Using the Sh** of Life as Fertilizer

My First HalloweenI’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.


About pamwatts

Writer, Reader, and Children's advocate
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6 Responses to Using the Sh** of Life as Fertilizer

  1. This is a brave post, Pam, and it shows that the world needs your voice. Shame on anyone who would deny you a writing position based on what you say here. They should be honored to have your honesty and integrity, not to mention the quality writing that speaks for itself.

  2. pamwatts says:

    Thank you, Lyn, that means a lot to me coming from you. As someone who is doing so much with her writing and public speaking to help others, do you have any advice for how I might do more? I usually feel pretty good about this little blog, but it doesn’t feel like much.

  3. Keep right on writing. I believe a book of your experiences would be really beneficial for other young people, but you have to decide when you are ready. Wouldn’t just the writing process help, even if you choose not to publish at this point? Who gives a shit what others say or think. These things NEED to be said. Since I began opening up about my depression, some of my friends have had to eat some of their harsher words (or thoughts), know that someone they know is affected.
    If you look at history, you’ll see that people only began to open up about tough subjects like sex, child abuse, domestic violence, civil rights ect. in the 60s. This means only people younger than say 55 grew up with formally “taboo” subjects being openly discussed. I’d say even people in their 40s are less open than those younger. And many over 55 will never be comfortable with “those” topics. Too bad. You are a member of a better, stronger generation.

    • pamwatts says:

      Hmm. You may be right, Susan. But the truth is, I don’t know what to think or how to feel about these experiences. I’ve been to therapy. I’ve read psychology books. But nothing that conventional wisdom tells me feels true or right. I’ve considered writing more extensively about my experiences, but I don’t even know what I’d say about them at this point. I just know how alone and uncared for I felt when they were happening, and I want to do something to make sure that other kids going through similar things don’t feel like THAT. Anyway.

  4. “Conventional wisdom” I’m sure does not apply to child abuse. Can there be any conventional wisdom for something that is not talked about? How can you feel “true” or “right”… it just is what it is. I think you are remarkable in what you have accomplished despite what happened. Others have sunk into drug & alcohol abuse, have multiple crazy relationships and have unplanned/unwanted children who suffer, or even become abusers themselves. I read somewhere that like 90% of women drug abusers were molested. Will you ever feel “healed”? My experience is some days are harder than others. I some days want to scream at parents/sister for being such assholes, and some days I am forgiving. Your scars are deeper and wider. But I think as you get older the good days will out number the bad. I think you are far ahead of where I was at the same age. I think I spent too many years in denial, too much time seeking approval I would never get, too much time beating myself up. Onward & upward!! You are who you are, no apologies!!! Love you. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Should the Conversation About Diversity Actually BE a Conversation? (Instead of a Set of Politically Correct Rants?) | Strong in the Broken Places

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