Retreating into Pages

Credit: Joel Montes via Creative Commons

Credit: Joel Montes via Creative Commons


I really met my biological father when I was twelve years old. It was the summer between seventh and eight grade. I started smoking pot that summer, beginning with a “huff shot” from a boy I liked the night before I was to get on a plane to California. The air was muggy that night, and it was so hot there was a weird haze in the air. My friends had been trying to get me to get high with them for months, but I wouldn’t do it during the school year. This night, on the eve of a major life event with a dozen raging emotions flinging themselves around in my soul, I gave into the peer pressure and desire to impress my cute stoner boy. I felt the tornado of feelings slow to a breeze and slept like a baby that night.

An unnaturally chipper stewardess introduced herself to me a few hours later as my “flight friend.” She’d be sure I got where I needed to be and was taken care of until I was safely passed on to the stranger called Dad when we landed. The flight was uneventful (I have loved flying ever since) and my dad found me at LAX without event. As soon as we passed through the terminal and walked outside a homeless man approached me asking for money for food. This was my first, first experience in California. I dug into my pocket, grabbed the wad of cash my mom had given me, and handed it over before my dad realized what was happening. Thus began my first fatherly guidance regarding being in a Big City.

I don’t remember much about that trip. Everything in LA was grey – roads, air, trees, people. We went to a baseball game, the mall, a Chinese take-out place (another love that began on that trip). My grandpa looked like the old guy in Dennis the Menace, was really funny, and seemed to like me. I mostly confused my grandma. I think I met some other relatives that year – tall, blonde people amongst whom I felt very out of place with my stubby legs and dark lanky hair. My grandma told me about cousins who surfed and went to college and did other cool, rich, California-y things.

Meanwhile I spent a lot of time thinking about my life back home. I had kind of fallen in love with someone the year before (I was a really intense kid), someone who had loved me back but in really broken ways. We’d gotten into a huge public fight before school ended and he had moved away to life with his dad. It was the darkest point I would experience at home – violence and police and drugs and abuse. I was terrified most of the time. At home and with my family I was an outsider because of time spent living elsewhere. I was an outsider with my friends because I actually liked school and was good at it. At school I was an outsider because I was in advanced classes with all the normal, functional kids. I began my teen angst early, and with flair.

My dad lived with a woman named Elaine. She was a little younger than him, and she seemed to actually see me (not everyone sees kids at that age). I don’t remember much about our conversations, but I remember opening up to her like I’d never opened up to anyone – about home and Chris and my future and myself. Near the end of the trip she gave me advice that changed my life.

“You should write all this down. Like in a journal, or try writing poetry.”

I’d never been told about journaling or poetry or writing cathartically, but she had some loose leaf paper lying around so late that night I wrote a poem about Chris. Man, was it bad. But it broke something loose in me. I started writing that night and haven’t stopped. Journaling became a lifeline through my teen years and I honestly believe it’s one of the things that saved me through those days. I’ve filled a dozen journals with poetry, stories, rage letters, and tears. Some of it I’ve shared; much of it I never will. But Elaine put a tool in my hand that day that was much greater than pen and paper. She gave me the ability to express, process and record the journey of my soul. Writing has been a release, a lever, a sewage dump creating compost for a new garden of growth in my life.

The Sabbath is a day to rest in all the Lord has done in my life. One of the guiding principles for Jewish observers of the Sabbath was to not create in an attempt to rest in all that God has created. For me, though, writing has become a way to find Him. I’ve felt the words of God’s spirit to me pour through my own hand and wept as I read of His love lavished on me. I’ve put the pen down in frustration at times, tired of reading the same broken pleas over and over again. I will always pick it back up, though because I am lost without it. If you are looking for a new way to experience yourself, or God, or the world I would recommend taking a fresh stab at journaling. You might be surprised at what you discover buried in your own depths.


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