In one of my first sessions with my spiritual director, I walked into her office and burst directly into tears.
“I have no idea why I’m crying!” I sobbed pathetically, and she just nodded in that kind, knowing way shared by therapists and psychologists and spiritual directors the world over.
As I sat there, using her entire box of Kleenex to sop up the mess that was my face, she told me about this lizard she once saw in a nature show. When confronted with a predator – with extreme stress – it plays dead. In just seconds, it manages to flip over, lower its body temperature, and go into a near catatonic state, tricking the predator, who generally won’t eat something dead unless its killed it itself.
But the really interesting part, she told me, is afterward. After the threat has passed, the lizard slinks off into some safe space, some bush, and shakes. Just trembles like crazy. It has to release the energy, the stress, the anxiety of that experience, she told me. And then, when it’s done, it goes on its way like nothing ever happened.
I spent at least twenty minutes scouring the Internet for this video and came up empty. But still, when I think of April, I think about this shaking lizard.
I’m not entirely sure why my March book release took such a toll on me…but it did. I had big blogging/writing/marketing plans for April, but instead, I found myself fairly useless. I spent three of April’s four weeks with a debilitatingly bad cold – including the week that I went to the Festival of Faith and Writing in Michigan.
Many nights in April, I was in bed before nine and still had a hard time getting up in the morning. Outside, the winter raged against the leaving, and most days were gray and damp with rain and slushy end-of-winter snowflakes. I sniffled and coughed and slept and used an entire box of Sudifed.
And maybe it was just that gross cold-thing that was going around in Minnesota in April. Or maybe I was having a shaking lizard moment. Maybe the chills and the headaches and the excessive sleeping were my body’s way of saying – that was stressful. I need a minute My body’s way of finding release.
Either way, it’s May now. The weather forecast is sunny 60s and 70s, and the apple trees are in bloom and the lilacs are only a few days away. I feel like I’m crawling out from whatever bush I spent April hiding under, and the sun on my face is the most beautiful gift in the world.
What I’m Reading:
I’ve been doing that flaky-reading thing I do where I read like twenty books at once and it takes me forever to finish any of them. But I did managed to get these four read in April:
Roots & Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons, Christie Purifoy: I found this book exquisitely beautiful, and Christie’s insights into faith and home were both gentle and searing. I’ll come back to this book again — which is the highest praise I can give. Warning: this book is most likely to make you want to sell your house in the suburb stat and move to the country.
A Rule Against Murder, Louise Penny: Another in the Inspector Gamache series, which I got hooked on last month. This woman comes up with the oddest ways for people to be murdered. She’s either a genius or a psychopath. Still, her writing is fantastic, and her books are so much fun to read.
Mosquitoland, David Arnold: I, admittedly, chose this book for its great cover…but I loved it. It was quirky and honest and bizarre in all the best ways. I feel like young adult authors are doing some of the best, most honest work in the business right now, and this book tackled mental health issues and family upheaval in such an interesting way. Plus, I read in the author interview at the back that stay-at-home-Dad-writer David Arnold wrote a good portion of this book in the YMCA lobby while his kids were in child care which is exactly what I did when I was starting my blog. So I kind of feel like we’re kindred writing spirits.
Rising Strong, Bréne Brown: This book took me a surprisingly long time to get through – I think because there is so much to think about. I appreciate the way that Bréne gives language to the internal work that we need to do to become wholehearted people and the handholds she provides to do this work. I’ll come back to this one again.
What I’m Listening To:
I’m still lazily relying on Spotify’s “Discover Weekly” for my daily soundtrack. It knows me so well.
What I’m Watching:
Andrew and I are finally into Season 4 of House of Cards, which is so good but also makes me worry about the state of humanity. We’re waiting to get our subscription to HBO online until Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley are over so that we can binge on both for the least amount of money possible.
I watched two different Hallmark movies in which a woman blogger falls in love with her online-commenter-hater. I don’t believe that this ever happens in the world, and it baffles me why it’s the plot of not one but two Hallmark movies.
I finished Gossip Girl and figured out who the invisible voice behind the anonymous gossip website actually was. For all of the shows faults, I thought the ending was kind of brilliant. (Also, there was a cameo by Kristen Bell, who did the voice of Gossip Girl, and she is perfection. I want her to play me in the movie of my life.)
The end of my Gossip Girl Netflix binge coincides, unfortunately, with the winding down of several of my favorite TV shows. Younger is done. I gave up on Nashville. Grey’s, Scandal, Jane the Virgin, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are all finishing up for the year, and I’m feeling a little bereft and floaty when it comes to thing to watch.
I find I’m most drawn to drama with a curve of humor and quirkiness, and I don’t know what show to watch next. I’ll do considerably less TV in the summer, but I still need something for the treadmill. I’ve been doing Drop Dead Diva, which is kind of fun, but I’m not fully in love. Any recommendations?
Other Things I’ve Been Into:
This little boy turned 5!
He’s still into that Lego Ninjago show just as he was a couple of Halloweens ago, so I got my Pinterest on and created a Ninjago-themed party. My home-made Lord Garmadon piñata was, truly, the stuff of legends.
However, I learned a valuable lesson – if you create a homemade piñata, truly, cover it with streamers and not duct tape. After twenty minutes of non-successful hitting, Andrew had to take a kitchen knife and gut the piñata and then pour the candy all over the kids. Lame.
The Festival of Faith and Writing. This conference is my favorite one, and it only happens every other year. I’ve been going since I was in my undergrad, and that first year I got to meet Frederick Buechner in person and heard a talk by Katherine Paterson that was so brilliant that it made me cry. I’ve been going ever since, whenever I possibly can. I think this was my sixth time there.
Over the years, though, the conference has changed for me in some amazing ways. It continues to be a source of inspiration and creative nourishment…but the longer I’m in the writing/blogging/faith world, the more connected I become to this giant, beautiful community, many of whom seem to show up during this week in April.
Every year, there are more people that I want to connect deeply with…and absolutely no extra time. I was so happy to see so many of your lovely faces there and wish I could have sat down for a long cup of coffee with each and every one of you. Next time, I’m staying for a week.
Also new for me this year: I was a speaker on two different panels. I led one called The Loud and the Quiet: Writing in the Age of Social Media with Sarah Bessey, Preston Yancey, and Christie Purifoy, which turned out to be a wonderful and complex conversation. I’m amazed at how differently we all come to our writing process and thankful for the ways that God winds our journeys together.
(I stole this image from Nicole T. Walters’ tweet. Thanks for capturing this moment!)
I also got to talk about that complex dance of writing about your spouse with poets Susanna Childress and Brent Newsom and my good friend Sarah Wells (whose stunning memoir will hopefully be coming out soon!)
(And I stole this photo from the Indiana Festival of Faith and Writing’s director, Liz Boltz Ranfeld. Incidentally, I’ll be speaking at that Festival this coming October in Indiana. So exicted!)
Also, I think the fact that my books were next to Tobias Wolff’s means that we should become friends. For real. Swoon.
The first critters of the year. April this year was definitely tumultuous, weather-wise, but spring won out in the end. Winter disappeared, finally, and the critters came out. My boys have been turning over our landscaping rocks and sloshing around the pond finding all sorts of creatures…including these, the first toads of the year. Welcome little guys!
Writing and Blogging:
Like I said, I’ve mostly been under a bush, shaking off the stress all month, but I did manage to do a little bit of writing. I wrote this post called Throw the Seed about the creative process and marketing (ack), and I told you about the book I didn’t write…and the beauty of negative space.
My Dear Addie column at Off the Page this month had to do with the lines we put between secular and sacred, the ways we make God small, and finding the holy in Vogue.
I will hopefully be around Instagram, Facebook and Twitter a bit more in May. And the blog too.
But then again, the lilacs are about to bloom, and when that happens I will likely shut my computer off for an entire week and spend every moment sitting on the deck, sniffing.
I’m linking up, as usual, with the lovely Leigh Kramer (whom I bunked with at the Festival of Faith and Writing!).
What have you been into this month?