The question caught me off guard.
I went to Wild Goose this year without actually going to Wild Goose. A rotating group of friends have been renting a house near the festival for the past few years, and people come in during the weekend either to present or to attend the event or just visit with people they can’t see often. This year, I was in the last group. Just a tag-along, there to share a few meals and a few laughs with friends I seldom get to see in person.
I had just put a cake in the oven and was sitting down with a drink in my hand, and Jen Hatmaker asked to know more about my story. I started with the same story I’ve been telling for the past few years. Had an affair. Got pregnant. Had a stillborn son. Lost my mom to ALS. Have some trans kids. Got kicked out of a church. I’m pretty comfortable talking about it, as one of those open-book, over-sharing types.
But then she asked me the question that has had me spiraling for the past few weeks. The question that I wasn’t expecting.
“What did you lose in all of that?”
I was completely taken aback. As far as I know, no one has ever asked me that in the five years since everything in my life changed. I guess most people already have an answer for it. I lost my marriage of nearly 2 decades. I lost the trust of my kids for a while. I lost two churches. I lost my son. It was a season that was so filled with loss that I couldn’t really see anything BUT loss.
I stammered out some kind of answer about losing the ability to repent, because that’s not always the most obvious when I talk about that 18 month stint. But the truth is, I didn’t want to say out loud what leapt into my mind when she posed that question.
I lost writing with confidence.
Oh, there have been flashes of it in the past five years. I have written some things that remind me of the writer I was before. I’m proud of the work I did for Embracing Grief. I feel good about some of the pieces I’ve written about parenting transgender kids. I think I’ve been honest about being in a second marriage.
But most of what I’ve written in the past five years has been timid. It’s been apologetic. It’s been weak.
And no, that’s not the biggest or worst thing I lost. However, because it wasn’t the most important loss, I treated it like it was an unimportant loss. I let other big, important things fill that loss, and pretended that it didn’t hurt that much.
It hurts that much.
Enough that when I acknowledged to myself my lie to Jen, I made myself have a hard conversation with one of my best encouragers, Matthew Paul Turner, about how I could find my way to writing again. And when he told me that I just needed to carve out time for myself to write, and that I needed to scare myself with my honesty, I cried for fifteen minutes. Not because what he said was something that I had never considered before, but because I knew I haven’t been that honest in a long time. I’ve used the excuse that I don’t want to tell stories that belong to my kids or my ex or my family of origin, but the truth is, I’m just scared. Telling details about life is easy. Talking about what those details mean is hard.
Just this week another friend, Nish Weiseth, talked about getting back to blogging. Back to just writing for the joy of it. Back to stories. Back to something that may or may not have a point.
I miss that. I miss sharing my life in words.
So I’m going to do what Matthew suggested. I’m just going to write. It might be messy. It might be boring. It might not be important.
But it’s important to me. Finding what I lost is important.