Where Words Take Me

As I move forward in this new blog space, I’m taking time to go back to old writing. I found this piece, nearly finished, as a draft on my previous blog and was struck by how much it still applies and how recently I’ve been transported to new understandings by the power of words.

When I write in my own notebook, I am often writing beside or inspired by the words of authors whose words remind me that I have things to say, thoughts to wrestle with, ideas that need to get out of my head and be given space to breathe. So when I came to the passage below in The Book of Peach by Penelope J. Stokes, I HAD to write. The lines immediately called to me…

Her main character, Peach, writes in her own journal, as she reflects on her past, her difficult relationship with her mother, and the possibilities her future might include. She says, “Now I realize: The anger is the pain. Anger is nothing more than a smoke screen for hurt and fear. It keeps the pain at bay, keeps the fear pushed down. But at the end of the tunnel, there it is again. If I stay good and mad, I don’t have to admit my vulnerabilities. I don’t have to face the truth that I’m afraid and wounded and that those wounds have never really healed.

And how could they heal? They’ve never been exposed to light and air. They’ve been bandaged up, scabbed, grafted over. But the poison remains, festering below the surface, oozing, spreading its tentacles into other relationships.” (254)

Sit with those words for a few minutes, and then, like I did, write. See where the words take you.

When I originally started this post, the book had me, much like its main character, mining a lot of detail about my childhood and my own difficult relationship with my mother, and the entry I was writing in my notebook almost went that way too. But instead, maybe because I was at the end of the long journey that distance learning and the spring of 2020 gave us, the words transported me to a different place. A new perspective. An outlook I did not expect.

And just last night, when I took some much-needed time to sit with my notebook again, I found myself thinking about anger and pain. I needed to give light and air to my feelings about a complicated and difficult situation I’m struggling through right now. I began with a rant. I gave space to of all of the negative emotions I’ve been feeling: the fear, the worry, the anxiety, the doubt, the frustration, and yes, the anger.

But that’s not where my words stayed, even though, this time, I actually wanted them to. I wanted to let myself be angry. I wanted (and needed) space to rage. I wanted it to be messy (it was…and still is), and I wanted the solution to be that someone else is wrong and I am right.

While that is partially true, it isn’t the whole story. It was part of the story I had been telling myself. It was my band aid.

I would not have reached that place of new understanding had I not allowed myself to go where my words needed to take me.

And that’s the gift of writing, really. It’s an opportunity to rip off the scabs and the bandaids, the scars and the grafts. It’s a chance to let ourselves be messy and angry. It’s an act that allows us to get lost and be found.

That’s what writing did for me that Spring day when I started this post, and it’s what writing did for me again last night. It’s what writing always does for me.

When I let the words lead the way, they always take me exactly where I need to go.

Quitting vs. Choosing… Our Word Choice Matters

I’ve been thinking a lot about what we hold on to and why. I know that in my own life, I’ve been very hesitant to walk away from so much, even people, places, and situations that end up causing some sort of damage to me, because it feels like I’m quitting. And like so many, I was raised to believe that you don’t quit. Ever.

But now, especially through the lens of all that 2020 has given and taken away, I’m seeing the walking away as an essential choice. Sometimes it’s about choosing one idea over another. At other moments it’s about choosing to stand by a friend or loved one even and especially when others have chosen to walk away.

And sometimes, it’s about choosing me. Putting myself first. Choosing to savor and celebrate what is good and stop fighting for what isn’t, what doesn’t serve me in the journey toward becoming the best version of myself. It means pushing myself to really SEE the people and situations around me for who and what they are. It’s leading me to both new joy and some real and difficult disappointments. I know, wholeheartedly, that it’s all leading me to a better, truer version of me.

But that’s really hard when you’ve been raised with that “Never Quit” mindset. At first, choosing to walk away from people, places, and ideas that cause you pain feels like a loss. There’s grief, self-doubt, and even outside scrutiny with which to contend.

What I’m finding is that the more I walk away from the things that don’t help me be and feel better, the easier it gets. I don’t think it will ever really be easy, though. I’m an investor. I go hard and I go all in. My heart isn’t just on my sleeve, it is my whole outfit.

So, sometimes that means I get hurt. That’s the unavoidable price we pay for this human experience.

But sometimes, and more often than ever before, because I’m seeing these moments as choices that give me something I needed rather than losses that take away, I’m more willing to move on from what does not help me feel and be better.

I was thinking about this last week as I was driving home from picking up groceries, and used my Notes app on my phone to write (speak?) this poem. I’ll revisit these words often, especially when I let self-doubt or the judgments of others start to cloud my thinking.

I hope that the words might help you to consider walking away when you need to as a powerful choice rather than a moment of quitting.

When You Finally Learn

I used to think

that holding on

was the way

to honor

others

the way

to prove

my loyalty

or

my worth

but now

I think that honor comes

more wholly

more completely

when you know

when you finally learn

that it’s time

to let go

to release yourself

to untether your expectations

and your hopes

from someone

from the things

that hold you down

that hold you back

that will never

let you be

that were never interested

in your becoming

the truest version

of yourself.

Breathing Space

I am a failed blogger. I haven’t just failed once. I’ve failed multiple times.

And now, I’m trying again.

I think the reason I keep failing is because I keep trying to make my words and my thinking fit inside a certain type of box. A box that doesn’t fit.

If reading, writing, teaching, and living through 2020 has taught me anything, it’s taught me that trying to fit yourself into a box that isn’t yours just doesn’t work.

Whitman said it best, I think, “I am large. I contain multitudes.”

I know that’s true for me.

My other blog attempts have failed because they tried to contain the multitudes.

They were too polished, too pretty, too organized, and really, they were not me. Not even close.

I live in the messy.

I get through this life with a combination of grit and grace.

And I see the world around me as pure magic.

This new blog, I see it as my exhale. My breathing space. The place where all of that grit, grace, mess, and magic can just be, together.

This space, like me, will contain multitudes.

I can’t wait to see where the journey takes me.

If you’re along for the ride…welcome.