We expected Camden to arrive before Christmas. Then we hoped semi-seriously that he'd make it by Midnight on New Years for the tax break. Then we waited and waited until January 13th when Monique's body (finally, it seemed) began its long and brilliant labor. Three days later Camden was cut from his umbilical lifeline and asked to breathe his first breath.
Basically, 2016 has been the year of Camden, the year we became parents, the year of calling ourselves a family. And so it's been a year without much sleep, a year of wondering when we'll get all that free time back, a year with only a couple date nights. A year ripe with the best moments and memories, a year rightly called precious, rich, joyful, beautiful, grace-filled, miraculous. And it's been a year involving the worst nerve pain in my ten years with an injured back, multiple steroid injections, and agonizing sleepless nights. It's also been the year that Donald Trump won (which is achingly hard to write). A year of Dad-brain and diaper-duty, a year more easily measurable to our minds by the changing smell of his poop than by dates on a calendar.
The thing that's really stood out though is that this has been a year without writing. Significantly, Camden has cost me my cherished morning rhythm. He wakes us, waking before us, every day. There no longer exists a pocket of morning time to find and feast on. I used to be at Sightglass 7-8:30a five days a week or so. I did that for about a year. And I wrote. I wrote (relatively) so much. And it was good. It shaped my days, shaped my mind and my soul, and helped determine who I was on that day in January when it all disappeared with that first breath. I wouldn't change anything, but gosh I miss those mornings. I miss writing. I miss the time. We miss the time. There was just so much time.
"Without writing" isn't quite right. I've actually produced more words than ever. Our church spent the year walking through an intensive year-long study of the Bible. We called it YOBL (the Year of Biblical Literacy). The glory of my job is that I get to write material for our community groups each week. This year I got to double down on Bible scholarship and served as a translator between Biblical academia and our local small groups. I also pushed for and produced a series of hermeneutic guides that provide a framework for how to read each section of the Bible. I wrote a whole lot of Bible stuff, a lot of teaching. It was fun, edifying, challenging. I was blessed by it, privileged immensely to be paid to do it. So I wouldn't dare complain. It's my dream job.
And yet. And yet it feels to me, in a way, like a year without writing. I think I got a couple poems out, and I still got to read, and I've established an awfully long list of ideas for writing projects. It's those mornings on the bench on 20th St that I've gone without. It's the rhythm of it, the flow and freedom and uselessness of it that I've longed for. It's reading Annie Dillard and Seamus Heaney and flailing for words about the ocean and time and a baby's first breath. It's thinking in words like whip-poor-will and poppystruck, writing words for how they sound instead of what they say. It's writing words out of belief that how they sound is what they say. Call it my poetic self, my creative side. I call it my morning routine. Last year's morning routine. I also just call it writing, like a catchword for a world of emotion, energy, pursuit. To go without it has been loss.
Loss of all sorts is indeed the cost of children. We know this now. It's a thing I'm not sure one can really know before it happens. Career, freedom, time, independence, quiet, sleep, fun, carelessness, relationships, hobbies, passions, aspirations. We lose these. And we say boldly and wholeheartedly that it's worth it and we wouldn't change a thing. But it hurts. The only decent way forward is grief. Repression and resentment are options as well. Most of us spend at least a few days down these paths at some point. But honesty, expression, grief and connection in its midst, loyalty. Sitting close and holding tight to one another, letting the tears fall, the both of us. Fighting off resentment by moving unrelenting toward the other. Toward and not away. That's the best we've been able to do anyway.
And then you take a step forward and do the best you can.
I've had moments of resolve along the way. If 2016 was a year without, 2017 will be the year of return. And there have been moments too, like this one, without such energy or certainty. Instead lingers a kind of retreating uncertainty. Maybe. That'd be nice. But I also start studying Greek in January. And I'm starting a new year-long discipleship cohort too. And what will parenting a 1-year old be like? Will it be another year without writing? And then what? A life without writing? A man without writing? But to that I stand firmly: No.
It's the last day of November and the best I can resolve toward is no, it won't be a life without writing. But I don't know about next year. Or how. A quasi, anti New Years resolution, treated with this new parent armor-logic: It's hard, and yet I wouldn't have it any other way.