The Risk and Urgency of Writing About the Things That Scare the Doo-doo Out of You

yikesI’m Beth, and I was an adulteress. I am a Jesus lover. I mean, I’m wild about him and can’t get over the grace and mercy it seems he has lavished on my life to an embarrassing  degree—two splendid, healthy children, a comfortable home, a perfect cat, and a devoted and darling husband who still makes me swoon and laugh almost every day. I deserve none of these things. I deserve the opposite.

The ugly backstory: I am a 48 year old Christian woman who, when she was younger and stupid and tangled in a giant, paralyzing, gooey wad of grief and lonely confusion, committed adultery. More than once. I am the woman at the well. [I have to keep reminding myself that] Jesus loved my kind extra. I mean, I’ve been forgiven so, so much, therefore I love much. But the challenge in addressing these facts is to leave self-justification at the door, to write without those qualifiers “young” and “grief” and without self-soothing allusions to Jesus’s unorthodox, liberal social economy. Stupid, well, that’s a given.

I was stupid. And selfish and shortsighted. And I wasn’t that young, really. Old enough to know better. But it’s nearly impossible for me to consider—in my mind, in conversation, or on the page—without going into that old Christians are so judgmental/why do they have to rank sin? It’s all the same to God; he would have died on the cross for a “lesser” sin, like gossip or petty theft, even if only one human walked the planet, and all that other self-justifying, self concept-boosting I’m forgiven, no really! theological psychobabble. Unbridled self-flogging isn’t any more palatable, artistically or philosophically. Boring!

Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 11.38.13 PMI have a Twitter friend who dared followers to write the scariest thing ever. On December 5, ‏‪@jilltalbot tweeted: What essay would scare you the most to write?  To put those words down.  I’m starting mine tomorrow.  Join me.

That was, oh, a whole 10 days ago, so 10 tomorrows later I’m on the challenge. I’m “writing toward my fear,” is how some other annoying Tweeter put it. Oh yeah. It was Sean Ferrell who ruined my writing life** when he said, “Write toward your fear. That memory or worry or idea buried inside, that truth about you that you hope no one discovers. The thing you wish you could forget about yourself. Write directly to that.”

But first, here’s a list of things I’d rather do than write about a topic by which I am just downright embarrassed and ashamed. I mean, oh my gosh can you believe anyone would type this AND publicize it?*** Everyone knows about it, though. So there. I’m awful. I’m the worst kind of sinner. My children will read this but they’ll know anyway, eventually–when someday their father tells them his version of our divorce, if they haven’t already guessed. I’m the prodigal daughter. I made a mess of things. It’s out. But again, here’s a sampling of things I’d rather do than put pen to paper about the thing I wish I could forget about myself:

  • Design my daughter’s New Year’s brunch invitation for her Cru girlfriends
  • Check my blog stats since promoting a one-paragraph post I wrote about writer’s block (Apparently it’s a real thing.)
  • Go to bed
  • Read
  • Read in bed
  • Read the Bible, because that’s always a more valuable way to spend your time than doing anything other single on this earth, right? Other than prayer and caring for orphans and widows, that is.
  • Finish this glass of red, take half a Skelaxin for my spastic lower back (half because, hello: the wine), and pass out
  • Watch this inane Jack Frost movie. The plot: A father died on Christmas Eve, or some such inconvenient holiday date, and turned into a snowman. If my dad died, which he did 18 years ago, but around Valentine’s Day, and it were a movie I think he would have turned into a cat. I think maybe he is my cat. If he had turned into a snowman I might have gone through with what the little kid in this movie started to do, out of terror over the snow-thing come-to-life in his front yard. He pulled the ole stick-em-up! with a blowdryer. If my dad were Jack Frost, I’d have gone through with the murder-by-heat, turning the hairstyling appliance on him and melting his three tiered frozen balls of being. When you’re finished wringing yourself up off the floor from grief, when a dad kills himself you want to melt him with a blowdryer, really give him the suicide survivor what-for.
  • Tweet snark about the Pioneer Woman. I mean, Martha Stewart’s at least overtly supercilious whilst making one feel inferior. Not Pioneer Woman, no. She makes you think she’s your girlfriend while she rolls her clump-free dough and chops her perfect onions.
  • Brood over writer’s block, because I have forgotten how to write. Or I have lost my mojo. I used to write with abandon. I’m all locked up. I don’t believe in writer’s block but I am completely blocked, constipated, constricted, stuck, strangled, without steam or juice or confidence.
  • Write about writing the thing that scares me most to write.

But anyway, back to that bitch Jill Talbot’s* challenge.

Ehh, maybe tomorrow when I get back to writing my thesis. Yes, that’ll be my next thesis chapter.

*I mean this in the most affectionate way. You seem pretty rad. Thanks, Jill.

**You too, Sean Ferrell. Thanks. You seem lovely.

***I’m only pulling the trigger on this one in hopes that it might help someone else. Or maybe, like Ms. Talbot, “I need the risk, the urgency (in my life and in writing).” Whatever the reason, I’m already regretting it. But in the way I regret the moment I point my skis downhill on a really scary run, the second I lean forward, all my weight on the balls of my feet before the terror-thrill of the plunge.

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