“I want you all to unzip your souls and expose your foibles,” the writers’ conference speaker, Patricia Lorenz, said. “People don’t want to read about people who are perfect. They want to read about people who mess up!”
“Look at me—I’ve been divorced twice, and my second husband left me for an older woman!” she continued with a laugh. “For twenty straight years, I put four kids through college on a freelance writer’s income! And I’ve had twenty different men sleeping in my house in the past ten years.”
Patricia waited for all of our jaws to hit the floor before she explained that pilots stayed in her home occasionally because she lived so close to the Milwaukee airport.
I sat in stunned silence. Did this woman have no filters, no need for privacy? I knew I’d never share with anyone my late father’s alcoholism and mental illness, my fear that any day now someone was going to figure out I was a total fraud of an editor, my nagging concern about my marriage’s financial situation. What good would writing any of that do? And I certainly wasn’t going to talk about my problems in front of total strangers. After all, I spoke regularly at writers’ conferences across the country on topics such as self-publishing, novel writing, essay writing, and marketing your work. I surely couldn’t let attendees see how truly alone and vulnerable I felt.
“Unzip your soul and expose your foibles,” Patricia said that day in 2002. Several years have passed, and I now believe that’s exactly what God wants us to do. I believe he wants us to we come to him just the way we are. And, I believe in the life-transforming power of friendship. Patricia, who’s been my dearest friend for the past five years, and eleven other people inspired me enough with the way they live their faith that I returned to Catholicism and God after more than thirty years in the desert. I’ve written a memoir that includes frank talk about the taboos of sex, money, and self-esteem in hopes of helping others find the light.
And I’ve learned God loves me just as I am.
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