March 11, 2011

The Long Wait…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:49 pm

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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.

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(12 Comments) »

  1. No regrets Ira. What will be, will be.

    You could try filling your time by starting your next book…

    Comment by shawn smucker — March 11, 2011 @ 7:33 pm

  2. You do well describing the bitter low which follows a completed project. Makes me feel a little better. No one ever warned me.
    We were back to the home community this week for a funeral. I was asked outright, to stop writing Amish fiction.
    I tried to explain, but there is only one conclusion allowed, so I didn’t try too hard.
    Had a good time otherwise.

    Comment by Jerry Eicher — March 11, 2011 @ 9:28 pm

  3. And you think you’re under stress?? I can only imagine what some of your past acquaintances are feeling right now. There may be a lot of nail biting going on.

    Comment by Rhoda — March 11, 2011 @ 10:39 pm

  4. Recently a person asked me with the deepest suspicion (it seemed to be an eager suspicion) he could muster, “Does Ira bash the Amish?”

    I looked him in the eye and replied, “Ira is honest about the Amish.”

    “Oh.” And the subject was changed.

    Comment by Richard Miller — March 12, 2011 @ 12:08 am

  5. Hardly “overwrought” in my opinion. In my opinion & experience, a complete understatement. I second Shawn on you starting your next book.

    Comment by Moe — March 12, 2011 @ 1:22 am

  6. Don’t let them pull you down or second guess your efforts. Now is not the time to look back, but to celebrate a great accomplishment. People will always remember things differently when you go back 25-30 yrs. But hey, it’s your book!!

    Comment by P Graber — March 12, 2011 @ 3:45 pm

  7. The truth will stand. You have a gift, a message, and a calling to be a truth-teller. I’ve enjoyed reading your perspective in your blog and I look forward to reading your book.

    Comment by Anna — March 12, 2011 @ 9:53 pm

  8. This is one reason I’m drawn to Ira’s blog, the man bares his soul and is sometimes brutally honest. Not many of us can write that way. Let’s hope that Tyndale House doesn’t change or deviate from his original storyline and memoir.

    Sadly, the Amish and related “plain” groups’ view of divorce and remarriage is to paint every case with the same broad brush. Forbidden, no exceptions. Ranks right up there with the awful sin of the women not wearing a “head-covering”. Until God’s sovereign grace and mercy are rightfully understood there will be continued enforcement of man made rules, etc. A careful study of the book to the Corinthians proves the Bible does allow for divorce and remarriage under certain circumstances. God’s people, “are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.” 1 Cor. 7:23

    E.S.Gingerich

    Comment by e. s. gingerich — March 23, 2011 @ 1:07 pm

  9. I want to be like…write like…you. Brutally true to yourself. Let others around you say and think what they may but I will be TRUE. Thank-you for writing! I look forward to reading your book.
    – Kathy

    Comment by Kathy Fisrhe — March 31, 2011 @ 10:07 pm

  10. I loved your book, couldn’t put it down, but wondered why you were not taught about the love of Jesus and His saving grace, and forgiveness, instead of rules and regulations. No wonder you left! You were empty! No one told you that we get to Heaven through our belief in Jesus, not being Amish. I hope you are having a good life

    Comment by Susan — August 20, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

  11. I just finished your book GROWING UP AMISH. I am fascinated by the Amish culture and was so surprised to learn that for the most part they don’t know Jesus as personal friend as well as savior–so SAD….. All through the book, I was hurting so badly for you with your struggles and screaming inside “It isn’t being Amish that gets you into heaven–it’s appropriating Jesus’ sacrifice for your sins” FINALLY, at the end of the book, you experience God/Jesus for REAL–Whew, now you know God loves you and has forgiven you for all time and eternity!!!!! Yea God!

    I grew up in the Episcopal Church–also not knowing I could know God/Jesus personally (but not with all the legalistic trappings). He drew me and I met Him and have never desired to turn away. We go to a non-denominational church (Family of Christ) here in Petoskey, MI. I grew up in Muncie and Tom grew up in Anderson–never knew the Amish back then. I just remember seeing a sign or two on our way to Michigan for vacation when I was very young that said “Jesus Saves”. I thought, “How quaint or naive,” and so on, as you would say…..tee-hee.

    Thanks for sharing your story and for being so brutally honest with yourself, with us, but most of all with God who in the end is the only one who counts anyway. Continued blessings and love in Jesus.

    Genie Brown (met Jesus in ’68 at the age of 33)

    Comment by Genie Brown — October 24, 2011 @ 7:10 pm

  12. I suppose, Ira, when a group of people are exposed for wrongdoing they’re going to retaliate. The sad part is, when a person writes or speaks their story…well, you can’t get much rawer than that…and for someone to sling arrows at you while your exposed and bloody…it’s just so wrong.

    Nobody, but nobody has the right or authority to judge you for being divorced. It’s just another way sick people have of making themselves appear more lofty than others. It’s juvenile and there is no love in it. Am I saying I’m all for divorce? No. Divorce wounds people and it’s devastating on children. But it’s done and people need to be comforted through it.

    Comment by Francine — April 14, 2014 @ 12:26 am

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