Tag Archives: writing

Meltdowns

This pregnancy has a dark side: it’s churning up the noxious stuff, the stuff that reminds me what a train wreck I am. You can work around it for years, and then this teeny person, who doesn’t even have a voice, starts conjuring things in your mind. Apparently, I am carrying an intuitive little girl. Or maybe it’s the hormones.

When I went through addiction counseling, I made – and kept – all sorts of promises that allowed me to live in freedom for the first time ever. The promises gradually became habits, my modus operandi, and everything improved. My health, my appearance, and my confidence soared. No longer did my brain resort to the addiction cycle to cope with everyday life. I was in charge of my behavior, no diet necessary, and Jesus bolstered my strength to live in his provision. I felt and looked so wonderful that I attracted a very hot man who married me a year after we met.

Then I got pregnant. Of course, joy flooded me: it was impossible! A miracle! And of course, I still know that to be undeniably true. But there was a singsong voice in the back of my mind too, like Clare Dunphy on Modern Family, that said, “You’re gonna get fat.” I pictured my former marshmallow-esque body. I pictured my very hot man not wanting me anymore. I pictured myself buying huge clothes. And, to make matters worse, I realized as the weeks went on that my neat and helpful counseling promises weren’t working. When four or more hours spaced out my meals, my blood sugar dropped, and I became weak and dizzy. Twice I fainted. When I didn’t eat ample carbohydrates, massive headaches hit without warning and were followed by crippling nausea and fatigue. The baby was simultaneously breaking all the rules and producing purple stretch marks on my midsection to boot. I started saving for a Mommy Makeover.

One thing I’ve learned: my healing never comes until I dig into the ugliness and write about it. When I see it on paper, I can name it and deal with it. So I’ve spent hours recently writing about my addiction – how it looked, felt, sounded. I’ve gone back to journaling and letting my introspection explain myself to me. And it’s rough because somewhere underneath it all, I am still a train wreck. I am still all the things I once was if I’m not constantly vigilant.

I asked my man tonight, “Who in his or her right mind would give me a baby?”

Without missing a beat, he said, “Jesus.”

“Well, I am seriously doubting His lucidity,” I replied, quite seriously, before melting into tears again. Sometimes I am so excited for Anna’s yuletide arrival that I can barely breathe. Her pictures are so heartbreakingly perfect, and her butterfly-wing movements feel so delightful. Other times I think, “What the heck am I going to do with a baby?” My man assures me that no one is ever ready; they just grow into it as time demands.

My consolation in moments like tonight is thinking about my last decade of life. I have experienced too much, enough to break a person, but Jesus has brought me through it all. I shouldn’t be singing this way, shouldn’t be joyful or in love or blessed. After addiction, sexual dysfunction, miscarriage, divorce, lost friendships, and more, I should’ve been crushed. But Jesus didn’t allow that.

I also think of my personal constellation, my stars that point me home and draw grace for me. My mom teaches me sacrifice, my dad teaches me trust, and my sister teaches me how to be a friend. My friend A.K. teaches me how to listen, my friend K.S. teaches me patience and faith in Jesus, and my best friend teaches me unconditional acceptance. My stepchildren teach me to play. My man teaches me to be both strong and kind. Anne Lamott would call these people my “tribe,” but they are also Anna’s. So when I hit the inevitable moments of not-enough, they will tap in for me, and so will many others. Anna does not have a perfect mother, but she will never lack love. God told me early on she exists to display his glory. And he will never not be enough for me, my husband, or our family. What can I say about such wonderful things as these? If our God is for us, who can ever be against us (Romans 8:31, NLT)?

Leave a comment

Filed under It's a Girl!, Jesus Loves Me

Stories

Everyone knows not to pray for patience. Let me tell you what else not to pray for: a story. One icy Colorado afternoon a few Decembers ago, my former sister-in-law, who is a reading teacher, and I were talking about stories as we drove to the city. She and her husband have the most beautiful love story, and I asked her why she thought she’d been blessed with it. She shrugged and said, “I guess because I asked.” Later that night, I prayed a prayer that might have changed the course of everything, if you believe in that sort of thing. I asked God for a story. I asked him for adventure, to be involved in something bigger than I am. I asked him to show his glory through my life. I asked for indisputable miracles.

As all the best writers have proven, if you’re going to set up a miraculous event, you need a seemingly insurmountable conflict. You need something way too big for humans to fix in order to validate a deus ex machina. Well, if you’ve read my sex blog, you know a source of deep pain in my erstwhile marriage. I’ve written about other losses and sadnesses, too; others I’ve kept private. And now I feel like I’m in that part that all the best stories have where you think, “How in the world will this turn out?” But light is pushing through the cracks, just waiting for the moment God turns it loose and crumbles the pain with a season of joy. For instance, my man’s spectacular daughter let me take care of her on Saturday while she was ill, and his son gave me a precious nickname. Light. Last week God sent me the same message from four people who don’t know each other—two of whom don’t even know me well—in a way I couldn’t question. Light. A student gave me a huge and by all accounts undeserved compliment today. Light. More light is coming. God is teaching me joy.

I’ve learned that the best thing about asking God for a story is that when he gives it to you, you never really have the luxury of heading back in your own direction. You can fling open the door and storm off in a huff, but then he chases you with this crazy, powerful love unlike anything you’ve ever dared to imagine, this grace-full love that is exactly the stuff you were hurting for…and you fall into his arms again. You can’t doubt the veracity of the miracle when you are the miracle, when your whole story is the miracle. The joy and freedom are too real.

I don’t have anything in my story, miraculous or otherwise, figured out except that there is Jesus. Because when I am weak, then I am strong. Someone has to be behind that. Someone has to be writing that, and doing a better job than I could. Someone has to be authoring these struggles, conflicts, and “imperfections” to bring a level of artistry and depth to my character that wouldn’t otherwise be there. Every time I reach a moment of pain or conflict in my story, whether I caused it or it waylaid me, I see more of him and more of me. He develops the character of Amie by adding layer after layer of healing. I wouldn’t give that back for anything.

One of my favorite quotes is something I read on a coffee mug—that I totally should have bought—in Barnes and Noble once: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” I find that biblical: the endgame of my brokenhearted moments will be beauty for ashes. He’s promised me, and all of us, that. And that’s all the resolution my story needs.

Leave a comment

Filed under Broken Beauty, Jesus Loves Me

I Wrote Erotica.

You heard me.

But it’s not what you think. Unless what you think is that I had barely written five pages before I deleted the document entirely. (If you’re a Friends fan, this is a perfect time to insert a joke about Rachel’s erotic novel, which featured typos like “heaving beasts” and “throbbing pens.”)

It all started innocently enough. I was early for my appointment with Dr. B, so we chatted a bit before getting down to business. “What was your major?” he asked. “I double-majored,” I replied. “English and French…I read a lot.” We chuckled, and then he asked the question I knew was next: “So what’s your favorite book?” I’m always reluctant to answer because people expect something sophisticated, like As I Lay Dying or Flaubert. But my favorite book nineteen years running is Charlotte’s Web. Raising his eyebrows, Dr. B said, “All you read in college and Charlotte’s Web is your favorite? Why?” I explained that it was my first encounter with the immersive power of a story. That even though I fear and loathe spiders, I lost a friend when Charlotte died. That I was transported when I read White’s pitch-perfect sentences, both as an 8-year-old and as an adult. Open that cover, and the summer breeze swirls around you. Charlotte’s Web is why I double-majored in literature and literature. Charlotte’s Web is perfect.

When I finished my spiel, Dr. B said with an amused smile, “You certainly are passionate about books.” I agreed. He started nodding slowly and scrunched up his eyes, suddenly lost in thought. “Books, huh?” he said either to me or to himself…I wasn’t really sure, so I waited silently for something else to happen. “Amie, how about you read a little erotica?” I tilted my head and slightly frowned. How had the conversation accelerated from Charlotte’s Web to sex in 6.1 seconds? “Beg your pardon?” I asked, bewildered. I glanced at the clock on his desk, thinking that perhaps it was an abrupt segue into our session. “Well, you’re a reader, right? Books speak to you. So…read some erotica. See if that helps.”

Huh.

So the next time I was in Books-a-Million, I went to the only section I’d never ventured within ten yards of. I kept looking over my shoulder, afraid I might see one of my parents’ friends. Or worse yet—a student. (Although, to be fair, most of my students would not spend their Friday afternoon in a bookstore.) I cleared my throat, took a deep breath, and picked up a book. When I looked at the cover, my eyes grew wide, and I slammed it back on the shelf. “Oh, sweet Moses,” I whispered. I wondered for the 14th time what, exactly, I was doing there. Then, I remembered the live scorpion, wiped the sweat off my palms, and continued my search for a good ol’ dirty book. Finally, I found a contender: the cover depicted nothing but two empty chairs on a beach—I suppose the occupants got a room before the artist was able to sketch them. I flipped through and found enough “content” to appease Dr. B, made my purchase, and fled the premises.

Upon getting the book home and sitting down with a cup of coffee (Well, what do you drink with your dirty books?), my first reaction was pure laughter. The writing was so bad. I distinctly remember the sentence, “She knew he was a good egg.” Ah. So when you’re lucky enough to find a “good egg,” you’re practically morally compelled to whisk him off to a bedroom. It appeared to me that the author was barely literate, completely lacked creativity, and knew very little about constructing non-sexual sentences. The back of the book promised that the sizzling romance would make my “toes curl.” It was closer to making my blood curdle. I closed the cover and said aloud, “I’ve had better.” Happily, I settled back into the Don Miller book I was enjoying before that little hiccup.

The next Thursday I reported to Dr. B that I just couldn’t stomach it. “Perhaps if Hemingway had had a hand in Under the Boardwalk, it wouldn’t suck so much,” I shrugged. (Admittedly, if Hemingway had had a hand in it, it would’ve ended with the main characters dying in the rain, which probably wouldn’t sell as many copies.) I had all sorts of ammunition to throw at the book in case Dr. B wondered why it was a failed assignment, but he didn’t take the bait. Instead, he had a sly grin on his face and said, “Then I guess you’ll have to write your own.” It slowly dawned on me that I’d been set up, that he’d known all along I would consider the novel trash. “Write my own,” I said expressionlessly. Then I laughed. “Write my own? Ha!” Unruffled, Dr. B said, “Look at it this way. It either helps you get over your discomfort using sexual terminology and you have a major breakthrough, OR it doesn’t work but we’re one step closer to finding a solution that does.” Ugh. I hated agreeing with him. “Who knows?” he continued. “You might launch a lucrative career as a romance novelist.” Well, that was one career opportunity I’d never once considered. He winked.

So the next afternoon, I settled down at the dining room table to compose some carnal fiction. Knowing how awkward I was going to feel, I’d picked up some Mike’s Hard Lemonade on the way home, hoping it might free my sexually inhibited brain. I rolled my shoulders back and took a deep breath of resolve. I typed “He” and watched the cursor blink for a few seconds. I backspaced. She…Backspace. I had no idea where to start. “It was a dark and stormy night”? Then, as I swigged my lemonade, I happened to look down at my lesson plan book across the table. On its cover I’d taped a Post-It bearing my favorite advice for all of life, a line by Anne Lamott from Bird by Bird. Her brother had a huge report due on birds, and as most students do, he waited until the night before to start. Sitting at his desk surrounded by avian reference books and wadded-up paper, he dropped his head in his hands and sighed. Their father came up behind him and said, “Just take it bird by bird, buddy. Bird by bird.” Remembering that advice, I coaxed myself, “Just take it thrust by thrust, Amie. Thrust by thrust.”

In a couple hours’ time, I was totally proud of having composed exactly half of a sex scene—the second half, because I was more interested in the “after-sex” part than the “before.” It took place in a log cabin on a snowy night in the woods, which was pretty much the most romantic setting I could think of. My scene featured no other clichés, and my hero was far from the iconically “perfect” men of erotica. Although, after making love, he did hold his lover close, touch her face, and say, “My god, you are beautiful.” That’s as romance-novelish as it got, but hey, doesn’t that sound nice, women?

Suffice it to say…the assignment was successful.

Leave a comment

Filed under Why I Used To Hate Sex