We sat there silently through the eternity of the next
few moments. There was nothing more to say.
—Ira Wagler: Growing Up Amish
They call it the waiting game. The death march. And probably a few other choice descriptive terms they didn’t bother to mention. The most stressful time in the entire process of writing a book.
It’s that long dead stretch after the manuscript is finished, and there’s nothing more for the author to do. Nothing, that is, but wait. Wait for the publisher to plod through all the steps. Galleys. Final edits. And then that final endless wasteland. After all the editing, waiting for the release date.
They warned me of it, the Tyndale people. I chuckled quietly to myself. How silly, I thought. How could anything be more stressful than writing a book? Especially a book as improbable and, yes, as impossible as my own? Think of the stress of that. Seemed pretty obvious to me. After it was all done, I’d relax. Chill for a few months.
I’ve been idle now for some time. Except for a few final changes that were inserted into the manuscript after sporadic email exchanges and couple of brief conversations with Susan Taylor, my editor. It’s done. The book is done. No more edits from me, no more nothing.
Of course, they were right, as they pretty much have been throughout this process. They’d seen it countless times before. It always happens, like a formula, I suppose. They knew well the time would come for me.
And now the season of stress has arrived, rolling in like some winter storm. I should have known better than to doubt them.
It’s the strangest form of stressful tension I have ever experienced. Not the brutal bitter intense stuff in which I was immersed four years ago. You brace up for that, lower your head and doggedly trudge forward until things get better.
This is a solid, steady undertow, deep inside the pit of my stomach. Just there, roiling incessantly, like calm but crashing waves. Wearying in its quiet persistence. I try to focus on other things. My job. Working out feverishly at the gym. Hanging with friends now and then. Writing this blog. And yet, it’s the first thing that greets me each morning, that tension deep inside. Silent, heavy, a thing always present in every waking moment.
Not that I’m grumbling. I most definitely am not. Just saying how it is. I’d a lot rather experience all this tension than to never have had the chance to do so.
Now that the writing is done, I’ll huddle down in my hovel and stay a spell. Won’t bother the Tyndale people. They are doing what needs to be done. If they need my input, they’ll let me know. I’m only one of a dozen or two half-freaked, whacked-out authors my contacts are managing. The least I can do is to be the silent one.
Fortunately, though, I can express myself right here.
In my opinion, the Great American Novel was written decades ago. You Can’t Go Home Again, by Thomas Wolfe. Pure genius. And the truth of that famous line is still as powerful today as it ever was.
From certain rumblings, from one certain quarter, Wolfe’s creed will hold true for me as well, it seems. Which is not that surprising, really. It’s been thus, for those who penned their thoughts and memories of their past, probably since written language was developed. But still, it’s a bit jolting to experience first hand.
One can write in the most sensitive manner of which one is capable, and yet, because of intense cultural pressures, all that sensitivity will simply be ignored. No grace whatsoever for the chronicler. None. The minutest detail will be closely scrutinized under a microscope to uncover the minutest error, however trivial.
All the hurtful, damning details left untold are discounted as less than nothing. Because of a few paragraphs, honestly told, that are so insignificant that no one would otherwise have even noticed. And thus unfolds a great drama, a production of offense, complete with harsh accusations of dark ulterior motives. It’s all so trivial. And I’m so far removed from that mindset that I can no longer comprehend it. Not in any rational sense.
And, of course, an alternative scenario is trotted out to disprove my own, a “memory” so far removed from what really happened that it borders on delusion. It’s all a bit of a mess. Wouldn’t have to be. But it is.
They are tricky things, memories. And sure, I might be wrong on some details, here and there. But the things that happened in my life in a myriad of defining moments, the essence of them, those are locked inside my mind. As vividly as if they happened two minutes ago. And on those details I will not budge. Never.
It’s maddening, really, the inordinate fussing from a single place. And deeply frustrating. Maybe I should have included a smattering of all the stuff left unsaid, so there would be a real reason to fuss. And yet, I could not write those prurient details. Because they are not important in the retelling; they are merely a “tickling of the ears,” and serve no other purpose.
I have never written that kind of stuff. And I won’t start now. But it’s tempting, to think of what might have been written that wasn’t.
And, perhaps in the passion of the moment, without allowing for the necessary time for proper reflection or cooling down, words were written in slashing lines and sent to me. On paper. Words that probably would have been better left unwritten. Words that I will always have. Always. On paper. And every single syllable, every single such strident reactionary communication sent to me is filed away, perhaps to be woven into some future story at some distant date. That’s just how it is.
Just a word of warning there, for anyone who might be contemplating the launch of their own vendetta. Don’t do it. It’s not worth the hassle, the effort, or the energy. Trust me on this. Don’t go there.
A place that for decades (but not in recent years) in the past I had considered as “home” is now all but lost, as in reality it has been for some time, I suppose. And possibly some family ties might end up frayed as well, if things are pushed to that point. However one looks at it, that’s just plain senseless and silly. And totally tragic. Not that I want to be overly dramatic. My family is my family, and will always be. And my blood is my blood. Nothing will ever sever that.
I have my flaws, I know. My list of more or less ordinary faults and failures. And my life story, well, it pretty much mirrors the classic tale of woe that Amish preachers have always recounted with great relish.
The wayward son, who would not submit. Who insisted on going his own way. Out into the world. Who went to college, and then law school. And then married an “English” woman (Not born English, but thoroughly so in every other respect). Nothing good could possibly come from that. And on that point, it might seem they were right, at least to their way of thinking. No one can deny the factual evidence.
But now, suddenly, shockingly, after all these years, he’s speaking about his past, the wayward son. Writing it, for all the world to read. About who he was and where he was. And the characters around him, including those he loved and those who loved him.
It must be a bit of a jolt, for those back there in my past, still comfortably cocooned in their own little world.
How dare he? Look at who he is.
I’m divorced. That’s the first line they will always use, dramatically intoned, of course. And nothing more needs to be said. What can a man like that possibly have to say that could be of any value? I should be holed up, huddled in my shell, grateful and visibly humbled that anyone could possibly dredge up the vast amount of Christian charity it takes to even deign to acknowledge my existence. (Well, maybe that’s a bit overwrought. But hey, I was on a roll there.)
Anyway, despite what they might think or admit to saying, there is something more to be said. Actually, a lot more to be said. Even by one such as me. About how it was. And how it went. Way back when.
My defense: I have tried to be honest. About who I was, and who I am. And about those around me, in all their humanity. At an admittedly steep cost sometimes to others.
Which might not be fair to them sometimes. But I can’t see any other way to tell it.
Always, I’ve tried to be honest. In my blog. And in my book. Although I suppose my readers will have to make the final call on that.
The Tyndale people were right, as usual. The long wait is all they claimed it would be.Share