I recently went to a few small book signings for the book that I wrote and published with my grandfather, “Why, God? Suffering through Cancer into Faith.” One of the book signings was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at my grandfather/coauthor’s church. As Grandpapa and I sat at a large wooden table and signed a tall stack of our books to hand out, a lady walked up to me and started talking to me as if we had been friends for decades.
This stranger was short and blonde and spunky, wearing loud colors and probably some hair gel to keep her spiky haircut in place. She had crazy earrings and look of determination in her eyes. She paid for two books, and though I am embarrassed to say I don’t remember her name, I do remember what she said to me.
“You have a gift, Maggie. When you write, people feel and understand. You are able to communicate with people in a way that others cannot.”
I perked up and focused all of my attention on her. She became more serious as she continued, her smile fading.
“But do you realize what that means? It means you also have a responsibility. Use this gift. Don’t ever stop writing. You still have much more to do in this world.”
And then she walked away, and more people were there in line, waiting to get their books signed.
My encounter with that lady was several weeks ago, and I’m still thinking about what she said to me. While it would be incredibly flattering to interpret the experience as a huge compliment of my work, I have begun to think of it as something else. Though my writing has taken me many places thus far, the most important place it has taken me has not been publishing or book signings or even fundraising. The most important place my writing has taken me is inside of myself.
When I fail to write, I fail to process. When I fail to process, I fail to notice. When I fail to notice, I fail to be grateful for all that around and within the world and myself.
Maybe all of us have different ways of connecting with ourselves and with our God. Maybe all of us have different ways of worship. I like to think that it would be way too simple for all of us to connect with reality in the same way when we are all so very different. What I do know for certain, though, is that my year of writing during chemo brought something out of me that I would rather not ignore. I do not simply enjoy writing; writing is what opens my soul. It is what allows me to exist in the present. It is my zen, my pathway to enlightenment, my hidden sanctuary.
As a promise to myself, and with a new blog as a system of accountability, I intend to write at least every other day. I cannot guarantee what I will write about. I cannot guarantee it will ever be profound or witty or interesting or even grammatically correct. However, it will be me, coming face to face with myself, the only way I know how–putting words on a page.