Like Breathing

“For it would seem—her case proved it—that we write, not with the fingers, but with the whole person. The nerve which controls the pen winds itself about every fibre of our being, threads the heart, pierces the liver.” —Virginia Woolf

Writers find inspiration everywhere. All day long, I’m composing lines: the scone I ate for breakfast seems adjective-worthy; the emails I didn’t receive call for a tweet; the conversation I half-carried on while I glanced around Pinterest suddenly demands to be folded into a phrase, drawn into a sentence, plucked from the road toward forgotten and set out to be shared. I am a writer, after all, and so, often, I find myself itching to put life into some form my soul can grasp. This week, for example: My friend in a wedding gown, eyes on me: “What do you think?” Words; they should be coming. A look from my soul sister when she asks me if I’m going to be OK. How do I say yes and no at the same time? A statement teeming with meaning that says, “I’m being vulnerable,” which is big and important and deserves something back. How do I say, “I’ll be vulnerable, too.”?

And you, you may wonder why I come here and dump this on you, with my poetic waxing and my emotional sentences, and you would have to understand that my soul is stretching to give it to you; that it’s not about you reading (except sometimes it is), but it’s about my choosing the words and lining them up and displaying them in this gallery. “See? It makes sense to me now.” Though they only sometimes say that, please hear it every other sentence. But sometimes, I wish it were different.

Sometimes, I watch the Olympic trials (obviously not that often.) And I think, “Wow. I would like to be a swimmer.” And I realize that I’m halfway through a bag of cheesy Quaker puffs (moonlighting in my life as cheese puffs), and I realize I’m sitting on my couch, and I realize I had trouble lasting 30 minutes on the treadmill that morning. But I can imagine the swish of the water as I slice it open, and I think again,”I would like to be a swimmer.”

Sometimes, I hear someone singing (this is often Joanna in her room, but this summer, it is not), and I ache to do that. “I would like to be a singer.” I would like to change people’s lives with notes of a different sort; I would like to make people dance with my rhythms (incidentally, I would also like to be able to spell the word rhythm the first time); I would like to strum something and let that be my contribution to the world. So often I think, “I would like to be a singer.”

There are the moments in the kitchen, when I’m making another turkey sandwich and I feel a pang of sadness for my future husband, who hopefully finds turkey sandwiches delightful, because every time I try to cook something new, a unicorn dies. “I want to be a cook!” There are the times I am (literally) lost, and I yearn for a sense of direction; there are the times when I see people’s successful Pinterest recreations and I just want to be able to draw.

What I don’t want to be is predictable. A peony, a latte, a cleverly-placed Gatsby reference, and boom, you’ve won me. You know that, your mom knows that, every unicorn this side of the Mason-Dixon knows that. Sometimes I want to say something my best friend didn’t know I was going to: “I am into bushes now. I like store-bought bushes.” And yet, I do not like bushes. I like flowers. I like them so much that there is this quake in my chest when I see the right ones, and I need a pen, or a keyboard, or someone to listen. I need to write about those flowers. I’ve been called an open book; I realize now it’s because I’m a writer.

Betcha were expecting a picture of some flowers. Anyway, first I read Psalm 139 as part of my devotion last week. Then, I had this conversation today where I shared that sometimes the Lord lets me see people—myself included—the way He sees us. Sometimes it’s like a landslide, overtaking me, so that I can never see those people the same; it has changed the way I speak, think about, and love people. Whatever unforgiveness or bitterness or anger I feel toward this human vanishes, and I see him as a child of God. Sometimes it’s that I see his potential, what he can become if he grasps the Lord’s will for his life. Sometimes it stays just a moment; sometimes it’s a new mindset. Sometimes I’m looking in the mirror.

“I will give thanks unto thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: Wonderful are thy works; And that my soul knoweth right well.” —Psalm 139:13

Oh, of course it’s occasionally  how I look, with the frizzy hair and the bathing suit season. But it’s more. It’s every single skill that I have; it’s my spiritual gifts and my disposition and exactly how much I talk. It’s my wisdom and my intelligence. It’s my soul, and every thing that it loves so deeply, and the fact that I am created to run here and tell you about it. And it’s everything I can’t do. It’s everything I am not. It’s that I’m writing this right now, and soon I will hit publish, and I will let you read it.

I walk around all day long writing things for you, wondering if they’re right. I rearrange the words. I add in semicolons. I wonder if you care about the conversation that spurned a paragraph, the way the light spattered across my broken windshield that demanded an Instagram, the feeling that ruptured inside of me and the only way I could identify it was to begin to write. And yet, this, I know, is who I am. And like I’ve said before, I don’t need affirmation (although many a person could tell you words of affirmation is my love language) from readers. I just need to write. But you make it whole. You look at my painting, you nod your head; you agree that it’s what I must do. You tell me I’ve done it in a rainbow-across-the-sky sort of way.

Words are your craft,” my friend Michelle so beautifully says to me. They are.

“Such a poet,” my friend Katelyn shoots back in a text message. I am.

“I’d call you a romantic,” Norm tells me over gChat. Fine, I’ll give you that.

“I knew you were going to say that,” Janie says. And I am so grateful. I am known.

It’s all inspiration for the words; just as likely, the words are the inspiration that help me fully appreciate the Lord, and life, and myself. Earlier today, I wrote this to my sister: “Do your own thing. Try your best, do it for the Lord, and let that be it, sista.”

And then I thought, “Oh man. I need to write about that.”


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