Sunday, March 30, 2014

Living Humbly and Free

Sometimes I just push myself too hard.

It’s somewhat terrifying to publish a book.  Blogging is difficult enough.  All my thought-babies out there for others to see, to judge, to critique.   So, why do I do it?  Well, honestly, for the most part I don’t write for you, I write for me.  I write because I have to write.  It’s part of the way I think, the way I process things for myself.  I love to craft thoughts into words and I would do it if the results were kept hidden in a folder on my computer, never to be seen by another.  But, we humans have a somewhat exhibitionist streak, don’t we?  Well, I do.  So, my need to write to process my thoughts and the joy of crafting words merge with the desire to be seen, to be heard, to be known.  I would say that most times it’s on the heels of these things that I feel the desire to connect with others, to enrich lives, to build friendships, to challenge others and help them grow.  I love to share my experiences and to grow with others.

I don’t think I start out writing with the thought, “I hope this helps someone someday.” It’s a lovely goal; I'm just not that presumptuous.  That said, when someone comes to me and says, “Your words meant a lot to me.  I can relate.  Your open, brave words helped me,” as they have been saying in regards to my book, well, it makes me feel pretty damned good.

I could and would write without that feedback, but I need that boost if I’m going to keep at this publishing thing.  I have gone through the trouble of publishing a book and I still ask myself, “What the hell was I thinking?”   I would like to know I’ve enriched the world somehow; either through my words themselves or setting the example of going after my dreams.  I would like to sell my book, to make some money doing this thing I love.  Of course.  But the marketing…  (Sigh.)  Thrusting myself into online community after online community, setting up websites, “Hey, look at me, I wrote a book.  Hey, look at me, I’m worth your time and money,”  and now we are talking about arranging a book-signing.   I've researched it; the very vision of me doing a book signing makes me laugh.  “You are not selling the book,” the articles say, “You are selling yourself.  You must be relaxed and confident.”   This goes against my very nature.  I would rather just sit and write and let people come to me.  I am no saleswoman.

Is this troublesome to you, dear readers?  I am, this very moment, doing what the experts advise against.  I am letting you see that I am far from confident.   I am questioning whether I really have anything worth saying.  Oh, please don’t misunderstand, I am not fishing for compliments!  Not at all.  I just want you to see where I am.  It’s important to me that you understand.

My entire premise, the only thing I have going for me (if anything), is that I am transparent.  I am real.  I am like you; I am just another human being doing human being things.  I will sing no praises of myself.  Neither will I degrade myself, however.  I think human beings are pretty freakin’ awesome and we, as a race have done some pretty awesome things.  And yet, as much as we have in common, all 7+ billion of us, we are each unique.  We each have a voice.  No one else can walk in our shoes, see the world through our eyes, think our thoughts.  And that is why I continue.  Because, yeah, maybe someone else has said the things I have to say, but not all of it, and not the way I would say it, and not to the same audience.  We each owe it to ourselves and those around us to express ourselves, to be the best individual that we can be.

It is a constant struggle for me, finding the balance between feeling oh-so-special and feeling utterly insignificant.  As I am faced with putting myself out into the world as an author, as a “somebody,” I am actually feeling way less-than-somebody, and have been struggling upward toward that balance.  The positive reviews have been very helpful.

This morning I think the pendulum has swung to the side of arrogance.  Arg.  I spent the better part of three hours writing a blog post you will never see.  I shared some of the sweet things people have had to say about my book, and I wrote a lot about how awesome I am, way more awesome than some friends of mine, because I have figured something out that they haven’t.

Yuck…  It’s especially ugly in black and white like that.

What I wrote smacked of pride.  I tried to put a bandaid on it with the sentence, “Of course, I don’t have all the answers, I’m just trying to find my way like everyone else,” but the rest of it sure didn’t feel that way.  I came to the painful conclusion that my words smacked of pride because… wait for it……   I was being prideful.

Look at me, I’ve published a book!  Look at me, I got free of religion!  Look at me, I’m living with the most wonderful man in the world with the best kids in the world and I’m happier than anyone in the world!  Look at me, I have answers!

It’s okay if you just threw up a little in your mouth; I did too, when I realized.

So, after taking a short, tearful walk and getting some perspective, here is, hopefully, a gentler version of what I wrote this morning:

I am learning about myself.  I am always looking for opportunities to grow.  It’s just who I am.   Part of that involves learning how to learn from others without comparing myself to them.  Comparison is a very unsatisfying game.  No one wins.  

Yesterday I observed some of my friends getting upset about something in their pasts.  It occurred to me that the effort I’ve put into my freedom has resulted in a lot less pain when thinking about my past.  That got me to thinking and writing.

I have practiced an awful lot of self-examination over the last couple years; over my lifetime, really, but the last couple years in particular I have purposefully walked my emotional garden looking for weeds.  I have encountered many weeds and made peace with most of them.  That is to say, yes, I have memories of unpleasant and downright painful experiences, but I have accepted their place in my life, I have accepted the way they have shaped me.  I am learning to accept responsibility and not blame others for every unpleasant thing, to forgive those who deserve blame, to not be unduly ashamed of my experiences.  I cannot uproot these experiences, these weeds—they are well established— but I’ve identified them and even begun to see the character and beauty they bring to my garden.

There is one weed I fight:  bindweed.  I refuse to let any part of my past bind me, preventing me from being free today.  I will not have any instance in my life which someone, upon learning of it, can point to me and say, “Aha!  Look at how ugly that is!  I’ve found you out!  What a disgrace you are!  You should be ashamed!”  Or any such thing.  If I have not already made peace, I will seek to do so upon being called out.  I will stand tall and say, “Yes, this is my past.  Yes, I’ve made mistakes.  But I grew.  I learned.  I am better today than I was yesterday, but I am still learning.  I will make more mistakes and try to learn from them.  I am human.”

I will always tend my garden, on the lookout for the weeds that bind.  I will not allow memories that pain me so much I cannot be reminded of them without reacting defensively.  Where is the freedom in that?  Life is too short.

So, how do I balance these thoughts toward my own growth with the original thought of my friends?  I care about them and want to help them grow, to be able to look back on their lives without pain or discomfort.  I find I cannot say or do much without coming off condescending, like I have it all figured out and someone else doesn’t.  Yeah, I’ve learned some things that have helped me be free today, but we each have our own journey.  Is there enough grace in my life to allow others to find their own paths at their own pace? 

I can only put myself out here and remind you that I’m just a messy human being, too.  I hope the fact that I’ve had to toss out almost everything I wrote this morning to come before you more humbly is evidence that I’m still trying to figure things out myself.  I don’t want to tell anyone else how to walk their road; I want to share the journey with them.  With each of you.  I want you to walk beside me and feel free to be yourself.  And if I’m about to fall into a hole that you’ve fallen into, please tell me.  Gently.  Let’s learn from each other.

So, from this place of mutual life travelers, may I share what I’ve learned about getting free of my past?  Relax.  Let it go.  We are all human being just trying to find our way.  We make mistakes, sure.  Don’t hide from them; own them.  They’re yours, part of your character, part of your “training.”  We’ve all been unjustly hurt and taken advantage of.  What can we do about it?  We can’t change it, we can only accept it, learn from it, and remember that the ones who hurt us are/were themselves just human beings trying to find their way, too.  Forgive them.  Move on.  We can examine all our experiences closely for ways to know ourselves better, to be better people today than we were yesterday, to help others be better versions of their selves.  As we examine these wounds we will find ways to heal.  We will be able to live free today and tomorrow and every day afterward and it will be worth it.  If we can’t do it for ourselves, we can do it for our loved ones.

 You are going to need to hear this many times for it to sink in.  You are going to have to learn to tell yourself these things, and if you’re lucky you can find someone who will be a positive reinforcer of this in your life.  If you don’t have someone who will hold your hand, share the road with you, look you in the eyes and lovingly speak truth to you, my email address is  I may not have all the answers, but I would love to share your journey.

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