Frequently Asked Questions:
- Where do you find the time to write with little kids and a “real” job and all of life’s demands? I want to write, too. But I don’t know how to begin.
My answer on this is just to begin. If you feel it stirring and you want to write to sort things out for your own self or to pursue it professionally, there is no way to start except to start. One paragraph, one page. You have to begin somewhere.
I write occasionally at night after my kids are in bed, and these are rarely my best posts, but I see this blog as one huge rough draft and a journal with lots of fits and starts that might stay right here forever or might string together to something greater one day. You have to get over the idea of perfection as a writer, otherwise you will never complete a single sentence. This is sometimes hard for me as I’ve expanded readership a bit, but I put expectation out of my head and ask what I need to purge out of my own heart on any given day. I always start there. I observe and I feel and I follow the flow. I never know where a piece will end when I write that first line. My conclusion is always a surprise to me. The more you write the better you will get at it, and the more you will need it as a necessity. I write now because I have no choice. I get itchy and anxious when it’s been too long.
From a professional writing and editing standpoint, I have a regular date with my writing in bed on weekend mornings when my kids are away at their dad’s. (Every other weekend.) I sit and write with my dog to my right and my coffee to the left. I don’t get up until the hard work is done. This is the time when I work on what will be submitted for a bigger readership and do the difficult work of revision.
2. What books do you recommend to someone going through divorce or grief or other major changes?
There are so many that guided me through the roughest moments and guide me still. From Pema Chodron to Cheryl Strayed to Rilke. Reading has been my lamplight and guidepost in any time of confusion. You can browse the books category of this blog to see my reflections on a number of different works.
My top tier that I recommend to anyone: Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart, Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (mostly about writing but also about life), Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things, and Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. Those five books changed my life in no small way.
3. What is your relationship with your ex like now? Is he still with the woman you referenced in “Enough”? Did he ever apologize?
A short answer to those three questions: hard, yes, and no. My biggest challenge with this journal is to tell my own story in a way that clarifies my own heart when I feel confused and offers a light to other people but not to tell anyone else’s story, so I say very little on this. They are still together. They married in a ceremony six months after my divorce and had a baby one year after that. They live a few minutes from my house, and I see them often with custodial visits and soccer games and everything that raising kids entails. In the early months, I was so clouded in sadness and heaviness that my hands would literally tremble and my stomach would turn circles when I interacted with them, but now I can see how that fog has lifted and how little it bothers me. Emotions are physical sensations, and I can see that I have healed because I feel completely different when I interact with them. The body keeps the score, and I cannot feel the tightness inside myself anymore. Eventually, I just let it go.
This is why you do the hard work of sitting with your own pain in honesty: it heals and softens you instead of hardens you and you learn that all you need is what you hold in your own self. The rest is not your battle to fight. Life is a long and winding road, and I don’t know what is coming for any one of us. I stay in my own lane and drive my own self across (as Cheryl Strayed says) “the bridge built by my own desire to heal.”
4. How do you deal with the idea of forgiveness? Have you forgiven him?
The biggest misconception about forgiveness is that it is some magic moment that happens in an instant. It is not like that at all. It is a long process that moves two steps forward and one step back and surprises you in both ugly and beautiful ways. I can hold compassion now, which I think is indicative of a certain type of forgiveness.
For me, I know this much: forgiveness starts with a thank you. I am grateful for what the last few years of my life taught me about my own ability to do things that are incredibly hard without grasping for one of those lifeboats that will surely drown one day. I am thankful for the fire that started with sadness and anger and eventually burned away loads of mess that I didn’t need in my life or my heart. I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to wake-up and start over and that I have an incredible chapter right now where I don’t owe anyone anything and can worry only about my own self and my own children and creating a life of fullness for all three of us. I’m thankful that I somehow see the whole world in deeper shades than I did before.
Thank you is where forgiveness starts for me. The rest will unfold in the years ahead. I have faith that once forgiveness takes a seat inside you, it will grow to bring you rest eventually. You have to wait it out and always look for the places you can say thank you.
5. I experienced a similar end to my own marriage, and I have a hard time trusting others. Have you moved past that? What can I do to trust people again?
We are in the same boat, sister. This is another one that takes a while to unfold again. I do think that intense grief and intense betrayal can work to give you a superpower sometimes. It gave me a bravery and an authenticity that I didn’t have before, and I’m better at spotting that authenticity in other people as well. I don’t think it is easy to trust everyone and everything in the way that I used to. But I also know that when I find those people who are worthy of trust, I hold onto them and I give to them in ways that I wasn’t capable of before. I see this with friends and with family and even with my own kids. Relationships are ten times more complex than they used to be for me before my worldview changed, but I am also ten times better at them than I used to be. Love comes easier and bigger than it used to for me, and trust is earned.
6. Are you writing a book? / When will you write a book?
I am writing a book, but as that famous Doctorow quote says, it feels like driving in the darkness with headlights on — I can only see the space in front of me. Writing it has been an act of sacrificial love in its own right! Re-examining one’s own history and making sense of what you find is no small feat.
It is essentially a memoir about grief, and it weaves together recent experiences with decades of personal history to explore the shape left behind when someone we love leaves us and the new shapes we have to inhabit as we grow and evolve. As a seventh-generation southerner, I’m exploring how the changes in my own life have mirrored the evolution of the region itself. I’m currently working with Jamie Chambliss of Folio Literary Management as I continue to write and revise.
I have faith that it will come together eventually as it is meant to be, and I know with certainty that it is the story I need to write. I can’t wait to share more with my readers here when the time comes.