I’ve felt this strange choking lately. An energy building up in me, like a shaken, capped bottle. I’m like a hose with the spout turned on but the nozzle off, the water not resting in the rubber but beginning to stretch and bulge.
I am the writing equivalent of an aneurism.
And here’s why. Because every time I feel inspired to say something, to express something, these mental brakes keep pressing down. No, you can’t say that. That will offend people. No, watch out for that – too divisive, you don’t know enough about that, no one will read that, people won’t like that.
In short: what will people think?
Then I remembered. I don’t care what people think.
Which is true right now. But not five minutes ago. And not later today. (It’s an evolution.)
Good grief. To be free of what other people think of me! Talk about the ultimate freedom. In the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, this is the first agreement: don’t take things personally. I’m working on it.
Here’s the thing about self-liberation. It can be hard to recognize where we are being held captive. We don’t always know how we are bound. We walk around with a squeeze around our middle, a nagging sense of unrest, unsure of its origins. It can be hard to recognize that we are even confined.
In my experience, no matter what binds me or how I got there, it is always and only up to me to release myself. I am invariably the one holding the keys.
The more I free myself in my life, the deeper urge I have to free with myself with my writing. With my words and ideas. To be bold, unapologetic. To publish the post called If my vagina could talk. To express my pain and confusion and insight and failures related to race. To explore the weirdness of aging, the fear of becoming irrelevant. To write about what I live in true and real time.
Not for you, dear reader, but for me. If it resonates with you, that is amazing. But it can’t be my goal. I can’t write what I think you want to hear. I can only write what is true for me.
That’s tricky business. Tricky indeed. Because what if no one wants to hear it?
But I think that is the dichotomy an artist must live within. Our best work is always what is authentic. The world be damned.
Isn’t that the crux of not caring what other people think?
I’ve spent the last couple of years building my life with great intention – who I want to be, the narrative I want to write for myself and my life, paying great attention to the words I speak and the thoughts I think. And it has served me is so many transformative and extraordinary ways.
And it has also become a form of unintended censure inside me, leaving me feeling cautious, tenuous and stifled.
This has been a life lesson that has repeated itself through my life. I periodically find myself needing to circle back to myself, to scrape off the debris I’ve collected along my way – usually the opinions and expectations of others - and scrub myself back to my own shine.
It takes great bravery to claim one’s voice. It’s easier to whisper things to myself than speak to be heard. But everything in me pulses with the same knowing: it’s time to rise to my own voice.
Now as a former loud-mouth, I’m sitting here thinking REALLY? Is this a true reclamation that needs to be made? Since when have you ever been afraid to speak?
Since I was told I was taking up too much space. Since I was told to quiet down. Since I grew afraid of getting things wrong and being blasted on social media. Since I became afraid of my own power. Which is to say, forever.
My rowdy voice of the past was less about substance or truth than it was about questioning myself, shouting to the ethers in hopes that my words would echo back and tell me who I was. It was more needy than real.
But to harness my real voice? That is a whole different animal.
I don’t know how to tell the truth and save your idea of me. Because it is impossible to do so. Because I have no power over you, your perceptions, your words. This is what Ruiz is talking about – anything someone else does or says is never really about us. It’s always about that person and his or her life experience, history and perceptions. To take it personally is utter madness.
So WHAT IF I DIDN’T?
I wanted to create this blog to be a “come as you are” space. A place of permission, allowing, authenticity and honesty. And I’m going to kick it off.
Because you know the only thing worse than risking exposure by being your real, true self visible for others to see?
Hiding. Hiding is always worse.
So here are some of my truths for today:
- I am 45, an age that suddenly seems so close to 50, it steals my breath sometimes. I wonder if I’m too old to be a bestselling author, too old to be taken seriously, too out of step with the way society is moving to be successful. Sometimes I want to duck out of the digital world, toss my phone over a bridge and slip into the forest.
- I love the state of Maine in a way that, at times, seems illogical given the 6-month winter, the bugs, the patchy cell reception, the difficulty to catch a flight to where you want to go. I love it with a reverence so deep that even leaving for a week’s vacation, I was pained to think of all those days when the leaves would be shifting from green to gold without me.
- Parenting is a most confusing, beautiful, expansive and powerful journey. Even though you know the job is to raise new humans, to foster their independence and success on their own, there is this muddled state in between, one marked by doubt and fear and heartbreak as you basically guess at the best way to handle a barrage of new and unexpected situations with the highest possible stakes. You tell yourself as long as your kids are safe, it will all be okay, and you bury you head in the sand when you hear about bad outcomes and tragedies. You put blinders on because it’s all just too damn much to consider. If safety were the only goal, how much easier would it be to just lock our kids up, sheltered in the safety of home until they turn 18 and demand release? (In truth, that demand would start around age 11). But then they would have no experience in the world, so you would need to wrap them in bubble wrap and escort them around – which they would LOVE – to ensure their safety. I guess what I’m saying is that the beautiful and cruel part of parenting is the same: to love someone the way a parent loves a child is just stunningly difficult.
- I worry about the Earth and its future almost every day. I try not to. I try to honor the perfection I see all around me on my daily walks in the woods. But sometimes I weep for what we have lost and want to rail against people idling their cars and throwing their plastics in the regular trash.
- Sometimes I worry that I am just too sensitive a soul for this world with its cruelty and disparity and division. I don’t always know how to live here. I don’t know how to move through the world with my open heart and, equally, wouldn’t even begin to know how to close it.
- I want to sell books. Millions of books. But I don’t want to be owned by fame or ego or expectation. I want to write real and true and have that be both my calling and my career. I want to trust that being me is enough, that honoring my inspiration and honing my voice is enough.
- I want my girls to grow into powerful women who know their worth independent of anyone else. I want them to have deep and satisfying relationships, to learn and grow and love themselves deeply. I want them to have clean air and green spaces and good food and love that they share with the world. I want to be strong enough to let them go, to see them as they are, not as I expected them to be. I want them to come home to visit. I want them to call me just to say hi. I want them to honor themselves, to live a life of integrity with themselves and their values, to follow their hearts. I want to play with them and vacation with them and rock their babies to sleep.
- Life sometimes seems feels like it stretches on endlessly. Other times it seems cruelly brief. All in the same day. A moment of tedium can quickly be replaced by a moment of breathless wonder. There are times I feel completely in sync with myself and my life and my loved ones and times I feel entirely out of step with all of it, like a globe that someone flicked into a ceaseless spin, and I can’t remember what grounded feels like, what the point is or even who I am.
- Errands might just be the death of me. If I drop dead unexpectedly, assume it was because I was out at some box store or suffered one too many punishment lights out by the mall (you know the ones that take 5 minutes to turn green and might take 2 cycles to get through thanks to all the traffic? Refer to item 2- this is why I live in Maine. Traffic is limited to the mall).
- I love my family but the fact that they need to eat so often is TIRESOME.
- Sometimes I burst into tears when I open Instagram and see the parade of bikini and belly shirt photos of the teenage girls in my life, their bodies provocatively posed, seemingly asking the world “Am I okay now? What about now?” I try to tell a different story, to release this judgement that could be totally wrong, but sometimes (often) I fail.
- I ache to “do” less in my life and have more time to be. I want less random busyness. Actively pursuing this.
- Sandi and I bought a sailboat and I forgot that I am prone to such severe seasickness that even sitting on the boat on the mooring renders me horizontal and clutching my belly. That’s right, it’s a hobby a heavily medicate for.
- I am terrible at drawing but every now and then get this strong urge to paint on a canvas.
- It takes courage every single day to call myself a writer, to have closed my massage practice to devote my time to writing despite not having sold a book. YET. Sometimes when my kids act like I’m just home all day kicking it with the dog, it hurts my feelings. Like I want to be SEEN during this part when I’m showing up for it every day because it’s who I am.
- Often, I think about the people I love aging and someday not being just a phone call or a drive away and I wonder how it is I could possibly just be over here living my life and not drop everything and go sit at their kitchen table.
- I want to die before I get too old to enjoy my life. I don’t want to live much past thriving. (Sandi’s family is known to live a century or more. I’ve suggested she plan accordingly for her solo act.)
- Sometimes when my kids tease me, I take it as a total compliment and find absolute humor in it. Other times, I feel gutted, my eyes filling with tears.
- If I had one day to live, I would never come inside.
- I love being a writer. I can think of no better calling for me. When I return from vacation, I can’t wait to write. On Monday mornings, I can’t wait to write. That being said, I am deeply confounded by how much procrastinating I will do to avoid my passion. I don’t get it.
- I love being a woman. For as the nonsense and bias and misogyny in the world, I in no way see it as a reflection of my true magnificence as a female.
This post is intentionally unpolished. I’m hitting publish before running off to a field hockey game, refusing to let perfection interfere with my inspiration to write it and share it. I invite you to share any of your truths as well. Let’s be brave and open and real together. Let’s make that the new normal.