Why I Write

I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. ― Joss Whedon

Writing is exhausting. Writing hurts. Writing is a disappointment and a joy all at once. Writing is bleeding, sweating, crying, aching. And it’s so beautiful.

Writing has been a heavy burden for me of late, one that I’ve had to consciously set down and walk away from for a time. Perhaps my anxiety was just getting the best of me, bleeding me dry. Perhaps I was simply out of words. Or more likely, I was afraid of my own words. I do not know for certain.

But I do know that I burned and yearned to write, and I am crawling back. The process has been painful. Wrenching, even. I can’t quite explain it.

It was like locking a part of me away. But writing had ceased to be a joy to me, and I was letting the disappointment of writing get the best of me. My words always felt so forced and false. I was trying so hard to be a good writer that I could hardly even write, and I was going mad.

I wanted to be great. I wanted recognition. I wanted wows and whoas and oohs and ahhs. I wanted attention. I wanted acknowledgement. I daresay I needed it.

The year after graduating and getting married was a difficult one for me, and any and all sense of self and confidence was slowly draining. I desperately needed someone to tell me I was good enough, that my words were powerful and poignant. And with every piece of positive feedback I would receive, I’d start building myself, putting together who I thought I was in light of what and who people said I was.

And you know what happens after that? When you start defining your worth according to other people’s opinions, it’s only a matter of time before your identity is washed away by the same. There will be that moment after you bleed your heart into a piece, and no one responds. No one praises you. No one is astounded or appreciated or touched or moved. And that will chip at you. It will eat at you. You’ll start to believe you are nothing.

Talk about painful and disappointing.

I don’t think I want to write for others anymore. At least, not for their praise.

As a child, I wrote because it transformed me and built me up and tore me down and rebirthed me and explained me and confused me. I wrote because the act of writing made me who I am. The process of writing was invigorating, the kind of suffering writing inflicted was addicting, and the words I penned pruned me, pricked me, prodded me. My own words defined me, not the words of others.

I’m so thankful and blessed to know that some of my words have echoed, that things that have burned through me have also burned through others. I am truly humbled and astounded by the warm responses I’ve received about my writing over the years. I will always carry those joys with me. But I can’t let them define me anymore.

I need to remember that who I am comes from the process, not the response. I am a writer whether anyone else can attest to that. I know because I write. I write terribly. I write well. But I always write.

I will write these words, and even if no one ever reads them, or if they fall flat, or if I never receive a syllable of praise, I still am who I am, and I’ve still written a part of myself into being. I am still a writer because I wrote, whether the words were grand or gross.

God, I pray I remember that.

No one else may ever say a word in response. But I write who I am, so there will be flat words and stupid words. There will be folly and catastrophe and pride and humility and anger and joy.

And there will be me and my words.


The Thing I Could Not Ruin

I realize now I was hard to love.

I want you to know that I did not know the things I was ruining. I did not know how much strength it took for you to hold your tongue and my hand as I sobbed and screamed and thrashed. I didn’t know how it ripped at you when I ripped from you and retreated into myself. I did not know that the walls I built were wide and almost insurmountable. When I looked in the mirror, I saw outlines and shadows. I didn’t know what you saw–the tears, the smeared mascara, the empty grey eyes.

I don’t remember the words I said to you, and part of me is thankful for that. I don’t remember what weapons I wielded or hurts I hurled at you from behind my walls.

I realize now that my panic, my terror, my fear–it was yours, too. I thought I was all alone, that no one understood, that I would forever be this mess of depression and anxiety and pain and forever be alone to carry it all. It was my burden to bear, I said. He can’t understand.

I realize now it was yours, too, and with every tear you wiped away, you took a piece of my heaviness and made it yours.

In the late hours of the night when I couldn’t sleep, you followed me as I wandered, picking up the broken pieces of who I was that I was leaving behind, and you kept them. I did not know you were collecting the parts of me that fell, that you would help me back me back together.

Sleepless nights were the worst. I would move from the bed next to you to the floor, from the floor to the closet, from the closet to the couch, from the couch to the porch, and everywhere I went, the restlessness and the demons followed. But so did you, militant, armed with a blanket to keep my warm and strong hands to pull me up from the pit. But even the strongest hands quiver when the things they hold shake and tremble like the earth quaking in turmoil, and I left you in an aftershock.

The sleeping nights were no better, and when I awoke in terror in the middle of the night, you did, too, and my tears burned your face as much as they burned mine. I would grasp for your hand, but push it away when it came.

I’m sorry, you would say, and I would cry more because I was sorry, too, but not for me. For you. I didn’t want you ruined. I didn’t want to ruin you.

I realize now that you were my rock, and my tears eroded a little bit of you away.

I know now that I was as exhausting as I was exhausted.

But your love is inexhaustible.

The sun would go down, the night and the dark well on its way, and I would say, I wish I were not here, and I know now what you knew then: I meant, I wish I were dead.

What I didn’t know was that a little bit of you would die every time I said those words, that the words would try to ruin and wither you. But I want you to know, I couldn’t feel a thing, and the words were just mush and ruin to me. How could I have known how sharply and deeply those words would stab into your heart? I didn’t know.

I didn’t know I was hard to love. I didn’t realize that every time you lit a lantern to light my way, I blew it out. I tried to ruin your light.

I didn’t know that I used up all your fuel, that you were out of the car, on your hand and knees pushing the me the whole way up the mountain I simply could not climb. I didn’t see you slip and lose traction and get right back up just to keep pushing. I sat in the driver’s seat and steered, weighing things down, trying to navigate through the mire. I didn’t know you were doing all the heavy-lifting.

I know now.

I know now I was hard to love.

You were my rock and my high place, and I stood on top of you, heavy with my burdens, and as the storms hit, I let the waves crash against you while I searched for dry land.

I realize now because of you–formidable, wonderful, indestructible you–I am here, learning to love you. Because of you, I was able to heal. Because you kept track of who I was, collected me as I fell apart, I was able to find myself again.

You were all the best things I could not see. You were the dry land, the rock, the light in the dark, and the hands pulling me out of the pit. You were all the best things I tried to ruin, but praise God that I could not.

I could not ruin you. I did not ruin you. Because you are still all of the best things, and I am so glad you loved me.

I will not be afraid.

I will walk through the fire. I will not be afraid. They can take everything that I have, but they can’t give me my name (The Classic Crime, “My Name”).

I so desperately want to be fearless not because I want to be bold but because I simply want to be me again.

I want to be the child I was–the bold one with dreams and imagination and words and dances and ideas. I don’t know what happened, but in the midst of growing up these past couple years, I forgot what it meant to be me, to be Kelsey. Truly, fully me. I closed up. I do not know why, but I do know it is frightening to not know who you really are.

I have always carried anxiety in tow, and part of me knows that it will probably never fully be left behind. And I can grapple with anxiety. I can fight it hard and send it scampering away.

But fear… Fear is another thing entirely, and it’s a foe I am so much less equipped to fight. And it had made itself home in my heart.

I don’t know how it happened, but one day in the recent past, I must have awoke afraid, and here I am tonight, still afraid. I once dreamed brave dreams, and I wrote them down in journals with tear-stained pages, and I chased after things that brought my soul to life, and I didn’t care if I wasn’t the best because I just wanted to be there, doing and living and being a part of my dreams.

They are simple dreams. To write. To teach. To love. To inspire. To feel fulfilled. I had every confidence that by this time in my life, I’d have accomplished them all.

And now I just dream of getting by. There have been times where that was truly all I could manage, and that is okay. Staying alive is a worthwhile dream to pursue.

But now I’m out of the valley of the shadow, and I’m ready to fear no more. I’m beyond the dark places, I have clawed my way through thorns and bristles, and Jesus has shown himself to be as loving and gracious as he has always said he is. Yet I am still as crippled and perturbed by the world around me as I was in the dark. With light all around me, with Christ’s hands clasped in mine, I am so unsure. I’m afraid to lift my eyes. I dare not.

And why? Why can’t I lift my eyes? Look around? Take it all in? Move forward? Trust? What am I so afraid of?

Falling. No more do I dream brave dreams. I dream of falling. I don’t recall dreaming of falling very often in my life, but I do now, and I sometimes wake up in terror before I realize it was not real. That I am in a warm bed. That I am safe.

There are days that the same fear follows me all day, and I am anxious to be out in the real world where falling is not just a dream. I want to be home, in my room, away from risk or change. I want a bed and sleep–dreamless, thoughtless sleep.

But I always have to wake up eventually, sometimes to face a fearsome day, and to confront fears and anxieties. Some days I conquer it all. Some days I just get by with enough. And maybe that’s okay.

But I want so much more. I want my dreams to be that of my childhood. I want what young Kelsey wanted. I want to write heavy words, to read plots of victory and vulnerability, to teach, to inspire, to love, and to grow. And I want all of this without a dark shadow of fear latched to my person like a terrible, deprecating shadow.

Put simply, I want Kelsey. The real me. The fearless me who followed her Savior and trusted the gifts and opportunities He had for her.

Fear is heavy, and it’s the kind of anchor that makes itself a noose around your neck. It pulls you from the surface, deep down away from the light, and it’s a fight to make your way out of the more. I want out of the mire and muck.

I can see the surface; it’s just at my fingertips.

I am held, and held firmly in hands that are stronger and more sure than I can fathom. He has pulled me out of deeper depths, and He will never stop calling my name.

To Him, I have always been Kelsey, and He will always bring me back, cut loose the noose, and walk with me toward whatever path.