About three years ago, someone told me that what I was writing was wood and clay and not gold because I was writing from my pain. (I think that’s what’s called adding insult to injury.) Interestingly, I ended up building a ministry in the midst of my pain and have had many women tell me that it was because I was writing from my place of pain and because I was so authentic and raw that I was able to connect with them and resonate with them and actually help them.
Then recently I wrote about how good my new marriage is while pointing out the reality that life is still hard and even wonderful partnerships can’t make all the hard things just melt away, and therefore, finding a new man shouldn’t be the goal.
One reader responded this way:
“If this is the direction these blogposts are going to continue in I may need to unsubscribe. Elisabeth, you’re fast losing your connection with your base.”
I can’t win.
(I have deleted her comment so no one would try to write her, and she has since in fact unsubscribed from my blog.)
As a writer for almost fifteen years now, I know better than to let one negative comment sting. But it did. As in, breath left my body as if someone had punched me. I also know better than to respond to one negative comment – and trust me, I have let hundreds go over the years – but I think she may not be the only one who is thinking what she’s thinking. So, I have many, random, rambly thoughts to share with those of you who may share her view.
The direction these blogposts are going: If by “the direction these blogposts are going”, she means that I’m now writing about being remarried, well, yes, that is now going to happen. When I was in my hard marriage, I wrote about that. When I was separated, I wrote about that. When I was going through my divorce, I wrote about that. When I was figuring out being a single mom, I wrote about that. When I was dating, I wrote about that. Now that I’m remarried, I’m going to write about that. The direction my writing goes is the direction God is taking my life. And I write what I know. So, yes.
HOWEVER, though some people in their healing ask God to remove all memory of their painful experiences, I have not done that. In fact, because of my speaking and writing ministry, I have specifically asked God to heal me, of course, and to dull the pain, certainly, but I have also asked him to let the memories remain clear enough so that I will always, always be able to relate. And he has done this for me, this mysterious balance of me being able to recall as if living it out in real-time those moments such as being curled up in a ball on my bathroom floor sobbing so deeply that my body thought it would combust, begging Jesus to kill me because I was being made to feel so crazy in my marriage I didn’t think I could stand it another moment. Or the time I was threatened and couldn’t believe my ears. Or the moments in AlAnon where I learned something so key to my sanity that I felt the heavens part and a light shine down on my fragile heart and mind. Or the times I shared with a fellow believer what was going on and I was told to praise my husband more or hold my tongue more and how unheard and dismissed I felt.
I remember the pain. Let me clarify: I remember the pain that you’re in now. So deeply and tenderly. And yet, I have at the same time been given the profound gift of moving on and not letting that pain turn into bitterness and ruin me for all future relationships.
Also, I write about all of these topics – hard marriage, separation, abuse, addiction, dating, the Church, divorce, single parenting – still, all the time, all intertwined. I have not moved on to simply blogging about remarriage. I still write about all of it and plan to continue to do so.
And, I will always have in my arsenal of life experience a twenty-three-year difficult relationship. I will always be a divorcee. I will always have that four years of being a single woman and a single mom. And I currently still have one more year of co-parenting (if you can call it that) and all its battles. I will always be one of you and I am still one of you.
Finally to this point, human to human, you should want my writing to evolve, just as I desire for each of my readers to move out of their place of deep pain into a place of deep healing. You shouldn’t want me to write about pain all day every day. You shouldn’t want to read about pain all day every day.
Fast losing connection with your base: Though I mostly write to women in hard marriages and those who are divorcing and single moms, I also write about writing. And abuse. And the Church. And social justice. And dating. And pain in general. And now remarriage. And how faith intermingles with all of it.
I’ve never said that my base is only women in hard marriages and those who are divorced. In fact, for well over a year now, my tagline has been creating resources that help hurting women by bringing them hope, and I believe my job is simply to take the pain that God has allowed into my life and the redemption that he has brought about and then sharing it. My “base”, first and foremost, is for me to determine, and I have. And what I have determined is this: it is any woman who is hurting, any woman who has an ounce of faith, any woman who has a relationship she struggles with, any woman who wants more and better for herself and her children and relationships. And I believe that’s what I write about every time I come to the table.
I may need to unsubscribe: This part may come across as harsh, but that is not my heart’s intent, so please bear with me.
I do not make anyone read my blog. Just like if Rachel Ray decided to start blogging about how to catch a trout every now and again as opposed to making thirty-minute meals every day – which, by the way, would be her prerogative because it would be her blog – her subscribers may want to filter what they read, the same goes here.
Also, my writing here on my blog – though my heart and soul on the page – is freely consumed. Other than my generous Patreon supporters, I am not paid for what I do on this blog. If you had purchased a CD from a singer/songwriter expecting twelve Christmas tracks and instead found yourself listening to Gregorian chants or something, please, by all means, return the CD for your money back. If I charged each reader to read my blog, promising that they’d get a post on painful marriages or painful divorces every time, and I supplied you with tips on redecorating, okay. But I do not. Though this is my life’s work, you are able to come and go as you please and simply consume.
Listen, I need you to know that I get this. I really, really get this part. There is a writer whom I love. I adore how she strings words together and I devour each book she puts out. But I had to stop reading her blog. Because in her blog she talks about her gazillion speaking engagements and being flown hither and yon and her book deals and her multiple editors and… Umm, hear the bitter envy in my voice, perchance? I read her blog and look at her amazing success and want to throw my phone against the wall. Not totes healthy. So I’ve had to decide not to read her blog anymore. So, I really do get it if you’re hurting and I’m sitting here talking about being happily remarried how you might just want to strangle me. I get it.
Okay, and now a sidenote to that sidenote. Though I write pretty raw, real stuff here, I don’t typically share certain details. Last week I talked about falling asleep crying and waking up crying due to a few overwhelming circumstances in my life. If envy is what you’re feeling when you read my blog these days, I don’t think you’d envy me if you knew the sad and hard and crazy-making things that are weighing on my heart and mind in this season of my life. Remember: though we tend to compare our insides to everyone else’s outsides, we should only be comparing who we are now to who we used to be. Okay, enough on that point.
I wish you’d stay, but if what I am writing doesn’t resonate with you anymore, I do not want to add to your pain. That is the last thing I want to do. You will be missed and I wish you nothing but healing and restoration.
Finally, I know that this has more to do with the commenter and her pain and her place in her journey than it does with me. But I felt I needed to say all of this because I’ve had people ask me, “Hey, now that you’re remarried and not in that place anymore, are you going to keep doing what you’re doing?” And for right now my answer is an equivocal yes. Because there are so many hurting women. Because God, for this season and for a reason I don’t understand, has set me in a place and time to be their – our – voice. Because I can gratefully do so without losing my mind and without staying stuck in my pain. Because I can see the whole length and breadth now of the cycle of pain and stuckness and grieving and restoration and coming back to life and redemption.
So as long as there are women who find even the tiniest bit of resonance with my stories and my perspective, I will keep writing for them. And from my deepest places I do not want hurt anyone, so I will hold in my hands both the promise to keep writing with integrity and authenticity while remembering that I don’t want to cause further damage with my words to anyone who is already in pain.
And if we fall out of step, I will understand, and we will say goodbye and we will all be fine. Because it’s not about us really, it’s about the story of God and redemption and hope. And those stories will just keep on going and going and going, no matter who’s telling them and no matter who’s listening.