Wanting to Wipe the Slate Clean

lindsay crandall writerI picked up the memoir Julie & Julia sometime in my first year of marriage. I remember sitting on the cranberry couch that faced the French doors that swung out from the living room of our first apartment. I held the book to my face and watched the trees on the other side of those doors sway. We hadn’t lived there long, only a few months, but my husband Adam and I were more than a thousand miles from home. One of the first things I did was get a library card. Then I read. A lot.

I remember Julie & Julia because writing a memoir based on a blog was a novel concept. In fact, I had no clue what a blog was then. I didn’t know you could just sign up and start writing on the internet. If I knew, I would have been doing it, documenting those first months of marriage and sharing with people back home. Instead I was reading and finishing up my master’s thesis. I wondered what kind of job I’d get, if I would become a writer.

My first job was a temp job working in the IT department of a printing company. I had no clue what I was doing, but I knew I was a quick learner, so I faked it. It worked for a while until moved on to a job editing a small local paper. Again, I didn’t know what I was doing. Again, I just faked it.

I didn’t know at the time how much of my life was about faking it. I was convinced I could do whatever I wanted, even though no one ever explicitly told me that. I knew I wanted to try a lot of different things, and that so far in my life I’d been reasonably successful. And I was already more successful than I ever expected, having found someone who loved me and wanted to marry me. Also, I had the guts to move away from home.

It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t have a blog back then. Who knows what I would have written. I was angry and mouthy, unafraid to speak my mind, or maybe just too stupid to know when to keep my mouth shut. I still struggle with those things, but I’ve worked on it. Age has helped rub down some of the sharp edges.

I’m guessing, though, I would have been extremely candid. I would have shared more than I should have, but only because I was obsessed with confessional poetry and radical candor. Maybe I would have shared too much because of catharsis and the belief I still hold that writing will somehow save me or heal me or both.

When I read Julie & Julia, I thought you had to be somebody to write on the internet. Julie Powell’s blog was on slate.com, which seemed like big business. She must have been somebody, I thought, someone bold enough to take on Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year and write about it.

I was somebody, too, someone who had run away from her problems but not herself, someone who wanted a new life.

I started my first blog sometime around 2007, but it wasn’t until a year later, pregnant with my daughter, that I started blogging regularly. I also started taking photos every day with a tiny point-and-shoot my dad had handed down to me. A month before my daughter was born, the camera stopped working and, by no minor miracle, my husband got it up and running to document Lily’s first moments of life.

A week after her birth, the camera died for good. We bought another tiny point-and-shoot, and I kept blogging.

It was a simpler time then. I wrote just to write – whatever was on my mind and heart, whatever I was interested in. I made friends through my blog and read their blogs. I loved it.

Here’s the best part: I didn’t worry about being a writer or a photographer or a blogger or anything. I just showed up a few times a week to write. I didn’t think about building a business or creating a presence online. I didn’t care about followers.

I remember one part of Julie & Julia where Julie was at her wit’s end, crying to her husband, “What about my readers?!” He thought the pressure was too much, and he was right. But she couldn’t let go.

As a twenty-three-year-old newlywed, I wasn’t sure what to make of that. It was intense. She was up to her eyeballs in her project and it meant something to her. That it somehow also meant something to others, to readers, had added an extra layer. The stakes were higher. Someone was paying attention.

There’s the tension.

I don’t know what to do with it.

I wish I could wipe the slate clean and start over. I want that feeling back, the one I had when I first started blogging, when I was a beginner in every way and trying was reward in itself. The pressure (whether it’s real or not) has gotten to me. But instead of pressing on like Julie Powell, I’ve shut down.

I write everyday but nothing that I share. I take photographs and they sit on my hard drive. I’m hard on myself, I know. Too hard, I’m sure.

I want to go back to that cranberry couch in that tiny apartment. I was happy then and life was simpler. I thought I had things figured out or figured out enough to get through whatever was coming for Adam and me. We had each other and that was enough. No careers yet, just jobs. No responsibilities except paying for our rent and his truck.

We’d pull the mattress out of the bedroom on the weekends and throw it on the living room floor. We didn’t have a TV in the bedroom, so we’d watch movies in bed and leave the mattress there until the weekend was over. We drank Busch beer and Adam perfected his mom’s macaroni and cheese recipe. I wondered what we’d do with our lives, but I didn’t worry too much. I had a home and a husband and a library card. I’m not sure what else I needed.

Living the Questions

Lindsay Crandall photography

My husband and I stayed up two hours later than usual last night. We were talking about everything and nothing: the things we’ve been struggling with, how to understand and reframe it and maybe make a better way through it all. It was a hard conversation. I’ve been struggling for a while; we both have. I’ve tried writing about it but seem to get nowhere. Writing about the mess while you’re in it is a challenge. It’s easier when you see the ending and the narrative arc. You can connect the dots without the messy, splashy meandering of living it out.

A few months ago, I got a call from my boss asking me if I was burned out. I sat upstairs in the office, the phone pressed to my ear, and felt my face contort as I tried to answer her. At first, it came out in a no, I’m fine. But I took a minute to think and changed my mind: “I haven’t been sleeping,” I said. “I haven’t slept well for most of this year.”

It felt strange to admit, in part because I had been saying it all along, that I was exhausted and not sleeping, that I was barely hanging on by my fingernails. I knew my plate was too full, something I couldn’t understand because it just as full as it had been a year earlier but now my husband wasn’t in school full time and instead is home quite a bit.

I felt frantic all the time. Frantic is the best way to describe it. When I think of that particular word, it conjures an image of breathlessly running from one thing to the next, being stressed out by even the simplest things but somehow still trying to do it all. That was my big secret: that I was frantic inside and totally stressed out. I tried to explain it away, like I had nothing to be stressed out about and my life wasn’t that hard. But still, the stress was there, and now it was obvious enough that my boss, who I rarely interact with because I telecommute, could see it. And she wanted to know if I was burned out.

Being burned out, I’m learning, isn’t a simple thing to undo. It takes time to get to the point of burnout, and it takes a long time to peel back all the layers, all the lies, all the reasons why you got there in the first place. It’s not as simple as taking some time off work or promising to take a nap every day, both of which are helpful, but merely starting points. What it really takes is time and space.

The funny thing is that’s what I asked for at Lent: more time and space. Little did I know that saying that out loud and writing it on an index card on my desk might tip over the first domino in a chain reaction. Somewhere, someone might have whispered to me, Do you really want to do that, more time and space? Really? To which I would have laughed and said, Yes. And secretly, Someone save me from myself.

The first domino bumped the next. Sleep was hard to come by, then I noticed I had gained about five pounds. My hairdresser noticed I’d lost some hair, then my boss called and the writing was on the wall. Things needed to change because this was out of control. I was out of control.

The last two months have been about slowing down and letting go. At first, I took a week off work and spent that week lying in bed as much as possible. I read books and listened to a sleep hypnosis someone recommended. I wrote in my journal and had long, labored conversations with my husband. When your plate is too full and it’s been that way for a long time, it can be hard to sort through what should stay and what should go. All I wanted to do was throw the plate against the wall and start over.

But that frantic feeling was like an addiction. I wanted so badly to let it go, but it had its grip on me. I allowed it to define me and make me feel important. I had so much to do and, though I hated the feeling, it was giving me purpose. Maybe too much purpose. Every moment felt heavy. Everything felt like work – reading, exercise, creativity, mothering, writing, resting, and actual real-life work. There’s a difference between living intentionally and keeping track of every little thing, and I’d lost sight of that. So when I tried to slow down, I was met with internal resistance. I didn’t want to let go.

At times, I still don’t. I don’t have any answers for why this happened or what to do next. I have so many questions and doubts. I feel aimless and insecure. At moments, it’s like being in a complete freefall. That franticness gave me comfort. It was something to hold onto, and now letting it go, I watch it float away like a balloon through the blue sky and I wonder what I’ve done.

It was Rilke who wrote that we should learn to love the questions, that only through living can we ever find the answers. I return to this quote again and again, finding some comfort in knowing that I don’t have to have it all figured out and, even if I did, more questions would be on their way. That is life, and this is living. Even if we can’t see the narrative arc and we’re in the mess. Even if it’s hard to find the words and we feel alone in our pain. Even if we try to connect the dots that are scattered around and can’t arrange them into a recognizable shape.

Side note: I’ve been participating in the 100 day challenge on Instagram, posting #100daysofyesyoucan every day. I’m writing about creativity and authenticity and making space and giving myself permission to let go —  you know, whatever is on my heart. You can follow along here

Being Okay with Knowing Nothing

lindsay crandall photographyI have been reading Bret Lott’s Before We Get Started, his memoir on writing. In it, he hits home on one central idea: that he knows nothing. Nothing. What he has is years of writing experience where he figured out that he has to let his stories be what they are, to get out of the way so the story can reveal itself. He emphasizes paying attention, but ultimately to humble yourself to knowing what he knows, what you know, is nothing.

It’s an idea that I’m more and more willing to accept – that I, too, know nothing, and that I’ve been striving too hard for far too long. I’m not letting my story, the one that I’m living and breathing day after day, reveal itself. I’m not giving space enough to the idea that stories have merit all on their own. I’m trying to connect ideas, make a larger point, stay on script. I’m trying to be a writer instead of just writing.

This last point came to me at the pottery studio last week. My class had been canceled the previous week and I didn’t have time to get into the studio to work. I went to my shelf and found four pots, two of which were completely dried out. For ceramics, a piece needs to dry out a bit before it can be trimmed, and these pieces were far beyond that. One crumbled in my hands, and I ended up tossing two into the trash can reserved for excess clay and slip. The other two pieces I did my best to trim, then I put them on the kiln shelf and went to work throwing new pieces. I popped my headphones in so I could listen to a podcast or two, and sat at the wheel for two hours.

To be honest, I probably shouldn’t have listened to anything. Sometimes the silence is incredibly soothing, though it’s not really silence but white noise, the wheel turning, my fingers on the wet clay. But even the voices in my ears didn’t stop my mind from wandering away, out of the studio to something larger than the clay in my hands, the thing that’s always on my mind these days: writing.

Thoughts ping-ponged through my head: Maybe I should do a hundred day project and write my way through it. If you’re not writing, you’re not a writer. Why don’t I have time to write when I’m trying to create more space in my life? Always the questions, always searching for answers. There has to be a better way, and I’m always determined to find it. Though lately the better way has been pulling back and letting go. It’s what’s caused me to log out of all my social media accounts, let go of hello there, friend for awhile, recognize my addiction to achieving, and see that I’ve somehow made everything I do into work, even the fun stuff. So, I’ve stepped back, taken a breath, and admitted that I want less work, less pressure. But still I want to write.

And then I heard it, that inner voice I’ve heard before, clear as glass: Stop trying to be a writer and just write.

It was a calm voice, a patient one. Sitting there at the wheel, watching it spin round and round, I was ready to hear it. Stop trying to be a writer and just write. Stop trying to be anything. Stop trying so hard. Because that’s what I want, to stop trying so hard and to just write. When Bret Lott writes that he knows nothing, that his only job is to be a conduit for the stories that need to reveal themselves, I am ready to hear that too. Stop doubting and questioning and putting parameters on things that cannot be measured so easily, and just write.

A week ago, up to my elbows in soapy dishes, I started listening to a writing podcast. I had been trying to write for twenty minutes, and before that I had been outside shoveling the driveway while my kids climbed the mountains that grew with each heave on either side. The south side of the driveway proved to be much easier, despite most of the snow being on that side. The north side was terrible; the wind blowing the snow back into my face with each shovelful.

I’d gotten the driveway cleared out, powder whirling with every gust, and brought the kids in, rosy cheeked and boots full of snow. They asked to watch a movie, and I sat down at the kitchen table to write. I looked over what I wrote the day before. It was no good. I tried something else to no avail. So, I got up and walked to the sink. Maybe getting my hands wet and scrubbing the dishes would help. Maybe a podcast would help too.

The thing is, I’m very tentative about this particular podcast. They always say that you should know your reader, that you should serve your reader, and today was no exception. One of the cohosts went as far as to say that there’s no point in writing unless you’re serving your reader. But he also said that anyone who pretends to want to write just to write is lying to themselves. Everyone who writes wants to help people, so you have to focus on your reader.

I rolled my eyes and squirted more soap into the pan I was about to wash. I’m tired of this message, tired of trying to distill writing into a formula. Maybe that works for some writers, and maybe some readers want to feel that what they’re reading was written just for them. But what about good, quality writing? What about sharing our human experience simply because telling stories is deep in the fabric of who we are? If all writing equates to is business, what a dreary and sad world we live in.

I thought about the book I spent an hour reading earlier in the day: Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. Was I her ideal reader? Did she think of me when she wrote this book? What about all the other books I’ve read, or the articles and essays? What about my love of beautiful writing and the ability to see life through someone else’s eyes? All these thoughts bouncing around my head as I rinsed the final dish and turned off the podcast. We can’t be reduced to these simple formulas, as writers or readers or human beings.

And then there’s Bret Lott, who writes:

Go and do not think. Disavow uninspired scholarship, timid ambition, scrupulous dimsightedness on your way to the discovery that awaits in the making of art. Let ignorance, inability, and stupidity be the flag of the day. Pay attention recklessly. Strain to see through the window of your own artistic consciousness in the exhilarating and frightening and liberating knowledge that there is no path to the waterfall, and there are a million paths to the waterfall, and there is, too, only one path. Yours.

And right before that: “This is the wellspring of writing, whether fiction or creative nonfiction: the simple act and art of paying attention.” There’s something inherently good and beautiful in simply paying attention, in being astonished and telling about it, as Mary Oliver wrote. When you write something true, it will resonate in people’s hearts. That’s what really matters. Not what you know, which is nothing, or your ideal readers whose problems you will never be able to fix, or yourself, the conduit through which stories might reveal themselves, and the body and heart and soul through which you might pay attention to something enough to want to write about it.

Lent and Imperfection

table with notebooks, coffee, and flowersLent creeps up on me every year. The other day, I walked into the grocery store and saw a sign for a sale on shrimp. Just in time for Mardi Gras, the sign read. ‘Huh,’ I thought. Then I checked the date and realized that, yes, it must be about that time. I can never remember anymore, not since we moved back north away from Mobile, Alabama, where Mardi Gras originated and where you can barely get through the streets of downtown in February because of all the parades. It was easy to remember back then.

The funny thing is, I barely understood what Lent was before we moved south. The version of Christianity I grew up with was anything but liturgical. Liturgy equaled rules, and rules prohibited the work of the Holy Spirit, or so my father thought. This man who years earlier got saved and joined a Presbyterian church. Who are Presbyterians if not liturgists?

My own sense of liturgy has waned over the years. For a while, I was big on it. I liked the rhythm, the rules, the predictability. I see how they have their place in spiritual life, just like they have their place in daily life. Life is filled with rhythms and seasons, times of less and times of more. But for some reason liturgy hasn’t really stuck, obviously, since I can’t remember that Lent is coming and have to be notified by a sign at the grocery store.

At breakfast this morning, my husband reminded me that today is Mardi Gras. He walked to the kitchen to make a second French press of coffee, and I got distracted by the sun coming through the back window and hitting me in the face.

“You know,” I said, “I’m really sick of this house.”

He came back to the table and said, “Yes, I know.”

I had mentioned this to him last week. The kids were off school for February break, historically the coldest and snowiest of the year, except for this year where it was in the sixties almost every day. The first day of break, he went to work and I took the kids to the beach to lavish ourselves with sunshine. It was chilly, but who can turn down the beach in February? The next day, we opened the windows, just a crack because the screens were still put away for the winter. I kept telling myself this was just a taste of spring, a peek at what’s to come, and also that it’s February and winter is not over yet.

But my mind went somewhere else – to spring cleaning and wide open windows and sunlight and change. I started thinking about rearranging the furniture and wondered if we should paint the living room again (but not white this time). Also, these red and white plaid pillow covers aren’t working anymore. And maybe we should change the curtains. All of these things just cosmetic fixes. Easy ones.

The more I looked around and thought about what projects I’d like to do around the house this spring, the more I realized we’re in over our head with this house. It needs new windows and a new kitchen; there’s no back door; our dog needs a fence.

“I wish we liked it better here,” I said to my husband, which is true. I wish I loved our neighborhood or that the house was truly amazing. But, honestly, I just feel kind meh about it. I want acreage and a house with lots of windows, maybe a wraparound porch. I want more space.

“Well, this house doesn’t work for us,” he said, and I nodded. Underneath my nodding was a lot of frustration. I’ve always believed that if you change something, something small, it can turn everything around. Sometimes it takes a gallon of paint. Sometimes it means going outside. Sometimes it’s offering a hug instead of an unkind word. But this house is a beast unto itself, filled with more large-scale problems than we’ll ever be able to solve.

We’ve lived here for about a year-and-a-half. It doesn’t seem like very long, except when I think back to this time last year, in a panic to decide what to give up for Lent, I resolved to stop looking at my phone first thing in the morning, promising myself that I wouldn’t look at it until I had a hot cup of coffee in hand, at least fifteen minutes after getting out of bed. At this time last year, my husband was working two jobs and going to nursing school full time. Our marriage and our life was in worse shape than we knew. I felt frantic all the time. Not checking my phone first thing in the morning didn’t fix that.

“I just don’t want to be the kind of people who don’t do anything,” I said, rubbing my thumb along the edge of my mug. “I don’t want to live in a house we can’t fix, and I don’t want to look around and see a bunch of projects we can never complete.”

My husband got up to pour the boiling water into the French press. “Then, we’ll focus on what we can do,” he said. Which is exactly what we’ve been doing for the last nine months, since we found out he failed his coursework and he decided not to go back to school. We’ve been doing what we can to try to get back on track, to love and forgive and keep sticking together, which is oversimplifying it. It’s been much harder than that. We’re still figuring it out.

And the house, of course, is just a metaphor. Lent, of course, is just a season. Except that it’s not. It’s a chance to let go of the things we’re carrying, to give them to the God who promises to carry us:

“The season of Lent says to God’s people: ‘Bring it.’ Bring your dry bones, your numb hearts, and your wrecked and weary souls. Bring your shame and the sin that you can’t shake. Yes, it is too much for you, but it is not too much for God. Only He can create a clean heart and a renewed spirit within you.”

When I read this essay this weekend, I didn’t realize I’d refer to it again and again over the next few days. I didn’t know I’d roll these words over in my mind. I didn’t see how desperate I am for rest. Not rules, but rest.

“I’ve been thinking about Lent,” I told my husband. He poked his head around the cabinet. “I want more space. I want to create space – in our home, in our lives. I’m tired of all of it. Let’s get rid of stuff; let’s make room for something else.” He sat down and we poured ourselves more coffee.

“Okay,” he said. “We can do that.”

Then I remembered a time in college when I visited a friend’s church. Her father was the pastor and during children’s part of service, he talked about 2 Corinithians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. He was wearing a cardigan, which he said was like the old way. When we come to Christ, he said, we put off the old. Then, he took off the cardigan. It can be scary and we feel naked, so we have to put something else on. What we put on, he said, is the character of Christ.

As I think about creating space and how that could be my Lenten practice, I think about that cardigan. I think about how uncomfortable I feel when I log out of my social media accounts and go back for a quick hit. I think about how uncomfortable it is when I don’t have a good book to read or a friend to talk to or a television show to entertain me. I think about what I could pare down or put down or let go in order to create that uncomfortable space that might bring me closer to God.

Because once we let go of something, something else takes its place, and why shouldn’t that point us back toward God, away from ourselves and our problematic houses and our fragile marriages? Why shouldn’t that drive us into the arms of the only one who can save us, who insists we do nothing but show up and let go?

When You Bring Things Out into the Light

writing fears

I haven’t written anything in over a week. I was afraid this was going to happen, that I’d declare that I was writing again and not be able to write. I’m afraid I’d have something to say and be too scared to say it. I’m afraid that no one will care. I’m afraid to get into it – the space in my head and heart where my writing comes from – and not be able to get out. And all these fears swirl around and around until I can barely think, let alone write.

I keep telling myself to just write and stop worrying. But it’s like a TV playing in the background – you can hear it and try to ignore it, but you know you’d prefer silence. So it is with the voices, the worries, the fears. Maybe this is normal. How would I know? I was twenty-two years old and in a community of writers in graduate school, and never worried about fear or audience or who I was as a writer. I was just trying to pass my classes and do a bit of writing (and by a bit, I mean a bit – I didn’t realize then I should be writing like it was my job).

Back then, I was writing poetry because it’s what I knew to write. I had been scribbling poems into journals since I was a teenager wrestling my emotional life and feeling like there had to be more. By the time I was finishing college and deciding what to do next, continuing on to pursue creative writing seemed as good as anything else. While in college, I wrote about ten poems total, all of which went into my grad school application. Somehow, despite only applying to one program about twenty minutes from home, I got in. Then, the only time I wrote anything was when I had to.

To be fair, it was before the internet truly exploded and writing online was commonplace. Otherwise I would have been writing all the time in a live journal or some other online space. And maybe it wouldn’t have been poetry, but it would have been something. As it turned out, poetry didn’t hold my heart quite like creative nonfiction, but I found that out too late and stuck it out with poetry because by then I had a formula and had circumvented the hard work of actually writing. I’m sure that’s not what you wanted to hear, that I was a lazy writer and had figured out how to do the bare minimum. Maybe I’m short changing myself because it felt easy. Maybe I was a good poet and lost my passion for it. I don’t know.

What I know is that having a master’s degree in creative writing gave me some street cred and a certain level of confidence to keep writing. All of it was quickly deflated when I left the safe bubble of my writing program and went out into the world. I had jobs editing and writing and teaching, but I was never doing the work I wanted to do. When I tried to write something true, I’d get all jammed up and quit. That was often the problem – not knowing how to proceed when I hit the wall, feeling all the self-doubt and letting it win. (And these are problems I still deal with. Where’s my magic bullet?)

When I started blogging, it seemed safe. I didn’t have to get into the deep interior space that made me a writer. I could keep things on the surface and use all my writing tricks. I could call myself a writer without having to do any excavation in my heart. Win-win. Once I started taking pictures and figured out I loved photography too, I had all the loopholes I needed. Let’s make writing as easy as possible and throw everything behind taking a wordless photograph. Great idea.

The thing is, I’m good at photography. That made it easy to hide behind. I tried to make it my everything, put all my eggs in my photography basket, but I knew it would never replace the words, words I knew were inside me, threads I knew would someday need to be teased out. During all of this, I went to counseling. Several times. I dealt with my complicated past, my childhood and my difficult relationships with my parents, and found through the years that I’d deal with them again and again. I always thought I’d end up writing a memoir about my terrible childhood and I better figure it out and get to the other side (where it didn’t hurt anymore) before I could write about it. Here’s the dirty little secret: I’m still not over it. Things still come up. I try to deal with it. I lament that I’ll never be healed and healthy and whole, but it’s a process and it just might never be a complete one. Does that mean I can’t write? I certainly hope not.

What it means is that I have to figure out how to write despite not being whole. It means I have to wrestle my fear and have enough faith that I’ll get to the other side. And maybe I have to believe that writing will be part of the healing process for me. Still, I get so strangled by my own fear that I literally can’t breathe. My stomach hurts, and I’m likely to climb into my bed and cry until I’m floating away in a sea of tears.

And what am I afraid to say? I’m afraid to say that my faith is weak, that my father smashed it to pieces, that he told me terrible things about myself and I believed him, that he told me terrible things about God and I believed them. I’m afraid to say that I struggle almost all the time with my emotions, that they often leave me feeling alone and drowning, and that I’m a terrible sleeper, which only exasperates things. I’m afraid to say that I’m trying so damn hard every day and it never feels like enough, that I’ve spent years trying to figure out how to be a mother with no role model, that I’m still figuring out how to work from home and take care of my family, that I only work about ten hours a week and most of the time it feels like more than I can bear, that I sometimes I love the work that I do, but often I’m deeply ambivalent about it. I’m afraid to talk about the things in my head, deep things that maybe no one else thinks about, my fears and worries, my questions and doubts, how to make meaning out of life and how to keep going when it all feels meaningless. I’m afraid that I’m no expert in anything except uncertainty and the way I deal with it is by drinking red wine and exercising as hard as I can and often walking around feeling like there’s something wrong with me. I’m afraid to be found out as a phony.

They say when you bring things out into the light, they aren’t as scary as you think. Even as I type all of this, I can hear the voices in my head start: Everyone else feels this way too. They’re dealing with it. Why do you think you’re special? No one cares. And maybe some of that’s true, and maybe it’s not. Just last week, I googled how to deal with your critical inner voice and ended up blubbering in my bed about all the terrible things my dad used to say to me. I wrote each of them in my journal, drew a line across the page, then wrote a corresponding phrase for each one, something I can tell myself when the voices start: I am good enough. My thoughts and feelings are valid. I am doing my best. I don’t have to prove anything. I am not alone. I memorized the list, then whispered the simplest prayer I know, “Thank you, Jesus.”

I want to be a writer. I want to keep digging in, digging down deep into the depths of my heart, and writing about it. Here’s what I believe I’ll find: Something good, something true, something beautiful. That we’re all struggling with the same things. That we all want to feel loved and accepted for who we are. That we all have a complicated past and that we’re complicated people. That we have questions and doubts. That the uncertainty of life can be overwhelming. That we want to believe, at the end of the day, that we’re going to be okay. And one more thing: That God is bigger than all of this and even weak faith, faith that’s sometimes barely hanging on by a thread or that’s tossed aside like a child’s stuffed animal only reached for when the world feels scary, can grow from a tiny seed into something larger and sturdier than a seed could ever imagine being.

lindsay crandall writer