All my favorite people are broken

I signed up for the Glen Workshop about a month before my dad died. If I’d known that my dad was about to die, I’m pretty sure I would not have signed up. But I did, and I had talked my friend Jen into signing up, too, so I didn’t feel like I could back out.

Thank God.

I have been hearing about the Glen for years, mostly from my friend Denise, who has participated many times, first as an MFA student, and since graduating, to continue to hone her craft. I never really considered it, because I remembered the vulnerable feeling of workshopping my writing in an undergrad fiction writing class. I don’t much like that feeling of vulnerability.

So, what compelled me to register for Glen West 2014?

  1. A pre-end-of-2013 price break I found out about from an email newsletter sent by Image Journal.
  2. The opportunity to participate in a workshop led by Susan E. Isaacs, author of one of my favorite memoirs, Angry Conversations with God.
  3. A chance to breathe the same air as and enjoy a performance by Over the Rhinethe source of my blog title.
  4. Santa Fe, New Mexico.

And did I mention that I invited my writing friend Jen to come too, and against all odds i.e. two small children and a working husbandshe said “yes”?

I sent in my nonrefundable deposit before Thanksgiving.

Two days after Christmas, my father died of complications from surgery to repair an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

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During the eight months between Dad’s death and my departure for Santa Fe, I often wondered if taking this trip made any sense at all. As I grieved for my father and served as executrix of his estate, I also faced a need to attend to my own financial needs; I am responsible to raise a good bit of my salary, and my single most generous donor is now gone.

Could I afford to go? Could I afford not to?

I also knew I had to submit a work in progress to present at this workshop on “spiritual writing” (or creative nonfiction). I suspected I might find the experience emotionally challenging. Which means I took one obvious essay topic off the table immediately: no writing about my dad—or about my mom, who died nearly eight years ago. My newly orphaned state felt too new to be articulated and dissected. Plus, I would cry.

And so as the time crept closer and I still hadn’t started to write anything fresh and new, I revisited an essay I wrote 10 years ago, about a trip to New York City with two dear friends. Entitled “Being Known,” I suspected it had the potential to elicit the emotions I was trying to resist. But at least it wasn’t about the kind of loss I’ve experienced recently.

The bottom line? I went, I read, I wrote, I cried. I learned. I grew.

I shared a part of my story, and these new friends and fellow writers received it with grace and encouraged me with concrete suggestions of how I might tell it more effectively. I received the gift of their stories, and we all recognized the truth of what it means to be alive on this beautiful, terrifying, messy planet.

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As Over the Rhine sang on Saturday in the closing evening concert, all my favorite people are broken.* I knew then that this was the theme of my week at The Glen.

Perhaps it’s the theme of my life.

All my favorite people are broken
Believe me, my heart should know
Some prayers are better left unspoken
I just want to hold you and let the rest go

All my friends are part saint and part sinner
We lean on each other, try to rise above
We are not afraid to admit we are all still beginners
We are all late bloomers when it comes to love

All my favorite people are broken
Believe me, my heart should know
Awful believers, skeptical dreamers, step forward
You can stay right here, you don’t have to go

Is each wound you’ve received just a burdensome gift
It gets so hard to lift yourself up off the ground
But the poet says we must praise a mutilated world
We’re all working the graveyard shift
You might as well sing along

Cause all my favorite people are broken
Believe me, my heart should know
As for your tender heart, this world’s going to rip it wide open,
It aint gonna be pretty, but you’re not alone

All my favorite people are broken
Believe me, my heart should know
Awful believers, skeptical dreamers, you’re welcome
Yeah, you’re safe right here, you don’t have to go

Cause all my favorite people are broken
Believe me, I should know
Some prayers are better left unspoken
I just want to hold you and let the rest go

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*If you’re interested, I found Linford Detweiler’s notes on the process of writing this song

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Beautiful reflection Amy! Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Amy says:

      Thank you for reading, Keith!

  2. byronborger says:

    Again, so glad to get to see your reflections on this, and your honesty about it all. I wanted to see a picture of the dancing, though. 🙂 Thanks, Amy.

    1. Amy says:

      You know what they say, Byron. What happens in Santa Fe…

  3. suzer says:

    Love it, Amy. So vulnerable. Beautiful. And that song has been running through my head since Sunday. I shared it with my women’s group tonight. Brava. Brave, beautiful Amy!

    1. Amy says:

      Thank you, Susan, for everything.

    1. Amy says:

      Thank YOU, Jen.

  4. Aunt Sonia says:

    Sweet Amy, I have no words to tell you how moved I was while reading those lyrics. I love you so very much, my brother’s beautiful child.

    1. Amy says:

      I love you, Aunt Sonia. Thank you.

  5. Mary Van Denend says:

    I’m so glad you made the choice to come!Thanks for your reflections here, Amy. Lots of truth and beauty in one short piece.

    1. Amy says:

      Thank you, Mary! I’m glad, too. 🙂

  6. Lauren Davis says:

    Amy, I’m so glad you came! I love your reflections here and can relate to having second thoughts.

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