Last July I was out for one of my nightly walks with R in the stroller and the stars and jets and helicopters twinkling overhead. I imagine I was probably listening to a Dear Sugars podcast and soaking in the thick, night air. I was texting with a friend and I commented on how I was going to go home and write some notes for work that night. He knew about my desire to write for myself and at that point I was leaning more toward pouring my energy into a book than a blog. He responded to my comment with, “F*ck it. Write the book.” That night I did. I went home, put R in bed, sat down with my laptop and wrote for 45 minutes. That night, that directive, marked a crossroads.
At the beginning of January, I crossed the 10k view threshold on thatiwouldbefree.com. It felt super humbling and exciting to think that on ten t-h-o-u-s-a-n-d occasions someone had even glanced at what I had to say. It’s interesting that this milestone hit in the middle of what has been one of my biggest life blocks/plateaus in the last two years. While I’ve continued to journal, it’s been content that felt too vulnerable or scattered or shameful to share. That’s what I’ve been telling myself anyway.
I realized a few months ago that when I was feeling blocked with writing, it was usually because I wasn’t willing to be honest with myself about something. And I remained blocked until I could flush that hidden thing to the surface. I think the difference this past couple of months has been that that thing I’m trying to hide from myself is a big one, and pulling it to the surface is still underway. I go to therapy. I talk to my close friends and family. I read. I write. I surf or run or punch things. I’m still doing all of it but this one is a big one!
Yet here we are and I thought it might be helpful for me to review my process and remember why I decided to f*ck it and write the book.
Creativity is like air.
Isn’t it interesting how humans naturally migrate toward creativity and innovation? I think it’s because there is aliveness in creativity. It’s what we were made to do and to be. Elizabeth Gilbert wrote, “Whatever your life brings to you, respond with creation. If you are celebrating, create. If you are grieving, create. Only create. Always create. Constant creative response. This is the engine of resilience.”
This is the engine of resilience. That rings so true to me. Creativity is the engine that drove my 20s. When I realized I wasn’t going to get the house and three kids that my peers were working on, and that I had envisioned for myself, I turned my focus to school. When that was too stressful, I taught myself how to knit in class. While I was learning pathology and pharmacology and cardiology and all the -ologies, I watched YouTube with my yarn and knitting needles in hand. I practiced baking. I sewed clothing for myself. I tried lots of things. And when I began writing again last Spring it was like putting on a pair of broken-in hiking boots. “*Sigh* This is what we were made for!” Creativity is the engine for my resilience.
I’ve gotta keep the shadow in front of me.
“Everyone carries a shadow,” Carl Jung wrote, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” Jungian theory describes the shadow as the dark side or unconsciousness. I think it’s the stuff we try to keep hidden from ourselves and, certainly, from others. But the truth is, we all carry a shadow. What a relief, right?!
Glennon Doyle has really inspired me in this way. In an interview on the On Being podcast, Glennon said this about her own decision to start a blog:
“So sometimes, it feels like we are keeping the things from each other that are the very things, that are so heavy, that we are supposed to be carrying them with each other. When people say “tell-all,” all that means to me is, I just don’t have any shame because what I learned about my recovery, through getting sober, is that it’s not at all the pain of life or the difficulty of life — I still find life extremely difficult, but it’s not that that takes us out of the game. It’s the shame about the difficulty that takes us out of the game.
I think, probably, what they mean is that I write about things that maybe other people don’t write about all the time. But that’s because it’s a spiritual practice for me. The second I start to feel anything that has a hint of shame in it, I always think of that Maya Angelou quote that’s ‘I am human, so nothing human can be foreign to me.’ I get it out if it’s scary inside and dark. But once I get it out and get light on it, it just shrinks. It’s not so scary anymore. A bunch of people say, “Me too,” and I’m like, “Ah — I’m not bad. I’m just human.” And we get on with it. So I’ve just tried to turn my entire life into one giant A.A. meeting.”Glennon Doyle, On Being podcast
Like Glennon, the practice of writing keeps the shadow in front of me. I become intimate with my own nature. I develop my understanding of the nature of everything that isn’t me. It’s my single, most-therapeutic practice.
I want to hear the echo of my own voice.
I used to wonder if the intended lesson of life was to give up everything that was actually me—to become invisible. When did I pick that up? And what a weird conclusion! I can actually point to a few formative experiences that pushed me in that direction. That’s for another post, but this concept is a complete lie. I can’t help but think that if God created so much diversity in this world—think about the staggering number of organisms that live in the ocean alone—that he must really delight our uniqueness. So then it makes NO sense that he would create such diversity with the expectation that we dissolve into nothingness. He created ALL of the parts of us—the things we want to shout from the rooftops and the things we want to hide in the back of the closet—the light and the shadow. And it’s in discovering all of those parts of myself that I find God. When I shout in the canyon, I hear God in the echo that comes back to me and in that moment—in this moment as I write this—I know that I’m alive.
So I’ll be over here creating because I can’t stand to not! I hope you can’t stand to not too!
Illustration Credit: Clare, surf-sister, artist, bestie drew this portrait of me while sitting at my kitchen table last night in about 10 minutes. Everything she draws makes me happy!