A few years ago, in the middle of the most heated, long-simmering, agonizing public situation I’ve ever been party to, a woman lobbed this doozy at me:
You aren’t God, you know.
My initial response skewed heavy toward the snark (in my own head… or more accurately, much later in the shower—which is where I generate my best after-the-fact-comebacks): Whew! Thank God. My to-do list just got a helluva lot more manageable then.
Then I moved quickly into full scale-character assassination (hers, not mine—and still, fortunately, in my own head).
But, here I am, years after the fact… and it’ll pop back into my head: you’re not God, you know. It happens kind of randomly. But, honestly, most often when I’m writing.
And then, once I’m all aboard that train, I think about my second favorite barb tossed to me by the mom with a daughter the same age as mine: Oh, yes, Jane your perfect child.
Huh. Well, that sarcasm smarts a bit.
Look, I’d love to dismiss both comments with an tsunami sized eye roll. But I can’t do that… because BOOM! They just show up in my head unannounced. Then, I feel like I need to make those little barbs some tea and invite them for a little chit-chat. Because clearly I’m supposed to do something with both these comments—neither of which were meant to be kind.
I subscribe to two schools of thought:
- Everyone is my teacher.
- I’m not going to take wholesale criticism from someone I wouldn’t ask for advice.
Which really is to say that I don’t have a neat answer to this, even thought I’ve spun it round & round in my head. I do know that I’m an external processor… and that I’ve already processed things (for the most part) by the time I share them in writing. The people closest to me see the messy process. And maybe I should be more transparent that things aren’t always easy, and right & wrong isn’t always apparent. Not everything is as packaged to perfect proportions as my essays can seem to be.
My writing isn’t messier because—to me—that feels like oversharing instead of vulnerability. I can admit when I fucked up. I can share hurt, loss, and fear. But only if there’s a take away—even if it’s as simple as acknowledging that we are all in this chaotic, messy, beautiful life together.
I write because I’m a huge proponent of the power of story.
But, y’all … stories have an arc.
When all I’m doing is dumping despair or anger or hopelessness all over the page—which is sometimes the case—I never hit publish. Because what I want to put into the world is hope (even in the midst of despair), love (even in loss or change or a fuck up of epic proportions), and a genuine joy and curiosity about the world.
I don’t know why the refrain about not being God keeps jumping in my head. But I do know that it’s humbling—and that seems like reason enough to keep it top of mind on occasion.
As for Jane not being perfect, well.. I take issue with that one. Jane IS perfect. All kids are perfect, just the way they are. It us, as parents, that sometimes fall short. Myself included.
Because I’m not God, you know.