It feels weird to share your work. I don’t care who you or how long you’ve been doing it, putting your soul out through performance, visual art, or like in my case this go around, writing, feels not entirely comfortable. No one is like, you know what makes me feel so at ease in my own skin, invincible really? Putting my work out there. Baring my soul, just openly as you do, all vulnerable and oddly discouraged, which is so strange considering the amount of energy it takes to get the bloody thing to the point of sharing. One would think you’d feel all relieved and confident after putting something so real and honest out into the world but irritatingly it, in fact, works quite the opposite.
When you allow yourself to be seen, you admit vulnerability to humiliation and validation, both of which can be terrifying in their own right. When you bring your work to the world, you are asking to be accepted, to be liked, to be connected; to be part of the world rather than apart from it. It’s an offering, sharing your work. Here I am, it says. This is me. Here is what I have to offer. Please accept it.
Being accepted feels a bit weird too. Being accepted holds you accountable. Being accepted means you have value which means you have worth which means you can do good in the world which means that you have work to do. You have a role to play; you are necessary and important which is a rather strange concept for many people who share their soul work with the world who aren’t usually used to feeling particularly necessary and important. It can feel daunting and exhausting.
My thirties, it seems so far, is largely focused on acceptance. Self-acceptance and “other” acceptance alike, it all of a sudden feels very important to sort myself. Not “find myself,” per se; that’s a touch too cliched for my taste and suggests that at one point I could not be found, which isn’t true because I’ve always been me, even when I didn’t know who I was which is confusing and probably unnecessary to unpack right now. My point is, I’ve been doing more self-sorting in the last years, identifying exactly which bits are me to the core and which make up the different roles I’ve occupied, some self-selected and some imposed on me. The bits that are roles, I’m mostly able to acknowledge as such, and let go of that which serves no one. The bits that are me, I’m more able to sort out now, which might be a function of my age or my stage of life, or the ages of my children, or my relationships, or almost certainly a combination of all of that and more; those bits I’m learning to accept.
It feels like my brain, body and spirit are generally aligned in a really cool adulty way and I am giving myself unconditional permission to fully be myself, which we get to do now (#because2018). It’s like all the self-esteem building grade school messages I heard as a kid, about being yourself and trying your best that don’t make their way around as often as they used to somehow once you stop being small and cute, I finally began to absorb them.
And I’m at the point in life where I’ve been deeply humbled several times over. I am very aware of my smallness in the world. I recognize my uninvincibility. I know I’m no hot thang. Sure, I have thoughts and ideas, as everyone does; and I do believe I am skilled in certain areas, partly due to good luck and partly practice. I am no longer primarily motivated by the desire to be liked, though that’s not always a bad thing, so much as I am by the drive to do good work and use myself the best ways I can with the time I’ve got left here on this great Earth.
All of that leads me to share that I’ve been privileged to recently have an article published in Birthing Magazine, a polished and insightful, consciousness-raising quarterly print publication by Birth Unlimited, a Canadian not-for-profit organization dedicated to encouraging the thoughtful empowerment of birthing and parenting folks and those who know and love them. It’s about caring for yourself, each other, and our collective future. I’ve been inspired by the direction it is being led in, and since I’ve been a relatively religious reader since very early in my parenting journey, it felt like a natural fit, not unlike a baby through a vagina.
It’s cool being a writer, and because I now make in the three digits a year writing for them I can call myself that, but weird. It means I have at least a mildly believable excuse for why my house is a sty. I’m actually about to start writing my fifth article for them, which is humbling AF, but this latest one makes me stand particularly tall. I didn’t really share the other pieces when they came out. I wasn’t ready yet. I was proud of myself, of course, but still too cautious to call attention to myself. I looked at the pieces in the magazines, and showed a couple people, read the issues cover to cover and then tucked them away.
“She’s shy,” is how this was described in childhood, the discomfort with being seen. “It’s okay to be shy,” I assure my sometimes shy-labeled children. “At first,” I follow up. “But then you shake it off and do it anyway and gain confidence and get better. You deserve to be seen, even though you’re shy,” I tell them. “Take time when you need to. Shine when you’re able.”
And it is okay to be shy, to be afraid of being seen. It’s okay to take time to find your way, what you’re good at, what makes life okay when it feels like it’s not. It’s okay to not know where you’re going or what you’re doing but, as I tell my children who, like me, feel like giving up a lot, it’s not okay to turn on yourself, working to disappear rather than be seen.
I am grateful for this opportunity, and for those who have had faith in me and what I have to say. It’s no book deal, I know, but it’s me on a page, being read by someone other than me. And that’s pretty rad.
Here’s to those who are hiding, those who don’t quite know themselves, who are holding back, holding in; unintentionally perhaps, but for whatever the reason, who are not taking as deep of breaths as needed. Here’s to those who are stumbling in the dark for the switch that once flicked will blast illuminance from every inch of their being, not quite shining their full brightness yet. It will happen, keep stumbling. Here’s to my 12 year old self who was told “embiggen” was, in fact, not a word and the use of it thus, indeed warranted a half point off my paper’s score. Oh baby, you just wait. We’re in this together, friends, and we have a long way to go. Keep seeing each other, validating each other, moving forward or at least moving somewhere; keep dancing or writing or singing or painting or LARPing or whatever makes your belly light up in love flames. Keep learning and keep playing. Keep wondering and asking. Keep discovering the bits of you that are the truest you and live your truth loudly. Most importantly, keep going. Keep growing. No matter what.