A couple of nights ago I went to bed wondering if I was still a writer.
You know those moments when we doubt ourselves and wonder what on Earth we think we are doing? Those moments when we ask, “Who do I think I am?”
Maybe you don’t have a lot of moments like that.
I’ve had a long writing hiatus since my last surgery, and I have felt a little lost trying to find my way back on the path. My blog has been lying in wait for inspired words. I have a book that is waiting to be written. The outline is calling to me from the top of the stack on my desk. Bits and pieces are floating around Scrivener and Word.
It is all collecting dust, and I feel an itch to clean house.
I had declared myself a “writer” not that long ago on Facebook (gasp, does that make it so?) only to decide that what I do does not define me. I started to think about how much we associate what we do with who we are. I took writer off of my profile a couple months ago, and gave myself a proper label. I was determined that day to own what I always am, at all times and above all other things.
A human being.
But the dust has now settled into a thick coat, and my surgical wounds have sealed over into shiny pink scars. Never have I felt being human so acutely, as having my body poked, prodded, and cut on the operating table. We delude ourselves so deftly, and my humanitarian efforts seemed noble enough from the outside. I had convinced myself I took down my title of writer solely because I wanted to, first and foremost, be identified as a human being.
Now I know I was lying.
Now I see it was fear that had its quiet influence. It snuck in while I was nursing my wounds. I know now that I took my title down because I did not feel worthy of it.
I forgot that this human being gig includes doing what it is I feel I have been put here to do, even when I don’t feel like doing it. To put on my boots and to muster the strength and courage to keep digging, not knowing what I will uncover.
But sometimes I lose that strength and courage in the muck.
And sometimes I just sit in the mud.
I had this notion that I just had to show up with a pencil in hand and a heart full of excitement, for the sake of the expedition, in order to find the part of myself that had been lying in wait.
I didn’t know that digging would become a spiritual practice.
I didn’t know writing would become an act of faith.
Last night as I scrolled through my Facebook feed, one of my friends had posted a quote from Cheryl Strayed’s Sugar column from The Rumpus. If you haven’t read her Tiny, Beautiful Things, run; do not walk. Do not pass go. Get it, devour it, and then read it again.
I had almost forgotten that I attended her writing workshop in Petaluma last year, when my husband surprised me with it as a gift. The memories of what a profoundly inspiring and life-changing experience it was for me had since faded. Knowing that I was meant to write, had too.
How was it that my bravest self had found her way, once again, into hiding?
This morning, reading my morning blog roll, I was shocked to read one of my favorite bloggers/writers didn’t even think of herself as a writer! She has three books in progress and a blog that she has written faithfully for many years without ever missing a week. She doesn’t identify herself as a writer, and yet writes with a passion and a gift that cannot be denied or satiated.
It left me with the question, At what point do we claim our God-given gifts?
I have discovered what a lonely and vulnerable place it is to be lost inside your own head. To pack up in search of words that describe the human experience in a way that makes us feel connected again. I keep searching for my place in the puzzle, knowing my piece must fit somewhere. If only I could find exactly where that is.
Kids are good at puzzles, though. At least my little boy is.
I wasn’t even awake yet a couple of mornings ago, when he came to me with something pink. I had to put my glasses on to see, but I already knew what he had in his hand. What? But how could he possibly know?
“Here, Mommy, it’s the bracelet from that workshop with… What’s her name?”
I looked down, sleepy-eyed and in quiet disbelief, at the bracelet in his hand.
“Cheryl Strayed, baby… Her name is Cheryl Strayed.”
“No,” he said, “I mean Sugar. What does this say again?“
It says, “Be brave enough to break your own heart.”
Be brave enough to break your own heart.
How could I forget that I was in the process of breaking?
I get distracted sometimes.
I slipped the pink ‘Sugar’ bracelet on. I put it on right next to the bracelet my husband and I had made for our new Tree of Life campaign: Live Love, Live True.
But am I doing that? Am I living love? Am I living true?
Sometimes I am, but other times…
I forget. I get distracted. I let unworthiness pull me away from my path. I let fear of the pain of the fracturing paralyze me.
But living true means that I keep going, even when I’m terrified.
It means to always strive to give more than I take.
It means knowing myself, and cultivating the rough gemstones I have found within myself.
It means polishing them until they shine.
It means being brave enough to break my own heart, and to keep writing even if what I write ends up being crap.
It takes a brave heart even to write crap.
Don’t believe me? Try bearing your heart for others to read like, an unlocked diary. Tell of your adventures, your woes, your lowest moments, your deepest fears. Open yourself to judgment, to critique, to being taken out of context. Open yourself to not having any earthly idea what you are doing.
It’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.
The tremor in my belly tells me I’m on to something real.
When we open ourselves to all those terrifying things, we also open ourselves to so much that was covered up with shovels full of dirt. We open ourselves to the understanding that we all share some of the same truths. We open ourselves to the truth that all any of us really want is to be loved.
Living love means I keep loving the way I want to be loved. It means I don’t forget to love myself. It means I claim what God has given me and then give it away with a boundless heart. And so it is with the hearts that have been shattered into a million tiny shards.
The more pieces that have been fractured under the weight of this human experience, the more we come into the wholeness of giving our pieces away.
#giveitaway #liveLOVEliveTRUE #bebraveenoughtobreakyourownheart #cherylstrayed #dearsugar #lovewithaboundlessheartwritewithafearlessone
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Apprentice Editor: Chrissy Tustison/Editor: Travis May