It’s amazing what can happen in a year.
A year ago, I started writing The Christian Girl’s Guide to Divorce. I had no goal in mind. For whatever reason, I wanted to tell my story, so I opened up. I didn’t think anyone would actually read it, or even really care. To me, divorce is ugly, yet so common, it’s actually uninteresting. Still, I was vulnerable. I portrayed myself as nothing other than real. Oh, and I exercised my potty mouth. A lot.
One year later, I have (almost) become a published author. In addition, I’ve finally accepted my talent as a writer. Mind you, I have always written, but it was in secret. For years, I wrote stories and hid them. I threw most of them away. I felt silly, writing things I knew nothing about.
Sometimes I still feel that way. Yet I am compelled to write.
Recently, I made a grandiose public announcement about going to the mountains and divorcing myself from society for four days to finish my book. You see, after I signed the contract with Burnside (who, by the way, I am even more in love with because of this very blog post by my publisher, Jordan Green), I felt it necessary to stop blogging the story of my divorce.
I had to save it for the book.
And so, I made an abrupt transition from writing about the past (upon which I have perspective) to the immediate present, and it has become even more — say, poignant? Messy? Vulnerable? Powerful? — than even I can handle. Every post feels like a disaster, yet somehow I know it isn’t.
There is more to the story of my divorce. I’m just interested in living and processing today. I have moved on. I fell in love again, and ultimately lost that love, but I’m still standing. I feel stupidly hopeful. As I’ve continued to grow, I simply haven’t felt like writing about X. The details don’t matter much anymore, even if they are shocking and can capture an audience.
This is a problem, though, because books have to have endings. Admittedly, I feel paralyzed, and I’m not exactly sure why.
Perhaps it’s simply because I’ve placed so much pressure on myself to be good; relevant. I know I have a following (this still baffles and excites me!), and I have to deliver. Yet, suddenly, I feel like a horrible writer. Perhaps it’s just that there is an end in sight, and I may wind up being a one-hit wonder. Sometimes, I am afraid I’ll never get asked on a date again if I’ve penned a book on divorce. I’ve imagined the criticism I will face, especially from the Christian community. I’ve already endured a little bit of difficulty in personal relationships.
I hate to break it to you, people, but if you’re in my life, I’m probably going to end up writing about you. My birthday party last week was hilarious in that most guests ended up meeting one another and exclaiming, “OH!!! You’re so-and so?! I feel like I know you! I’ve read about you in Leslie’s blog!”
I stood back and marveled at the amazing creatures in my life that took the time to celebrate me. And the conclusion I came to is this: if I write about you, it means I love you.
Back to finishing the book.
Once in the Sierra Nevada mountains, I was overwhelmed with the fresh, clean air; the blue sky, warm breeze, cool lake and familiarity of it all. My best friend Joy and I have been trekking to Hume Lake every summer since we were children. Her parents own an enormous family-sized cabin that is nestled on a hill, in between the most fragrant pine trees. As kids, we spent countless weekends swimming, jumping off the rock and paddling boats in the lake; riding four wheelers to the point of complete filth and exhaustion; hoping the two cute brothers that stayed a few cabins down would want to ride/hang out with us, and strengthening our bond of friendship, which, to this day, is the most loving, loyal and stable relationship of my life.
The summer after I graduated high school, I worked at Hume — in the Snack Shop. It was a horribly crappy job with long hours — definitely not as cool as being a lifeguard — but the people with whom I worked made it worthwhile. Almost every evening, while all other staff members had to observe the 11:00 p.m. curfew, we were closing up. Afterwards, we’d sneak out around the lake, lay on our backs and gaze up at the brilliant stars.
I have never seen more shooting stars in my life.
I was 17 years old. My whole life was ahead of me. Little did I know, I’d leave that summer job early to attend my orientation at U.C. Davis, only to decide that I hated it with a passion and didn’t want to go. Less than a month later, I found myself registering for classes on campus at Biola University: a last-minute, spontaneous decision that greatly impacted my life. Four years later, I was married.
In 2007, Joy and I began an annual tradition of returning to the cabin at Hume together. We returned again in 2008, but 2009-2011 were too difficult to take the time away. Joy got married, and I got divorced.
Finally: August, 2012 lent the opportunity.
We swam, jumped off the rock and paddled a canoe across the lake. We rode the very same four-wheeler, which is now a bit rickety, but relaxed in the hot tub afterwards. We interacted with wildlife, talked for hours and watched every Jane Austen movie imaginable. I kept intending to turn on my computer and finish the last few chapters left in my story, but I ended up devouring two books, instead.
I just couldn’t bring myself to write.
One evening, Joy went to bed before me, and I decided to sneak out. I didn’t go far, but it was the first time since 17 years old that I had the opportunity to lay on my back again, and gaze up at the pitch-black sky, which was speckled with dazzling, brilliant light.
Oh, God, I whispered in my soul. This is amazing.
I breathed in the pungent, sweet air, and heard branches crack below the deck. The raccoons were out, eating the leftover peanuts, gluten-free pancakes and rotten nectarines we had thrown over earlier in the day.
I kept gazing up at the night sky.
God, would You show me a shooting star? All I need is one. Prove to me that You are here. I dare You. Just one.
I squeezed my eyes shut and opened them again, expecting a majestic display of solar fireworks, all because I had asked.
A satellite cruised across the sky, followed a few minutes later by a noisy jet.
Still, no shooting star.
The raccoons finished their snack and waddled off into the darkness.
Come on, God, please? Remember all those shooting stars You showed me years ago? Maybe I didn’t appreciate them as much as I would now. All I’m asking for is one. I know You can do that. No pressure, though. Only if You want to. I’ll just be down here, waiting. Well, until the bears come out. So…PLEASE?!
I started to realize how ridiculous I sounded. Me, a broken human being, demanding that God give me something just because I wanted it so very badly in that moment. The truth is, I didn’t need to see a shooting star to know God exists. I had the vast array of the heavens twinkling before me. I just wanted one for the sake of nostalgia; to say I saw a shooting star. Maybe even more so as a symbol that God hears me, loves me, and is willing to indulge me.
I started laughing, and then, to my surprise, tears of thankfulness rolled down my cheeks as the realization (part deux times twelve hundred) hit me:
I’m exactly where You want me to be. I’ll finish this book with Your help. Right now, I just need to enjoy this time with You.
I smiled, and let the remaining tears slide down the sides of my face, then onto the redwood deck. In the distance, I heard another branch crack, and decided it was time to go to bed.
I stood up and brushed myself off. As I headed back inside, I briefly craned my neck, one last time.
There it was.
It didn’t even last a second. It wasn’t the most brilliant or memorable shooting star I have ever seen, but I’m quite certain I’m the only person in the world to have seen it.
It was for me.