I’ve written a book. It’s only a little one and the publishers haven’t read it but I’m too tired to wheel out all the caveats about ‘it’s not very good no-one’s gonna read it blahdeeblahblah’ (true though they may be). It’s written and I’ve handed it over and that’s that. But it’s hard to process. And it doesn’t feel how I thought it would.
Here’s the thing. I always wanted to write.
I wanted to write a certain kind of book. A shiny, glittery gem of a novel, tightly plotted, insightful and most of all, fiction.
Not a book about me. And definitely, definitely not one about anorexia.
As a teen I remember the last session I had with my counsellor before going to uni. She knew I wanted to be ‘a writer’ and asked if I would talk about eating disorders. Without missing a beat, I spat back, ‘over my dead body’. Writing was the thing I was most proud of. Anorexia was the thing I was most ashamed of. The two would never, ever meet.
Saying this, I planned a lot of things that haven’t happened.
I planned to be a mum.
I planned to have an impressive career and /or thriving ministry (with plenty of recognition, of course).
I planned to have it together and help people who didn’t.
… hasn’t worked out quite as I planned.
That’s the thing about our plans. Sometimes you strive for them and you might even meet a few – but even these ones don’t work in the way you expect:
You get married and it’s brilliant but it’s also hard work. You can still feel lonely at 3am, even with someone else there.
You have kids and you love them more than anything – but they grow up really fast and you’re tired and not the mum you thought you’d be and blimey, they can hurt you too.
You get a promotion, and that’s great – but soon you’re thinking about the next step and the extra money seems to get swallowed up somehow.
You’ve got all your pressies and the turkey’s sorted and you can finally sit down – but you’re too tired to enjoy it.
You finally agree to have the coffee with X you’ve been putting off for weeks. She’s lonely, poor girl, and could probably do with a boost and a friendly ear. An hour later and you’re crying after pouring out your heart. You’re struck by her warmth and gentleness and wisdom. You’ve been blessed by her, not vice-versa.
You can’t work because of ill health. It’s killing you – everyone else is busy and useful. You’re a waste of space. You cry out to the Lord. And for the first time, you learn what it is to be still. It’s not easy – in fact it’s painful and frustrating. But in the midst of the darkness you’ve got a peace you never felt before. A peace that nothing can take away.
You’re sick of looking after your elderly dad. He moans and complain and you spend your life getting him bananas, wheeling him round and telling him to turn it down. But then a friend loses hers. She’s broken; lost. And when you get back home, your heart lifts at the sound of the television. You tuck the blanket round his chair and you squeeze him, tight.
You write a book. It’s not the book you planned. It’s not gonna win the Pulitzer or sell out in Waterstones. It’s flawed and faltering and messy and fragile. It’s not a page-turner, or even close. But it’s the truth – and no matter how exposing or embarrassing or whatever: man, it feels good to put your name to that.
Jesus has come. Light has shone in the darkness and the things that were dark can be brought into the light. However it feels, everything is fundamentally okay. In fact, maybe – it’s just right.