Actually, I find it more scary not to ‘be myself’ than going for it – that it being the thing that makes me feel I AM WHO I AM.
Years ago when I suffered setbacks (of my own making) (out of ignorance), and was ready to chuck it all in (i.e. my life), my Higher Self whispered, ‘Well, then you’re just going to have to come back and do it all over again, and it will be harder next time.’ So that was the beginning of my Surrender. And in that process of surrendering came the realization that I needed to become my authentic self. To take off the masks and stop pretending to be someone other than I was.
Sometime after that, I took a course called Showing Yourself that involved standing up in front of the group and being grilled by the teacher in such a way that you found yourself admitting your heart’s desire, your heart’s longing, and because this confession was now being witnessed by forty or fifty people, there was a sense of obligation to follow through in fulfilling my intention.
So I manifested getting commissions, quitting my job, and becoming a painter full time. It came down to having the courage to identify myself as an artist in the eyes of the world.
Time passed, and after fulfilling my goal as a painter, I took up writing memoir. And then I found it had been much easier to paint a feeling than to write about it. Paintings can be interpreted numerous ways, but words, not so much. Words stick. Words are specific. Sentences need to be clear, otherwise the reader is left wondering. And that is okay too, as long as the writer means it that way. But what is being served if I skirt around an issue with half-truths?
Memoir writing is cathartic. It can also feel dangerous. I had an instructor in grad school who told me I needed “to scare myself.” To be myself, and show myself, as I really was, as I really felt. It took a lot of drafts, a lot of revisions, and long periods when the manuscript just sat in the drawer while I worked up my courage again.
I published The Nancy Who Drew last June, but it was only the beginning of the story. Now I am working on the tough middle. And I’m finding I have to screw up my courage all over again, as if I’d never done it before.
A new set of stories, episodes and scenes, wait to be revealed. The life they describe has already been lived, but in order to relate it, I must relive it again. Yet I know how inspiring it is to hear another person speak their truth. We say to ourselves, well, if so-and-so can do it, so can I.
And so it is.
Besides (I say to myself), why should I be fearful of telling you who I’ve been or what I’ve done in the past? Will you think less of me?
So this is what I wish for myself – no, scratch that. This is what I intend for myself. I intend that I will have the guts to write unashamedly about the life I had the guts to live in the first place! This is not a story I want my family to read, and that is alright. They don’t have to. I am entitled to have my own life. I’m allowed to have the life I’ve already lived. And what I’ve done has led me to here, this beautiful place where I am now. In owning that life, I’m also owning myself. I am willing to be a sovereign individual. Let the chips fall where they may. Maybe no one will even read it! And if they do, I am curious as to what they will think, but I also like to think I am enough of a writer to steer them into thinking the way I want them to think. And in the end, what others think is more a reflection of who they are, than who I am. That’s what it’s all about really. Being who I AM.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011, I will be talking with Anora McGaha, poet, author, essayist, and editor of the online magazine Women Writers, Women Books as on Blog Talk Radio as we discuss ways of moving beyond the small self and releasing fear.