I had the pleasure of speaking at a writer’s conference this past weekend about how a writer finds his or her voice. I decided I would tell some stories about Sawyer because so many of our challenges as a father and son centered around whether what we were saying was being understood by the other. Though I didn’t intend this, I soon understood the audience was that much more interested in what I had to say because my stories involved the challenges of a young child.
There is something more compelling about a child’s struggles compared to an adult’s. The child appears innocent, and whatever challenges he must overcome are often interpreted to be the result of the hand he was unfairly dealt. An adult’s challenges, meanwhile, are more than likely the product of some poor choices – you reap what you sow.
Which is why so many people who approached me after the talk wanted to know one thing: How’s he doing? This weekend reminded me that at some point I am going to have to learn how to answer that question to my own satisfaction. For the record, I said he was doing fine, which is the truth. It is also not the truth because it suggested that he ever wasn’t doing fine.
It is very easy to sound politically correct when I write or talk about Sawyer in this way. I am his parent, after all, and it is my desire that he be all right, yet there he was once upon a time not talking, or talking to himself, or not doing any schoolwork, and so on and so on and so on. How is that doing fine? Yet the only way I was ever able to be of use to him – or to anyone for that matter, including me – was to never try to fix him, but only help him grow.
To be fair, if you were to ask me today how I am doing, I would tell you that I’ve never been better. I have never been happier, more prolific, or more content. This, by the way, is in comparison to how I used to feel about my life, when I wasn’t nearly so happy, prolific, or content. And yet nothing has actually changed in me other than learning how to use what I have always had so that I could do what I have always wanted to do. The equipment was always intact. It was always perfect and perfectly in service to whatever I wanted.
The worst question I have asked of myself in my life was: What is wrong with me? That the question was never answered should have been a relief, but it was the just the opposite. I took the “Nothing” my mind gave back to mean I would never be fixed, and so I would always be unhappy. And yet no matter how dark it got, I wasn’t always unhappy, and then I would look up and realize I had forgotten to ask what is wrong with me for a while and I couldn’t quite remember what needed fixing.
Life was as interesting as ever, and there was a friend coming my way. “How you doin’, Bill?” he’d ask.
“Fine,” I would answer, and it was always the truth.
I am the author of Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence, and Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. Learn more here.