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The birth of my blog…

When you write, you have to attempt something greater than you can possibly hope to accomplish. That is the only way you can leave a hole, a gap – some chance for a miracle.

It’s funny: I thought that today, of all days, I would write a post filled with my own words – long, reflective, and full of introspection about all this blog has offered and invited since its inauspicious beginning one quiet evening, November 15, 2005.

But then I read Heather Harpham’s words above, her writing, and realized nothing more needed to be said.

Well, maybe just this:

The writing I’ve done on these “pages,” has been far more than some “chance” for a miracle. It has been nothing but such, over and over again. Relationships that have changed me forever. Confidence I could have never imagined. A voice I might not otherwise have known, heard, trusted, or honored. Gratitude beyond measure.

When Things Don’t Go as Planned

I’ve been thinking a lot, even more than I normally do, about my daughters. About the trials and tribulations that, by necessity it would seem, visit every life. About how each and every one of these pains feel insurmountable to them right now. They are not. But neither of them know that yet.

So this: an open letter to my girls (and maybe to you, as well).

Sweet girl:

I know you hold a picture in your mind as to how your story “should” go, at the very least, how you want it to go. It might be one you began to create when you were so very young (which doesn’t seem all that long ago to me) – nurtured and nuanced over these past years: you’ll be safe, you’ll b  nurtured, you’ll be protected, you’ll be loved. It might be more specific: the white picket fence, the 2.5 kids, the perfect job-body-marriage-bank account. And it might be all of these and then some – including a strong-and-sustained sense of what, quite frankly, just seems right and fair: happiness, ease, satisfaction, fun, and a lack of struggle and pain. There’s nothing wrong with these pictures. They are beautiful manifestations of your desire, your longing for all that’s possible, your hope.

But reality doesn’t always (if often) comply. Life doesn’t always (if often) go as planned,
dreamed, or even pictured.

And when that dissonance arrives? I know, sweet girl: it hurts.

“So?” you ask. “Now what?”

Maybe, for now, allowing the hurt is what matters most. It’s completely acceptable: feeling sad and forlorn, lost and confused, discombobulated by the curves thrown your way. Yes, for now.

“For how long?”

I wish I knew.

But here’s what I do know:

You let go, or at least loosen your grip on how it all “should” be. Even more, you hold on – with all the conviction and determination you can muster. Yes, this I
know for sure: you hold on to you.

That is enough. Because you are.

You are strong enough to weather any set-back – including this one. You are brave enough to manage every emotion – whether fleeting or seeming to take up roost. You are tenacious enough to grab onto the tail end of hope and wrangle it back into its rightful place in your psyche, your perspective, your present tense. You are tender enough to make room for grief while trusting its healing power. You are bold enough to get up again tomorrow, to stand tall, to face all that awaits (within and without), and to step forward – no matter how tentatively – into the life that is yours, the one that spreads out before you in all its unknown, in all its possibility, and yes, right now, in all its poignant ache.

I know you aren’t buying most of this, that you don’t quite believe me. Not yet. That’s
OK.

In the meantime, you can hold on to me. Because I do know a few things that I’ll hold in trust and reserve until you are ready to try them on and take them in:

  • Things don’t always go as planned and they do get better. I promise.
  • What feels like forever, isn’t. I promise.
  • What seems a mess, might very well be, but it will turn into beauty. I promise.
  • Every bit of this is part of your story, a chapter you’ll look back on fondly (eventually) – aware that it formed you in profound and powerful ways. I promise.
  • It won’t always hurt as much as it does right now. I promise.
  • Though you doubt me in this moment, I’m right about this: you are more than enough. I promise.

Little consolation, I get it. Still, my heart on your behalf. Still and again, hold on, sweet girl. When things don’t go as planned you can rest assured that you are yet to live into a picture, a story, and a life beyond imagining.

How can I say such a thing with any degree of con dence, let alone sanity? Well, almost exclusively because of you.

When I was your age, I could not have possibly imagined a picture, story, or life that was big enough, vast enough, amazing enough to include you. I could not have
dreamed this big or believed I could love this deeply. And I could not have known that I was enough to bear my own disappointments, shattered dreams, mislaid plans, and broken hearts. But I was. And I am.

As are you.

So hold on, sweet girl. I promise: it’s all going to be OK.

12 Years of Blogging

I find it almost impossible to believe that 12 years have passed since I meekly created a WordPress site and began typing/publishing my thoughts, later my very heart.

12 years ago I would have never dared articulate my deeper feelings; it all seemed way too risky, way too fraught with consequence, way too vulnerable. Still and clearly, something in me wanted and needed to at least begin, to try, to speak (even if quietly and almost completely off the radar). If that were not the case, I would have never created the site in the first place. But I did. And I dared – bit by bit, slowly, tentatively, and in less-than-eloquent form to somehow be honest with myself.

When I look back at those early writings, I feel my heart’s ache all over again. Not so much in what was said, but in what was left unsaid. In between the lines I find and recall my every question, doubt, and as-yet unexpressed grief. I look back and recognize just how many of these were yet to grow into full expression and lived experience. Hardly pleasant, all of them; but no less true.

Isn’t that almost always the way of it?

Hindsight…

But there’s this, as well:

When we get closer and closer to our own edge, to the place that is calling us (even begrudgingly) into more strength, more courage, more capacity, and yes, more voice, we tiptoe all the more gingerly. We are afraid that the slightest misstep will cause all manner of disaster to befall. And we pull back. Unless we don’t. Unless, as we look out over that seemingly-treacherous and cavernous ledge, we lean forward. We risk the fall, the bruising, the shattering, the breaking – all on the slight chance that there will be a miracle, a soft landing, the ability to fly, much grace.

What enables the latter?

In my experience, it’s been the scary-but-consistent voicing of my thoughts, feelings, desires, beliefs, doubts, arguments, anger, and fear(s). It’s been the naming, the truth-telling, the achingly-slow movement toward honesty. It’s been being heard. Yes, this:

When we are heard, we are healed.

I do not mean to deny the value in good, self-reflective work. Of course, there is much healing and growth to be gained in the silence of our own minds and hearts. But if these past 12 years have taught me anything (and they have taught me more than I can possibly recount), this rings truest:

When I step out of the shadows (of my own mind, my own secrets, my own hidden stories) and into the light, most of what I fear does not happen; rather, just the opposite. The light remains – and grows. The shadows lessen. And strength surges, restores, and rebuilds.

And why? Because when I speak, when I let myself be heard, when I allow myself to be seen, then and only then do I realize that I am not alone. I never have been, of course. Not really. But when in my hardest, darkest places, you couldn’t convince me of that. Now you can’t convince me otherwise,

Now I know that the tougher the emotion, circumstance, or reality, the more I need to speak, be heard, and be seen.

And I am. Beautifully. Graciously. Kindly. Powerfully. Over and over again.

Not because I’m so amazing – but because those who surround and support and witness and mirror and call and invite and pour me coffee or wine or champagne are!

How would I know any of this if not for this blog? If not for this virtual platform through which one evening, long, long ago, I began to take the smallest and nearly anonymous of steps? If I had not allowed myself to speak, be heard, and be seen? I shudder to think…

So, the takeaways in all of this? Well, there are (at least) two:

The first one is for me: There is further to go, more distance for me to travel, stories yet to tell, darkness yet to expose. That is just the way of it for all of us – always. And being here, staying here, writing here is at least part of what invites more and more of the light (not to mention the miracles, the soft landings, the ability to fly, and the grace) again and again and again.

The second one is for you: May you speak or write or blog or call a friend or send an email or have the conversation that needs to be had. May you recognize that until you step into the light (no matter how tentatively, quietly, or timidly), the shadows remain. And most of all, may you believe this: the shadows are not your home. Then. Now. Ever.

OK. Maybe one more takeaway for us both:

WHEN we step into the light we’ll be seen – and met and surrounded and supported and loved. How can it be otherwise?

Here’s what I know-know-know to be true (learned through 12 years of blogging and MANY more years of life): we are not alone. Ever.

*****

I am profoundly grateful to so many of you – for reading my words (and hearing the many left unsaid, the many housed between the lines), for staying with me and standing by me, for offering me such encouragement over the years, for becoming my dearest and deepest of friends (you know who you are), for helping me, increasingly, to stand in the light – unblinking.

My Inner Critic = The Patriarchy

I was recently organizing files on my computer (something I do when I intend to write, but instead find busy work…) and came across a piece I wrote just over a year ago. Why I didn’t post it then, why I didn’t work with it more, I do not know…Well, I have a hunch, but I’ll get to that at the end. First, the writing I found…

 

*****

 

Perhaps this isn’t news to you, but I just realized this morning that the voice of the inner critic inside of me is the patriarchy; even more specifically, the patriarchal god.

This actually came as a shock to me – one I am still sitting with and trying to make sense of. But the second I wrote the words (which I will share in a moment), I knew this was true. And now that I know this is true, I have a clarity and certainty about some other things that I didn’t before (which I’ll also share in a moment).

First, how I got to this realization:

As is my normal routine, I journal in the morning. I set the alarm and, with the best of intentions, try my hardest to not look at the emails that have accumulated overnight on my phone. I go to the kitchen, fill the teakettle with water, get coffee measured into my French press, and then open up my 3-ring binder and take out two sheets of college-ruled paper. I take the cap off my very favorite pen and write the date in neat script on the top line.

By then the water is hot enough to pour into the press. I wait the four interminable minutes it takes for the coffee to steep, gratefully pour it into my waiting mug, then return to my chair, my notebook, the paper, my pen.

This morning I was recounting details of my previous day, reflecting on what was ahead in the hours to come, scribing a litany of words and questions and feelings. Nothing monumental. Nothing transformational. Just the practice of pen on paper, page after page, day after day.

In the midst of these musings, I began to write about my writing – this writing – this practice of pen on paper, page after page, day after day. As often happens, I dropped down a level – from information to reflection – and then, not surprisingly, to critique.

Why am I writing any of this? What is the point? What is its value?

And only because I have gotten just slightly wiser to its ways over the years, I began to write out exactly what my inner critic had to say:

What a ridiculous waste of time! How arrogant of you to think that your writing has the capacity to impact anyone. Are you kidding? Just because you’ve filled pages and pages over the years, doesn’t make you some kind of expert. And clearly, it’s not made any difference in your life. After all, you’re still listening to me, aren’t you? Why you don’t finally and once-and-for-all give up fighting me and trying to hear any other voice than mine? You know I’m going to endure, defeat, and conquer. I mean, really! What other voice has this much staying power, this much resolve, this much potency, this much influence? I am undefeatable! I am impossible to silence. I am all-powerful. I am God!

What? What? Wait! Go back. What did I just write?

A smile spread over my face and I immediately knew two things: 1) my daily writing practice which often, admittedly, seems trivial at times, actually matters – made obvious through three small words that are now out in the open and exposed; and 2) that “God” comment needs a LOT more attention!

My writing continued:

There. That’s the bottom line. The critic within me is God. Which is crazy – and not. This IS the God I’ve learned of, at least in part: the God I must fear, the God that keeps me in my place and silent, the God of the patriarchy.

More wheels turn as I speedily scribe and watch myself write these words:

Could it be that the inner critic IS the patriarchy, is the patriarchal God?

So, there you have it. That’s how I got to this realization and awareness. Now, as promised, the clarity and certainty about some other things.

I have understood the voice of the inner critic to come from, well, the inner-me. I have seen it as the collective voice of all those spoken to me throughout the years – negative messages I’ve heard, taken in, and believed. But even more, I have convinced myself that its volume and tenacity is because I have fed and fueled those messages, because I have not had the will or fortitude to disavow them. I have seen the inner critic itself as something inherently within me, as part of me.

And because of such, it is something to be exorcised out of me, something aberrant or wrong about me, something I must be blamed for and ultimately responsible for. The inner critic is clearly and resolutely my character flaw.

The problems with this are so prolific, I don’t even know where to start. Stories flood my mind – each one sticky with shame. And, truth-be-told, shame that has been self-inflicted: I should have done better. I should have tried harder. I should have stopped sooner. I should have said yes. I should have said no. I should have known.

Let me intentionally stop this tirade and go back to my earlier revelation: the inner critic is the patriarchy and even more specifically, the patriarchal god.

This is a big deal. A huge deal. A game-changer.

It’s like the great eye in Lord of the Rings (my VERY favorite movie, by the way). It turns, the focus shifts, and I recognize that the force that has controlled me for far too long and for which I have blamed myself, is something that is not me, something I could have no more stopped or controlled than been able to fly. And this not-of-me external force has allowed my shame because in so doing it has remained undiscovered, off the hook, and fancy free to wreak as much havoc as it likes.

As long as the patriarchy can keep me thinking that I am the one to blame, it has accomplished its greatest feat and highest aspiration.

And oh, how successful it has been.

I write some more.

Now you have revealed your cards. Now I know what I’m dealing with here. And now I know exactly what is needed to soother the beast, to tame this savage, to calm my very soul.

I need the God who speaks just the opposite, who reminds me who I am, who blesses and honors, who loves. I need the God of the women I know and the stories I tell. I need the God who speaks wisdom and grace. I need the God who is mother. I need the God who is feminine. I need the God who is far more fierce and powerful and all-consuming than the little god who isn’t one at all, but has somehow become confused.

And this God, though not often enough named as such, is alive and well and waiting within.

She rises still – and strong. She will yet roar.

Me too.

*****

Do you have a hunch as to why I didn’t post this piece until now, until just happening to stumble across it almost a year later?

Well, there’s this: the patriarchy (and/or the inner critic, and/or the Imposter Complex, call it what you will) is still alive and well – within me. The subconscious messaging that tells me to keep such things to myself, to only say what’s acceptable, to not expose it…ever.

Well, until now.

Maybe you, too?

Holes. Gaps. Cracks. Miracles. Light.

When you write you have to attempt something greater than you can possibly hope to accomplish. That is the only way you can leave a hole, a gap—some chance for a miracle.
~ Heather Harpham, I Went to the Animal Fair

Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
~ Leonard Cohen

Holes. Gaps. Cracks. Miracles. Light.

These are true words about writing.

We start with the holes: holes in our thoughts, our experiences, our emotions, our theories, our theologies, our relationships, even our sentence structure.

We feel the gaps: between what we ache to say and the words we can (or cannot) get onto the page, between what we feel and what we think, between what we long to articulate and our fear of who will (or will not) read, between edit and “publish,” between what is for our-eyes-only and what we so want to have seen.

We know the cracks: the hairline breaks in the sidewalk we hop over instead of land on squarely (safe topics vs. powerful ones); the crevasses into which we fall when no words come; the faultline between writing for readers’ sake and writing for writing’s sake.

But we also experience the miracles: the words that form, the prose that flows, the poetry that seems to create itself; the truth-truth-truth on the lines and in-between them; the recognition and honoring of a wisdom that is ours, all ours.

And the light. Oh, the light. Words that blaze brilliantly into our own holes, our own gaps, our own cracks – and fill them. Words that miraculously shine like a beacon into our own darkness. Words that somehow, painstakingly, mysteriously crafted are actually and amazingly cogent, beautiful, powerful, even breathtaking. Words that lay all our cards on the table, eliminate shadows, reveal our heart, and offer radiant glimpses of our purest, strongest, truest self.

The truth about writing? It’s one of the hardest and bravest and most vulnerable things we can ever do.

There is nothing more sacred, more spiritual, more holy than having a safe place in which to write/speak your voice, your mind, your heart.

So begin, persist, return, lather, rinse, repeat. Please?

Why do you write?

“Why do you write?” was a question recently asked of me. 

Here’s my answer:

I write because it is the space in which I feel most creative, most challenged, and most
compelling. Here on the page – whether literally with paper and pen or document open and cursor ashing – everything that swirls within me finds a place to land.

I write because at least for these minutes and sometimes hours, I feel calm and sane.

I write because I have something to say, lots to say. My thoughts are my own, but I long for them to take shape and form that will make their way into the world on others’ behalf, on behalf of the women’s stories I tell and love, and yes, on behalf of me.

I write because the craft of choosing particular, perfect words and then deleting them in favor of others thrills me. To realize that paragraph five is really paragraph two, that the sentence with which I started is actually my ending, that seemingly disparate threads can weave themselves together under my care, time, and attention; this is delight beyond
compare.

I write because sometimes magic descends, ascends, enters in and I become a channel, a vessel, a conduit of something other, something more. It’s of me, to be sure, and not. It’s a voice that mirrors mine, but knows and says things in ways that bypass my ever-processing mind and sometimes even my inner critic.

I write because it feels like, no, is, the place in which I feel capable and strong, wise and certain, creative and alive. All heart. Less head. All together. Less disparate. All me. Less less.

I write to name, to not ignore that which is true. I need this: my ego’s skill at disguising my every proclivity and pathology as normal and logical, convinces me it is unnecessary to do anything of the kind. When my words – my words – show up on paper, or pristine screen, I see my soul; it is grateful to finally be seen and heard, acknowledged and loved.

I write because it is a space that is bigger than me. No one asks me for money. No rides are needed. No lunches must be packed or dinners cooked. No demands are made. And all I hear is “yes.” I am allowed – all of me. My tears, my rage, my fantasies, my frustrations, my desires, my doubts, my big and brilliant thoughts, my expansive heart, my heartbreak, my strong love. There is no one I have to convince or cajole, no one for whom I have to dumb myself down, no one who can’t handle me. It is rare: this space, this respite that restores.

I write because somehow, no matter how much pours forth, there is always more. It offers me the miraculous glimpse of what the best relationship could potentially be: complete honesty, no hiding, and days, weeks, months, years, centuries needed to ever exhaust every word/thought/idea/feeling that is there to be expressed, invited, and loved out of me.

I write because it is the felt and known-with-certainty place in which I discover the discrepancies between who I truly am and who I sometimes become; between the me who stays strong, soars high, dances seductively, loves passionately, speaks boldly and the me who does not a whit of this. Writing brings me back to myself – over and over again. It stands tall, bows low and winks mischievously, then opens its arms, draws me in, holds me tight, promises me everything and means it. I am home.

Mmmm. That’s at least a start to my answer.

And you? Why do you write?