Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I am forty, now, and hesitant. Overwhelmed by everything I haven’t read, seen, done. After years of convincing myself I simply didn’t have the time, I have begun reading again, tentatively. Afraid each page will confirm what I already know, that I have nothing to say that hasn’t already been said, and said better than I could ever hope to say it. Knowing that I don’t have the necessary tools—education, experience, enough reading—to express what insights I might actually have to a population beyond those friends and family generous enough to visit my blog.

I finally succumbed to the lure of Harry Potter, having resisted irrationally for a decade. I couldn’t bear the thought of J. K. Rowling, who unwittingly set an unattainable standard for successful writing, whose passion for the written word and gift for story has generated unfathomable wealth and a cultural phenomenon. It wasn’t really her success that intimidated me, though. It was hot, shame-filled jealousy that she got to spend a dozen years enmeshed and immersed in a world of her own making, a world full of humor and wonder and unspeakable evil, where of course purity of heart would win over soulless ambition, where beloved characters might die, but there was meaning in their deaths and proof of something after, and she had control over it all.

I have a world like that, too. Not as fanciful or elaborate, and not for children. I want to spend all my time there, like I did when I first wrote my novel in 1995. But I can’t justify it, because I don’t have the tools I need to be self-supporting through it. Not yet. And I’m not willing to live in an unheated apartment, and on welfare in order to get them. I guess I just don’t believe strongly enough.

And the real world compels me, too. I have learned so much in recovery, given up so much emotional and spiritual baggage, come to believe in life and love in ways I didn’t know how to, before. I acknowledge the messiness and pain in the world and feel called to do what little I can to alleviate it. Kerouac said, “I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion,” and in the microcosm of my family, my church and my other small communities, I sometimes think this is enough. That God can use this to motivate others and create good.

But I am reading Anne Lamott, now, and I’m busy not measuring up. Her faith and her politics astound me. She believes what I believe but has treadmarks on her soul I can’t, and wouldn’t want to match: broken home, drug addiction, loss of loved ones. She marches for peace, is brutally honest about motherhood, has beautifully diverse friends, and a quirky, powerful faith. I judge her sometimes for her self-confessed neurotic narcissism, but that honesty is what makes her work compelling. And my honesty may not be that interesting.

So there’s my neurotic, narcissistic reflection for the day, inspired by my trip, an hour ago, to the library, where I picked up God’s Politics, by Jim Wallis, Crooked Little Heart, by Anne Lamott, and a Turning the Mind Into an Ally, a book on meditation. Here’s to acquiring tools.


  1. I had the pleasure of hearing Jim Wallis and Greg Boyd "debate" (they mostly agreed) a few years ago at Bethel.

  2. Just started reading his book this afternoon. So far I'm nodding my head a lot (in agreement, not that I'm falling asleep :)