I’ve been struggling with this blog. I’ve been struggling with the way that I present myself to the outside world. (I am a person who struggles.) I blog about tough things on here. I often blog about personal things. And I have some reason to believe that doing so hasn’t served me, personally, well.
I have family members who seem upset with me. (Perhaps for “airing dirty laundry”?) I have friends who are kind, but I have come to realize handle me with kid gloves. I have met people at writing events who seemed very hesitant to talk to me. And I believe that I have been passed over for at least one writing job because of this online presence. And looking into the future: I am working on a book about paradoxes in physics for kids. I don’t think writing about child abuse makes a good “platform” for this sort of book.
And yet, I have this unshakable faith in a God who creates his children as he wants them in order to walk the paths that he has laid before their feet. My childhood was filled with pain. My adulthood has been filled with first a decade-long quest to escape that pain, and since then, years of trying to figure out WHAT IT MEANS and what to do with it. And I am a writer. I can’t help but believe that God gave me challenges, and then safety, and the ability to write about those challenges in order that I might do something positive in the world to help the lives of future (or current) children.
But what, is the question? What can I do? The conversation about diversity in children’s books is huge right now. VCFA has instituted new diversity initiatives including scholarships for writers of diverse heritage and is engaging in conversation on many levels. This year’s kidlitcon will be focused on “Blogging Diversity.” Different groups like Quill Shift literary agency and the Brooklyn Blossoms Club have popped up with unique and amazing ideas to actually help the problem. Independent Presses like Cinco Puntos and Lee & Low are putting quality diverse books into the marketplace. And I have to give another nod to my writing-hero Lyn Miller-Lachmann, through whom I’ve heard about most of these things, and who is actively engaged, seemingly constantly, in generating meaningful dialogue on this issue and many others. I’ve been reading post after post, tweet after tweet, quietly having conversations with other writers and bloggers, and yet I still have absolutely no clue how I might contribute something real to help solve the problem of the lack of diversity in children’s literature or any other of the problems I talk about on here.
I want to use my life experiences to do something positive and meaningful, but I don’t know what. Why do I have so many fewer answers at 30 than I had at 20?
But I did read something useful this morning in Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl writes about his own and other’s psychological experiences in the Nazi death camps. He noticed that some people, when faced with the overwhelming horror of camp life and the uncertainty of any end to it, basically checked out and lived in a fantasy life of past memories.
Such people forgot that often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself. Instead of taking the camp’s difficulties as a test of their inner strength, they did not take their life seriously and despised it as something of no consequence. They preferred to close their eyes and live in the past. Life for such people became meaningless.
Naturally only a few people were capable of reaching great spiritual heights. But a few were given the chance to attain human greatness even through their apparent worldly failure and death, an accomplishment which in ordinary circumstances they would never have achieved.
That is quite a revelation. And I think it also applies to those of us who have lived through extraordinary trauma and pain. I have mentioned before that many kids who are tested like this don’t make it. They too check out, or they end their lives. And that is truly awful. But extreme pain is also a real test, and an opportunity, that most of the emo hipsters of the world will never get. (Or like the fictitious Philosopher of Pain, Shan Yu.)
If you have been hurt past the point of normal human endurance. If you have experienced things that most people around you can’t even imagine. If your experiences have ever caused you to hate God just a little, then you have a choice. You can check out, or you can use your pain to discover just who you really are and how strong you can really be. You can grow beyond yourself. And you can use your life to create something that brings light and understanding into the world.