We had a rare opportunity to go to the bookstore the other day without our children. The kids, darling creatures, aren’t exactly the most restful companions at the bookstore.
“Mom, can we go to the children’s section?”
“Mom, will you buy me an e-reader and/or a $100 set of Legos?”
“Mom, am I old enough to drink that kind of coffee with the whipped cream on the top?”
“Mom, how much allowance do you owe me, and do I have enough to buy this book?” (The answer is always, always no.)
“Mom, why doesn’t that lady on the cover of the calendar have enough clothes on?”
Of course I love these short people and would gladly give them an organ from my own body, but I relished the opportunity to wander slowly through the aisles and actually focus on the books while they were in a different place. For consecutive minutes I could focus on the books. Cheap books, decorating books, mystery books– I examined them all.
(In a vaguely related note, one of my favorite cookbook authors has gotten a divorce since her last book. I noticed her new cover shows her left hand with no wedding band, which got me worried, and then I launched a full-scale investigation into the acknowledgements in the back of both books to see if I was correct, and I was. In the first book she thanks her loving husband, and in the new book she casually mentions some new dude. I’ve been worried about her for days and I never would have even noticed if my kids would have been two inches behind me, talking my ear off. But I digress…)
I also had a chance to closely examine many artsy, literary books. I usually skip these when the kids are with me because I have to use my minutes wisely before they run out of patience.
It turns out I still don’t like deep, literary fiction. Even without the kids in tow.
I know I should, as a writer, deeply appreciate another’s ability to write prose that inspires and translates strong emotions through the mystery of the written word, deepening my understanding of the world and the people who fill it.
But I don’t.
I just don’t like it, and that’s the end of it. I don’t enjoy being dragged through three hundred pages of torture, misery, and angst. I don’t like feeling like my emotions are being manipulated by someone who woke up cranky in 1954 and decided to make everyone else cranky, too.
I’m not saying that other people shouldn’t enjoy it– by all means. If the full range of human emotion is how you like to spend your three hundred fictional pages, then go for it. I just like to spend mine happy and relaxed, is all I’m saying.
Sometimes I feel guilty, like if I’m going to really contribute to the world I should use my talents to write deep and slightly disturbed novels. Something with some grit, where we all come out a little scarred. I’d feel more like a genuine writer if I had some dark secrets to tint my pages.
I’m never going to be that kind of a writer, though. It’s not where my interests lie, nor my talents. I specialize in ridiculousness, and I’m going to be okay with that. Isaiah 64:8 (NLT) says this:
And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.
Do I believe this? Do you believe this? What if we were formed by a loving God to serve him with specific gifts, in a specific time? I think we don’t have to despise ourselves for our lack of organization or math skills or literary interest. I think we should relax and grow into the exact reason we were formed, whatever that may be. I give us all permission.
What about you? Do you ever feel like you should enjoy something and then feel terribly guilty when you don’t? What do you enjoy, instead?