If you’ve held a toddler having a temper tantrum, you know they pass through phases, like a speeding train through stations. The kid begins with feral screams of anger. These might go on for a while, and then the screams fade into choking sobs of self-pity.
You hold the writhing toddler the whole time. And even though you really want to stick your fingers in your ears—or stuff a loaf of banana bread into your mouth—you hug them through the wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Right before the big moment of release, the kid will always freak out. He will bury his red, wet face into your chest and bang his head against your shoulder and wail again. Maybe he will also kick your shins. All the time, crying with a guttural howl that sounds like a German widow.
This is where you pick up your phone and start scrolling for an emergency number of a child psychiatrist who administers Zoloft injections. But you also realize that the toddler just needs to know you love him this much—so much you will hold him through his screams and bad behavior.
Then—and it always happens this way—just when you have completely given up, the exhausted toddler lets out a colossal sigh. She exhales like she needs to flatten her lungs of every bit of the diesel exhaust. Because of course she does (see: feral cries). Then she climbs off your lap, smiles at you and says, “Can I have a snack?” This is where that banana bread comes in handy.
After raising four toddlers, and spending most of their years waiting for that colossal sigh of relief, I’ve started to recognize The Sigh in other places too.
On a run, The Sigh will come just when my legs feel like the bones are broken and my chest is collapsing. I must lie down on the path. Then, suddenly, my head clears, like after a good sneeze, and the endorphins take over. The Sigh comes and I can run again.
For the past five years, the stories in Love Rules have howled in my ears with their heaviness and importance. I needed to write a book with stories from my friends and family about our struggles to follow God. As these stories have cried loud, guttural gasps, I have tried to listen and calm them and send them into the world. It has certainly been a very slow, painful process.
Then, on December 1, I sent the manuscript and our family screamed and danced in the kitchen and—yes—ate much banana bread and cupcakes and danced some more.
But then my editor emailed changes—not just small rewrites but major surgery. I sat back down with Love Rules, wrapped my arms and brain around what I needed to do to show more of God’s love, more hope in these stories.
Finally, the book was printed. Finally, it was coming in the mail! The kicking and screaming were done—we were surely to the shuddering sighs. These brave women who shared these stories could now see them released into the world.
But then, as I gathered up the boxes the first book signing (book sighing?), my editor called to say that the copies in my hands had doctrinal review mistakes. All of the copies had to be reprinted. Love Rules wouldn’t be out for another month.
So I’m still waiting to release this project, still waiting for The Sigh. When writers talk about their book release, they don’t just mean giving the project to the world. They also mean transferring responsibility. This is what the stories were trying to say…is that what you heard? I am so ready for that kind of book release.
Like the last guttural sobs of a toddler, the final pushes of labor, I’m waiting for The Sigh. I’m ready for Love Rules to stand on her own.
And then I can celebrate. And feast on much banana bread.