“Well, I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor,
and I’m happy to state I finally won out over it.”
James Stewart in “Harvey”, 1950
I resumed work on my book this week. Sometimes when I say those two words “my” and “book” I have to fight the feeling that I am James Stewart describing his invisible 6-foot, 3-and-a-half-inch tall rabbit friend, Harvey, to dubious onlookers. Fortunately, most of my friends and family know the book actually does exist (in whatever rough form) and are very supportive. Yesterday two different friends in two different places asked me the same question, “So how’s the book coming?” I may as well tell you what I told them, in case for some odd reason you were wondering, too.
My current project, working title “Felt Stories“, is creative non-fiction and based on my journey as a woman with intimacy issues. The frame of the book is a box of my Grandma Finney’s Sunday School flannelgraphs which I inherited from my mom. Inside that frame is a winding tangle of stories about my struggle as a woman with regard to sex in marriage and intimacy with God. As I have wrestled my way to the bottom of a box of felt Bible stories, I have also been unraveling my own story of healing. It begins as my story as a pastor’s daughter who grew up in a suburb of Chicago, immersed in middle-class American Protestant culture, and winds through my years as a recovering wife and mom. In a larger sense, it’s a pretty universal story of wrestling with faith.
The flannelgraphs are pretty humorous. The logos and branding are clearly from the late1950’s. I often describe the flannel backed paper props as Sunday School cartoons featuring Elizabeth Taylor and Charleston Heston in bathrobes. Even though the Bible is obviously set in olive-toned, black-haired places like modern day Iraq, Iran, and Egypt, most all the main players in the flannel stories are light-haired, white northern Europeans. The folders of sequential storytelling instructions are to the point if not a bit dogmatic. And even if the pictorial casting was questionable at best or prejudiced at worst, the stories are true to form.
Altogether, one tale after the other, my box of felt stories plays out the troublesome ways of faulty people loved by a redeeming God.
Initially, I opened the box with a posture of disagreement. I was ready to argue with the flannelgraphs, with the way mainline protestant churches have often relegated women to typewriters, pianos, and children’s ministries; with the way the topic of true intimate sex has been silently avoided in sanctuaries and reduced to something which warrants whispers and caution. Bottom line: I brought my womanly baggage to the box and found something surprising in return. It’s not a tidy ending … it’s just the beautiful mess of real life.
That said, the process of writing this story has been as much about my journey of recovery in marriage and faith as it has been about my path as a writer. I set the project down for a couple months to concentrate on other writerly things and recovery. Inside of that, I started going to a 12 Step group for recovering intimacy anorexics (read about that HERE). In doing the step work for my meetings, I inadvertently picked up a couple of crucial missing pieces for the book. When I sat back down to read over the draft and write, things started falling together in a new way. Honestly feels like divine timing.
So, April is my re-ignition month for Felt Stories. New material. New day. New draft. This time next year (crossed fingers) I hope to have an actual completed manuscript. And hopefully, at some point, I won’t feel like I’m talking about an invisible rabbit anymore.
True For You, Too
Following a crazy dream requires more of us than we could imagine. This is what it feels like to walk an uncharted path without a map. This is how the edge of the unknown feels. And just in case you are facing a similar challenge in your own life, hear me say this: “Keep going friend. No matter the outcome, the process of pursuing your passion is worth it.”
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