You know better. Of course, you do. You know better than to read blog posts about your book. You know better than to Google yourself. You know better than to troll a list of “best blogs” looking for your own absent name.
And you know better than to ignore the 5-star reviews and only read the 1- and 2-star reviews of your little yellow book. You know better than to measure your self-worth by the measuring sticks of another.
Of course you know this. But some days…. Well, some days, you forget or you violate your own boundaries and you do it anyway.
So this is what people think of me.
And then you sit in their thoughts. Deflated. Out of breath. Hot. Why does your face always get so hot when you feel exposed?
They’re right. Of course, they’re right.
Who do you think you are?
That hiss always comes on the heels of these moments. Who do you think you are? And in this moment, you can’t remember the answer or can’t muster the words aloud.
So this is what you do first: you walk away from the reviews, from the criticism, from the mockery, from the ways you’ve disappointed.
Then you call your sister and you call your husband. You call your friends. You get mad and dare to say it out loud. You admit that you’re hurt. You admit that you made a bad decision by choosing to read them and now you’re living with the consequences but they seem a bit too harsh in your soul.
You admit that you’re feeling vulnerable and exposed, ridiculous and small, worthless and foolish. You are trying to harden your heart so it doesn’t hurt anymore.
Somehow saying it out loud helps a bit.
But you don’t want to have a hard heart. You’d rather be hurt than impenetrable. This is the price of living without armour, of making art with your life and stories and faith: you are vulnerable.
Every attack feels personal because it’s your heart-and-soul-work. And that’s okay. You might need a bit of time before you can sort through the legit criticisms – the kind that will make you better – from the hurt. Maybe it will make you a better writer. Maybe. Reason and logic seem insufficient at the moment.
You go for a walk in the sunshine. You remember that it’s spring and so you take pictures of the pink and white trees. You hold hands with your littlest girl and stop often to look at the wonder: look, a ladybug! look, a rock! look, a cigarette butt! look, a dandelion! And you carry her treasures in your pockets (except for the cigarette butt). You tip your face to the sky and breathe deep. This is real, this is real, this is real.
You argue and defend yourself and justify to a closed computer. Then you pray and you find comfort. You keep praying like you always do, throughout your life.
You consider quitting writing but first you’d have to quit living, quit caring.
You go home and clean something. You make supper. You bath your children and quiz spelling words. You sweep the floors and put away laundry. Your life is achingly normal and today this comforts you.
Then in the night, when everyone is asleep, you run the bath and sink into the warmth. Your damp hands hold up a book you love, and the pages absorb the warmth. You read and soak until your hair is damp and curling around your neck.
You rise up out of the water and stand. You look in the mirror at your bare face and you say it out loud this time: I’m a beloved warrior.
Then you go to bed and sleep.
In the morning, when you rise, you already know that you will pour a cup of tea, sit your bum in your chair, and write again. And someone will not like it. But you will write anyway and you will keep writing because this is where you find God most clearly and most profoundly, this is your sanctuary and this is your work.