At the high school my kids attend I am part of a volunteer team that helps students formulate their post-high school plans. I am definitely qualified to do this because I finally know what I want to do when I grow up, I mean now that I’m a grown-up, and so now I know how to help others figure it out too. The “when” I figured it out (last year) and the “what” I want to do (be a backup dancer on tour with Justin Bieber) are not pertinent (read: impediments) to my qualifications. They are not! The point you might be missing here is that I figured out how to figure this out. I think we’ve been approaching this career search archetype all wrong.
I have an incredibly hard time getting through self-help books or articles, no matter how great the content or how badly I need to absorb its particular wisdom and use it to try to ease on down, ease on down the road of life. Stories are what grab my attention and won’t let go. Stories are how I relate with the world and back to it. The only kind of self-help I can offer you is my special brand of don’t-try-this-at-home type anecdotes. My stories. Or, if you refuse to listen and do indeed try it at home, I can also then offer up how you might try to fix it.
Updated: 3/1/18, celebrating one year of blogging and freelance writing today, y’all! Here’s how it all began…
It’s suggested to bloggers that their first post tell readers why they peck at the keyboard and then click publish and what readers can expect to find on their blog. Makes good sense to me. So here goes.
A year ago, a dear friend said I simply must read Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. This friend is a sommelier of books and when she tells you to read something, you read it. The force is strong in her and ignoring her book suggestions would be like ignoring Warren Buffett’s advice on mutual funds. So I read Love Warrior and my world went fuzzy and out of focus for a beat and then sharp and crisp. I was like Jason Bourne and someone had flipped a switch in me. I felt an immediate pull towards Glennon and her writing. Like I had known her forever but never knew I did. I felt a kinship with this woman whom I’d never met like you would not believe.
Glennon and I both endured the trauma of experiencing betrayal in our marriages and nothing bonds you to another human being quite like similar trauma. When she described her heartache in Love Warrior I felt like I was reliving it with her. I had, in fact, lived parts of her story myself. I felt her hurt. As much as anyone can feel anyone else’s pain and if you have large empathy, that’s a lot.
I Googled this woman so I could soak in some more of her and found her other book, Carry On, Warrior, and I read it too. And I did know her, I did! Virtually, that is. She is the force and the honesty and the humorous wit behind the wonderful blog Momastery.com. I realized I had read some of her posts over the years but since I do not have a lot of stick-to-it-iveness in many areas of life, I was not a regular reader of her blog. Oh, the horrors when I think of what I’ve missed.
Early on in Carry On, Warrior, Glennon spoke to me (directly to me, via the book, both things are true) when she wrote the following:
“If, anywhere in your soul, you feel the desire to write, please write. Write as a gift to yourself and others. Everyone has a story to tell. Writing is not about creating tidy paragraphs that sound lovely or choosing the “right” words. It’s just about noticing who you are and noticing life and sharing what you notice. When you write your truth it is a love offering to the world because it helps us feel braver and less alone.”
She had me at “please write.” But she went on to say:
“If you feel something calling you to dance or write or paint or sing, please refuse to worry about whether you’re good enough. Just do it. Be generous. Offer a gift to the world that no one else can offer: yourself.”
Word. Mic drop.
She is not the first person to tell me I should write. She’s just the first person I listened to. My husband has encouraged me to write for as long as I can remember. I “p-shawed” him. What does he know? He’s supposed to tell me I’m wonderfully talented and then encourage me to use that talent. I can’t put stock in his endorsement. He’s biased.
There have been others who’ve tried to encourage me to write too. I paid them no attention because I’d made a mental list a mile long of reasons I shouldn’t write. And that is what I’ve paid attention to. What I know now is that list was a liar. It duped me and I fell for it. All the reasons not to write were inspired by fear, insecurity, anxiety, uncertainty and lack of faith. I despise that fraudulent list now.
My dumb but maybe very common reasons not to write:
- I don’t know how. – Um, yes I do. But I was being technical. One of my biggest regrets is being a shining star in my English classes in high school. I passed my AP test in Lit. & Comp. and thus tested right out of needing to take writing in college. I used the free time to add in science courses because I thought I wanted to go into healthcare. Well, I really didn’t and I don’t. But I did and I do want to write. I let lack of formal training and “proper” instruction hold me back. Shame on me! No, shame is bad, very, very bad. Love on me!
- What if no one wants to read my writing or thinks it is any good? – What if. Oh, the what ifs. If ifs and buts were candies and nuts we’d all have a Merry Christmas, or something to that effect, yes? In Carry on, Warrior Glennon explained in a way I finally understood that your gift is something that brings YOU joy when you do it, even if it is hard for you to do. So that’s why I am finally ready to call writing my gift, because of what happens to me when I do it. I become joyful. Not happy per se, but full of joy and joy is the bomb! I get it now. Your gift is for you. It’s from God. Where all good things come from. Using it for the benefit of others can be a natural extrapolation and important to do, but we are the intended first recipients of our gifts. Sometimes it’s just hard to see our gifts for what they are because they can feel too ordinary. So it doesn’t matter much whether anyone ever reads my writing or appreciates it. Because I’m really writing for joy.
- What if I write something that hurts someone’s feelings. – Too bad, so sad. Seriously though, I would never write for the purpose of causing pain, exactly the opposite in fact; to bring myself joy and to connect with others. ‘Sometimes you wanna be, where you can see, your troubles are all the same…’ By summoning my bravery and telling my truths I can quit hiding and begin to heal and if I share my stories and someone sees their pain inside of my pain, then hopefully they’ll feel less alone. I own everything that happens to me. I get to tell my stories. If people wanted me to write more warmly about them, they should have behaved better.
- There are AMAZING writers out there and they are SO funny, wise, insightful, innovative, helpful, on point, relevant and creative. I can’t compete with them. – Writing is not a competition. Well actually in 1st grade it was, and I won! I produced a lovely and effective environmental campaign featuring Hootie, the Tootsie Pop Owl. My tagline was “Give a hoot, don’t polloot.” But really, writing is about expressing your unique self and using your gift. As noted above, your gift brings YOU joy, first and foremost. If that’s all it ever accomplishes, it’s still worth doing.
- Fear of plagiarism. I read a ton of books, articles, blogs, posts, memes, emails, texts and order confirmations from Amazon. What if I write someone else’s words, and forgetting where they came from, I think they are my own? This is still a valid fear. I’m a middle-aged mom and so my memory cannot be trusted, it is shady as f@#!. But, since it will never be my intention to commit petty theft of words, I will work hard to give credit where credit is due and ask for forgiveness if I make a blunder. If I ever get to hang out with a bunch of experienced writers, this will be one of the first questions I ask them, “How do you know you wrote your words down and not mine?”
- Is there anything left to write about? – There is nothing new under the sun. According to the bible. And my brain when it over-thinks writing. But maybe there is still a new way to write about all the old stuff. I go back to what Glennon said to me. (I mean what she wrote to me, in her book). She told me I have one gift to offer the world that no one else can offer: myself. And, sure, maybe my take on things won’t be that much different from so and so’s but sometimes it’s good to hear things over and over again until they finally sink into our thick skulls. (Whoops, I was writing to myself there, not to you, you are not in trouble. I don’t think you are thick-headed).
- Our stories are not for everyone. – Thank you for reminding us of that, Brené Brown. Over-sharing is a concern. Being misunderstood is possible. There are people out there that may try to use my words against me. Not everyone is for me. But I am ready to push this fear aside just like all the others. There are enough people out there that are behind me and God is at the top of that list, so who can REALLY be against me?
- I’m busy. – Yeah, yeah, aren’t we all. I’ll stop here with this stupid list because I think you get the idea and all the other reasons get really weak from here on out.
So I will write, to clear my head and to make sense of my thoughts as they morph into written words. And then I will be brave and share the only thing of value that I actually possess, myself; in hopes of connecting on a deeper level with even just one of you. It is my observation that life sucks. And then it doesn’t. And then it does again. But if we can grasp hands and sing, “We’re all in this together,” like we’re cast members of High School Musical, maybe we’ll feel a little stronger, a little better equipped, a little less alone.
Perfect is gross. If you disagree and think Perfect is grand, then this blog and its Imperfect content will not be for you. But I know for certain that Perfect is not my friend, or yours. We tried to become close in the past when we were young and we thought we needed each other. And we were happy together for a time. Together we felt strong and courageous. We thought we could conquer our common enemies; insecurity, anxiety, shame, and loneliness. But our too-close friendship hurt those around us. When Perfect and I focused all of our attention on each other, our families and other friends felt ‘less than’ in our presence. Once I recognized the pain we caused, I felt it too. Nothing hurts us quite as bad as when we hurt someone we love.
Since no friendship of mine should ever serve to cause anyone else pain I needed to break up with Perfect. She didn’t want to let me go. We wrestled it out and for a while, we were at an impasse. But then something miraculous happened. I realized matter of factly that Perfect didn’t actually exist. And poof, she was gone. She’d been an imaginary friend all along. I’d conjured her when I felt alone and misunderstood. When I felt shunned and unable to belong anywhere. I’d befriended her in hopes she would protect me and keep me safe. She was tough as nails where I was weak. My biggest hope was that she would make me feel worthy.
Instead, Perfect was sly and deceptive and closed me off to other people. She isolated me and made sure I was unapproachable. Her departure freed me, opening me up to others and it was then I met Imperfect. I was receptive to her and her gifts and she became my new favorite friend. I love Imperfect still today because she is SOOOO real. We are tight. We go everywhere together.
The best part about our friendship is that I know it will last my whole life long, nothing will come between us. I take that back, the really best part is that we make everyone around us feel accepted. People feel ‘normal’ and at ease around us. They feel like there is room for them and they belong with us. Not all the time, because Imperfect and I don’t always get everything right. But even this makes people feel better about themselves. It’s funny how our friendship works.
Imperfect doesn’t really make me feel worthy either, but what she does make me feel is like I am enough. Didn’t see that one coming. That’s what you can expect to find here on this blog. Me, Imperfect, and room for you too. I do hope you’ll join us.