Until three years ago I was a part-time swim instructor, part-time communication manager, and full-time mother. Then I took an emotional and occupational leap: I began writing about my life and putting it on display.
Deciding to crack myself open and spill my tender bits for all to consume wasn’t easy; I’ve always struggled with confidence in my writing. But, like artists of any media, the desire to share always outweighed the anxiety of how my creation might be received.
Committing memories and thoughts to keyboard has always gone beyond therapeutic for me; writing is my addiction. If I compose a phrase in a unique way, or place a reader in my world for a moment, to truly feel what I did, it’s an unmatchable high.
When I write, I drag up and out. Up come the buried memories, trapped emotions, and concealed insecurities. Out they spew, wringing my soul of toxins, but baring my flaming, raw vulnerability along the way.
Nearly all my writing sessions are peppered with pauses to recall exact details. I break my stream of typing and sit, eyes closed, head so low my chin touches my chest. It’s the best position to remember how my 6-year-old feet felt in my snow boots; what I had for dinner the night I delivered my brother-in-law’s eulogy; how my son’s velvety ear felt as I rubbed it between my fingertips.
My up-and-outs are the best, and the worst, moments for me because they all come with accompanying emotions. Sometimes I need to stop, unable to see the screen past a blur of tears. Or I may feel the familiar choke of anxiety reaching up through my stomach, grabbing me by the throat. Often, though, it’s a warm, gentle smile that melts across my face as I remember one of the happy moments I’ve stockpiled to make my life so rich.
I try to cobble all of it together and form something in which others can draw not just conclusions, but connections between them and what I choose to reveal about my world or myself. I hope for nods of recognition and solidarity. And I’m always willing to risk the negativity that sometimes comes along with divulging my most private thoughts and experiences online. That’s never bothered me.
It’s reading pieces after they’ve been published. Recognizing I could have phrased something better, tightened a paragraph, or picked a juicier word that assaults my assurance.
When my family moved to D.C. I got away from my up-and-outs and tried a different type venture. Initially all looked great, a match made in the stars. But slowly, over time, those stars began to drift; creating a new constellation that appeared nothing like the original. And with that came new compass points, a new North Star to follow.
Perhaps I’m adverse to change; maybe I was never truly part of the map to begin with. But, for whatever reason, I am, once again, starting over and I’m left with more doubts than certainties regarding my value.
Questions about worth harass you. They drip, drip, drip their icy reminders on you, tempering the warm, glowing pride you might feel from any accomplishment.
That pitch got accepted? It was just luck – drip. You got shares on that piece? They were all from your friends – drip. You’ve been proudly calling yourself a “writer” for three years? You haven’t actually “written” much in almost two of them – drip.
How I envy those who truly believe in themselves. How I envy even more those who can fake it and pull it off. I’m capable of neither when it comes to writing, but I want to be.
Revealing all of this is risky. It’s scary to put what I’m worried are flaws in me out there for the world to see. My hope, as always, is that someone else might recognize him or herself in this up-and-out. Perhaps feel less alone.
I have no idea what will happen in 2017. A year ago I never could’ve predicted I’d be in this scenario today. Ten years ago I never would’ve believed that George would be so close to death, and come back, or that I’d be diagnosed with cancer a couple of years after him. Hell, six months ago I’d have banked on a totally different president. I suppose it’s all up in the air.
What I do know is that I now have a clean plate. And with a new year I have a clean slate. I intend to use both to see what comes up and out.