There’s something about staring at a blank page that overwhelms me. The potential– I write
in journals with no lines and the possibilities for form and style and pictures and words are endless– and the knowledge that with every stroke of pen on page, something is becoming… and a million other things are NOT becoming. I have a decision to make the first time my pen brushes the page, and every single dash, curve or space is creating what happens next… and all the things that aren’t happening.
If a page is a sketch of a woman sitting in a corner (twice-patched hood slipping down her mussed hair, knees hugged to her full chest, glimpses of bruises or dirt peeking from the inch of neck visible to the viewer), then it is not an essay on human trafficking or a list of people to contact or a free thought poem or endless, linked boxes that symbolize what’s happening in my brain. The decision to create one thing means also the decision to not create many other things, and some days i’m okay with that. Some days I easily write a letter to one friend, or make a collage of words and images I’ve cut from paper, or help my niece draw a picture or make a paper airplane.
Other days though, I’m not. There are days when HOURS will go past as I sit and try to put what’s on my heart onto a page. But that first means untangling what’s on my heart. And then there’s the process of deciding the best medium for its expression. A heart broken over a child experiencing her parents’ divorce when she can’t understand much beyond daddy is not coming home and mommy is crying a lot and she’s always being courted to one room or another with a tv or a toy to keep her company while the grown-ups whisper, is expressed one way in an under-developed photo, another on a messy, painted canvas, another in a list poem, another in a short story and wholly another in a collage of words that she told me over cookies one afternoon.
And the burden, or weight, of my neighbor’s story is laid so heavily upon me…
Stories that are beautiful and that invite you to dance, and stories that will slash your heart into the thinnest of ribbons with every sentence… stories that will make you hold your own loved ones closer to you before you leave them in the mornings, and stories that will twist you into a rage against the horrific and humiliating crimes perpetuated on fellow human beings on the planet you and I and they call home.
I have all these stories– stories that I’ve lived and stories that I’ve heard– stories I’ve been given as if they were communion wafers, in the most sacred and ordinary of human interactions, stories I’ve been haphazardly tossed because the discarder desired to distance himself from the dignity-stripping circumstances… stories shared over coffee or beer or laughter or campfires or tears or cigarettes or whispers.
And so when I sit and open my journal and try to decide what goes next on the page… Sometimes. I. Get. Stuck.
And sometimes I carry that stuck-ness over to here.
And sometimes I have to stare at the ceiling for hours to get it out.
But sometimes I take a break into a book or a poem or a painting… someone else telling one part of our Human Story, and I remember that I am so human and that to be without words is to be reminded that Some Holy Other holds this universe together, and contains in His Hand all the tension of the human story that makes me so overwhelmed with sorrow and joy and weakness and tenacity… and where His Hands hold together the beauty of broken humanity, i will rest.
And I will piece together my words or my pictures or my collections of silence as best I can, and then I will be still.
And I will remember that I do not have to make it all make sense, because I cannot and because I should not.
And I will remember that the complexity of the tension in the places of brokenness draws me to dwell with friends there, and I shall invite others to eat and drink and live with us there, too.
And I will remember that He is greater and that He has not given up on us, and I will take that remembrance to be my peace to pull me through another day, that I may grasp a shadow of that Divine Hope and cling to it, even if for only 24 hours at a time, because his mercies are new every morning, and so are the pages on which I get to co-create.