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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Boiled fat, Wet socks and Crazy Jokes

As I sit on my deck this beautiful spring morning, with sun shining to my left and thunder rumbling behind dark clouds to my right, I’m attempting to accept a challenge from Karen, who is my agent, to try a different type of writing. Something nonfiction and from my heart; Something that says, “I know you’re messy, dear reader, but I promise, you are not alone.”

But honestly, I’m pretty sure I can’t make it happen in any sort of way that will make sense to anyone but me.

My brain is locked up and it doesn’t help that the “N” key on my computer keeps popping off every time I touch it. Plus, my older brother is at Wal-Mart and keeps texting me pictures of each item he’s buying for his St. Patrick’s Day dinner. He’s a lot like me. Except, he bakes his corned beef with cloves and hot mustard and saut├ęs his cabbage. This is what he tells me in a text. I tell him it’s tons easier to toss everything in a pot (corned beef, cabbage, potatoes) and let it cook.

Him: I don’t like boiled fat.

Me: I get that every time I lay in the tanning bed.

He LOLs. I smile and turn off my ringer so I can get back to writing.

I’ve committed to sitting at my computer every day, but commitment comes hard to me. Failure is easier, more familiar. I hate it, but I have a bit of Stockholm syndrome when it comes to never measuring up. People don’t expect greatness, just okay-ness. And I don’t have to push myself.

Except, Karen didn’t get the memo. She has confidence this is just what I need right now. I know she’s right, but I don’t want to disappoint. And there’s a pretty good chance I will.

The dark side of the sky won out over the valiant sun and rain is splattering on my computer, forcing me to make a dash for the house where the smells of corned beef and pickling spices and cabbage slide over me, and I think about my brother again. He’s home by now and his house probably smells like cloves and hot mustard. I pity him.

Just as I sit down with my laptop and try to refocus, he texts me again, and even though the ringer isn’t on, the glow from my IPhone tips me off, so I glance down.

Him: I love the romance in Darby O’Gill and the Little People
Me: Me too. Darby’s and the Leprechaun King

He LOLs again and I smile again. Ours is one of the few relationships in my life where I feel secure enough to be completely myself—without fear. I wonder how he’ll feel knowing I'm talking about him on my blog.

Doubts are hitting me again, and I’m tempted to forget about writing anymore today. It IS St. Patrick’s Day after all and Mom loaned me Sweet Rosie O’Grady with Betty Grable to watch. Plus the broken N key is really getting on my nerves.

But I know inside it’s not time to stop, so I pray that God will point my fingers in the right direction and I think again about how amazed I am at Karen’s depth of intuition.
I’m still nervous about my relationship with her. I’ve wanted to work with Karen since before I was published in 2000 when she was still the hottest editor in the Christian fiction market. I still can’t believe she agreed to be my agent. It’s a pretty new partnership and we’ve already had a couple of tense moments. We’re still getting to know each other and growing pains are normal. She’s patiently allowing me to reveal my layers to her. She’s tough and she’s kind and she’s not afraid of my issues.

I emailed her last night, filled with a sudden gripping fear, and asked what made her suggest I do nonfiction. Her beautiful response went something like this, (well, it actually went exactly like this): I heard the weariness in you the first time we talked. I knew you still had things to say to readers, but I also could tell something was missing. Something crucial. The more we talked and emailed, the more I felt the nudge to ask you about nonfiction. Your voice in fiction is lyrical and I knew it would be equally so in nonfiction. And I knew your struggles weren't yours alone, that many--including me, at times--struggle with similar issues.

By “issues” she means people pleasing, authenticity, truth in the innermost being. Identity.

And that made me cry. I worry about not writing another novel right now. What if I don’t sell enough to justify my agent giving me a slot in her coveted and limited pool of clients? I conveyed this to her on the phone the other night—during the same conversation where she asked me if I’d ever considered writing nonfiction. After assuring me she wouldn’t drop me, she reminded me I don’t need to be God. He’s her source, not me.

Good point. Smile.

Still, she’s right about the weariness. Something crucial is missing. Authenticity. Truth. Writing from the heart. Life has taught me to work to please and rejection slices at my confidence, sending me straight to the carbs.

Through the drapes I notice the sun tries to peek through in the middle of a thundershower. It’s a metaphor, I think, and maybe God did this just for me. Black clouds still cover half the sky. I feel that way. Stormy inside, clouds of doubt, failure, insecurity. Thunder rumbles dark lies, “You’ll never get this. People will see right through you. You can’t even help yourself, who’s going to listen to a word you say?”

But somehow through all of this, the warm rays of sun fight to get through. “Trust me to shine my light through the storm clouds. You don’t have to make it work out. All you have to do is close your eyes, feel the rays, and let the clouds disintegrate.”

I’ll try, Jesus. I’ll really try.

As I come to the end of today’s writing, the puppy whines to go outside. I forget I’m wearing socks and step out onto the wet porch. Instantly, they’re soaked. And these are my only paired up socks since Rusty is gone for two weeks, and he’s the only one in the family who ever takes time for socks. Then I forget again half a second later and sit on the porch to wait for the puppy to do her thing. Now my socks and my seat are wet.

I’m so far from perfect it hurts sometimes. Frustrates me. I’m a perfectionist who’s never perfect. Things like wet socks and wet yoga pants make my husband laugh in a delighted, non-judgy way. But I’m hard on myself. I wish I could get it together.

Jesus loves me, this I know…boiled fat, soggy socks, wet seat and crazy jokes.

Friday, March 23, 2012

She Likes Me, She really, really likes me!

“I like that Tracey Bacon.”

Ada is my new friend. She’s three years old. She has blond hair, chubby, sun-kissed cheeks and a ready smile that makes me feel special. As I chat with her mom about writing, life, and peri-menopausal hormones, Ada runs barefoot in and out of the back door on her wonderful little-person legs, dressed in teeny tiny jeans and a T-shirt. She brings me flowers. I know they’re weeds, but she hides them behind her back and presents them so proudly all I see is a beautiful bouquet—and I can’t help but sit a little taller.

Ada likes me. I know this because she’s three and because she says so.

That’s it.

Even before I handed over a Ziploc bag of leftover chewy Jolly Ranchers, Ada had already made up her mind about me—had already decided to honor me with her friendship. Here’s why: Last time I met Ada, I said, “See ya later, Alligator” as I walked out the door.
Promptly, she told her mom, “I like that Tracey Bacon.”
Just me. Being me. Not trying to please or impress. I captured sunshine in the body of a tiny, precocious three-year-old girl and I’ve been living in the afterglow ever since.

I’m enough for Ada. I’m enough for Jesus.

I have to think about this. Ponder it. Is it really that easy? If I’m just being me, will people like me the way Ada does?

Do I have to be Tracey—the writer—Bateman. Tracey—the super-spiritual, have it all together—Bateman. What about Tracey—the animal-lover, perfect mom, good cook, edgy, funny, skinny, pretty woman—Bateman.

I can be a lot of different people—not all of them are truly me—and honestly, I’m a little afraid of taking off the hats that don’t fit. There’s a lot of messy hair under there!

But right now? For a moment, I look a little girl in the eye, and she likes me: Tracey Bacon.
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