I am contemplative and introverted. I am tactile and love to make things. These are all catalysts for articulating my individuality. I am also an alcoholic, a drug addict, an egomaniac with an inferiority complex and an emotional lightning rod. These things do not supply my identity either, though they are as much a part of me as the traits I cherish. And I am equally grateful for them because the helplessness they triggered ushered me further into dependence on God and finding my place on the path, one step at a time.
Young children naturally explore who they are and what their world is by spending their time wondering and discovering the world through the joy of play. I learned about friendship, nature, and my small town Ohio world in my hours of play with my friend Kim, and those memories have inspired me to give my own children time and opportunity to imagine and wonder without my interference. The mystery and magic of the benefits of play must be experienced as a child, and if a little water and mud are mixed into the process, then it’s even better.
Language distinguishes us, but it’s still just empty space. Space I can see but not touch, and that’s not enough. I need to hold onto a meaning with texture, with a sharpness that cuts into my hands, gets in my blood.
If this is so important, why don’t I understand it, why isn’t it obvious?
Like committing crummy jokes to memory, remembering is intentional, the discovery of great gain in contentment. Where the debris of spilled baggage reaches its angle of repose, the place where physical objects come to rest along an incline (to borrow from Wallace Stegner), there is rest from the near-constant onslaught of shame, of striving to be enough, to make ourselves worthy, to, in effect, make gods of ourselves. And maybe not being enough is a healthy place to be, a place where God is good and is enough, all the time.
I think fiction writers do have something I lack. They must have the capacity to close their eyes, at least a little bit, to the world outside their window. With eyes half open they are free to imagine. Free to conjure whole worlds and lives. They are magicians as much as artists, and I am the grateful recipient of their magic.
But I cannot close my eyes. Not even a little bit. I write nonfiction because so many memories are tapping at my window, there is no room left in my mind for any invention. I am wholly preoccupied observing and studying that which is already there.