other people’s words. I try and let writers inspire me, and be thankful for their successes, and try and feed on the natural creativity that follows. I tell myself that God is listening and my blog followers are listening and these things matter. And yet my mind wanders off to bad places – dark caves where I’m nothing and my life is insignificant and my words are just cheap imitations.
I think about that time six years ago, when I lay in a hospital bed staring at the ceiling tile. After a prolonged labor and emergency c-section she was finally given to me, this beautiful gift from God that I didn’t deserve. She was so white and angelic and I wouldn’t let her go. But days after arriving home with my first-born they came to take me away, on some damn stretcher that held heart victims and dead people. There were doctors and surgeons and tests. There were re-incisions and pains and organs being shut down. I just kept looking at that ceiling tile, thinking God just wouldn’t do this to me and he couldn’t possibly let me die. Not now. Not like this. I’ve worked so hard, remember, Lord? I make things happen. Are you listening up there?
I asked for the breast pump, my body filled with drugs and steroids and horrible chemicals of all types, and forced that milk out through excruciating tears as each surge of the pump caused my scarred and infected abdomen to seize. But I was a fighter, and this wouldn’t break me.
See, God? This is what you’d be saving.
One night, a nurse came in. She looked right through me. You need to let go, she said. You need to let God to take over. I was angry. I was pissed off at her accusations. Who the hell are you, all up in my business about faith? Have you not seen how hard I’ve worked? Have you not seen my tears and heard my prayers? I am dying here, woman, with the fever and the infection and the chills. Can’t you see that I’m trying? Can’t you see I’ve not seen my baby’s face for weeks and this just isn’t working like I planned and I’m so damn sick of this place? Can’t you see that I have this tube in my throat and my husband isn’t eating and it just never ceases? Can’t you see that I don’t want to see a picture of her, my perfect three-week-old daughter, because it fills me with rage and sadness? Isn’t this enough?
You have to let it go.
I think about that night when I get this way. When I think I’m in charge. When I keep pounding away on the keyboard like the surging breast pump. When the devil whispers in my ear that my words don’t matter and a book deal is the brass ring and all this is just a big vat of wasted time.
Stand back, Devil.
It all matters. My words matter. My life matters. Whether it’s typing or living or birthing or dying, we all just have to let go. We aren’t the one making things happen. God makes things happen. We are just the instruments of his peace.