I’ve spent the weekend writing my little heart out.
Thursday night I made a few final revisions to Cranberry Dusk then uploaded it one last time to a self-publishing site with fingers crossed and a smile of relief. After the ISBN number is assigned and recorded, it should be available for purchase.
Friday and Saturday were all about Lamentations of the Sea, my book on grief, which reached up and smacked me across the face earlier in the week with how much work I still have to do on it. I can tell you that my goal is to have around 100 different reflections on grief, loss, love and letting go in the form of poetry, prose, essays and meditations, and I was somewhere around 20 last weekend. After the past couple days, that number has gone up to 82.
Like I said, I’ve spent the weekend writing my little heart out.
And as I write these words, I’m also reviewing the first draft of Freebird Fridays from my publisher, who has done a beautiful job laying out the poetry and art. I wanted it to be a book of joy since this is the book I put together in the heart of the thick of my grief over Brent, which helped pull me out of the worst of it and give me something new to stand on.
The joyful, whimsical love laden poems in the book were my answer to darkness- I still believe in the light!, I said. I wanted the book to be a reflection of hope. Now I’m reviewing rainbow colored pages and swirly fonts that make me happy just looking at them and remind me that despite the dark, there is great, great joy too in this world.
It’s strange how life can happen all at once. I’ve been wanting to write books forever, but I always cut myself off at the knees the minute I got going. Nothing seemed good enough, relevant enough, or just somehow enough, so I would make a few notes about something I wanted to write; get overwhelmed, because I wasn’t meeting my own sense of expectation; then not do a single thing more with it.
It really never occurred to me that perhaps my writing is already enough just as it is. That the words I’ve been writing on this site and in my personal work are the unpolished pages of rough drafts, and, once polished up and refined a bit, the future pages of books.
I realized this over the weekend as I was working on the loss book, thinking about the daunting task of coming up with 80 something reflections on grief, when I realized:
BethAnne, you didn’t intend for this to be a generic grief book devoid of your personal experiences. You intended for it to be a warm, compassionate friend to someone going through loss, a hot cup of cocoa and a good conversation when somebody is in need of comfort. The kind of book you don’t have to read front to back but could pick up, flip to any page, and find something good for your heart in the contents. The book you wished you had back when you were in the worst of your pain.
It occurred to me in that moment that if the personal words I’ve had to say in the wake of my brother’s passing, and all that has happened since, aren’t good enough, then nothing is going to be good enough for this book. And once I got that straightened out in my mind, the pages began to fall into place.
Expectations can be a terrible burden to bear. Lately, lots of things are falling into place, but they haven’t looked anything like I expected them to, sort of like this past year of life, which has taught me that getting out of the way of my own self is pretty much the best thing I can do in order to allow the process to unfold.
I kept expecting like, an angel or something to descend, tap me on the head, proclaim that I am now ready to be a writer. That I have graduated from some invisible school of spiritual wisdom. That I am now READY.
Instead the spirit of my brother occasionally flits through my mind, laughing at me, tugging at imaginary pigtails. Telling me I’ve been ready for a long time, just standing in the way of my own self. Telling me it is all waiting right there for me, but I’ve got to trust in myself and have the guts to claim it.
He’s right, and I keep thinking lately how I can’t afford to stay small anymore, can’t afford to wait until I turn into some highly evolved being who has perfect words and truths of spirit flowing from her fingertips. Wait for that day to come and you’ll find that the imperfect process of being human will always cut you off at the knees. Instead it’s going to have to be right now: You’re going to have to offer yourself up, just as you are in this moment- mess, beauty, and all, old girl, I keep telling myself.
So that’s what I’m doing with all these words- offering myself up right now. And I’m finding that letting myself fall into place is more about learning to fully embody the spaces I’ve already been given, an internal shift of energy that simply says I Am Who I Am, and less about anything external telling me who or what I am, or validating the work I know I came here to do.
Like everything else in life, my own sense of purpose, belonging and identity are all inside jobs. And so it is with my writing. While there is always room for growth, I have to trust that the words I have right now are enough and keep on getting out of the way of my own self, so I can let it all unfold and be what it will be.
You’re going to have to offer yourself up, just as you are in this moment- mess, beauty, and all, old girl.