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Ten things, part three
Notes from the liminal, aka life
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A song I’m loving: My daughter and I dance together every day and this is her favorite song to twist, bop, and breakdance to. She BEAMS when it comes on. So do I.
TEN THINGS, PART THREE — notes to self and possibly to you.
After a long waiting process, the proposal for my second book got rejected by my publisher this week. Maybe we’re not supposed to share these parts until we have something to show for it, but here I am. Once I moved past the disappointment and multitude of feelings, clarity came rushing in and the book idea crystallized even more, becoming truer and deeper almost immediately. It’s like I needed to be released from what was in order for what could be to arise. And I don’t say this to turn something hard into something inspiring — I say it because it’s what happened, and I’m grateful for the knowing that came from what felt like a crumbling vision. Rejection is common in this industry. Being a “beginning author”, still at the start of my career, feels wobbly at times. I imagine longevity — I imagine writing books when I’m 65, 75. And change isn’t always easy. Yet it ultimately reminded me that rejection is often the best possible outcome — that it’s simply part of the path — that it stings and feels embarrassing for a moment, but ends up clearing the path for something more right, more true, more me to enter. This means the path to the next book is a little longer, a little more complex; it means there are more unknowns to face; what I won’t let it mean is that the book isn’t meant to exist, because I know in my bones it is, and I trust it will land in the right home for the person I’m becoming and the work I’m creating, which is different from who I was and what I created four years ago. Still, rejection doesn’t feel great and I’ve been in a tender place this week, forgetting and remembering and practicing what I know to be most nourishing.
Even with the clarity it eventually brings, rejection can shake up my sense of self — it’s closely intertwined with some of my core wounds so if I’m not careful, it can quickly lead to catastrophizing and an urge to give up my desires entirely. The cool thing about being a person is we can learn to differentiate between when we’re moving from the truth and when we’re not — and pivot back toward the truth, even when it takes muscle. I’m muscling my way back, moving closer to what’s real, returning to the guts of what I’m here for and doing the required tending to do so. Nobody is immune to the work of returning after straying, over and over.
Some of the deepest relief I’ve felt is the letting go of the belief I should be some wise sage, some further-along hero, someone who only impresses, some all-knowing beacon of wisdom and instead, letting myself be seen on the path beside you, walking into the great unknown and stumbling along the way, permitting unimpressive moments, making mistakes and forgoing my intuition in favor of what I think I’m supposed to do at times, being a human who is far from having it all figured out, even when people want to assume I do so they can look “up” to someone else instead of learning how to look at themselves clearly.
Return to what is simple. Return to what is simple. Return to what is simple. I’ve been repeating this when I get the urge to figure everything out, take action on all my plans at once, and solve all the mysteries spinning around & within me. Return to what is simple. Like drinking a glass of water, or taking a break to look at a poppy, or taking one action instead of needing to do everything. What’s simple is doable, and doing what is doable now is the only path to whatever comes next.
The tenderness of offering love to the parts of yourself that aren’t solvable, fixable, or changeable is almost not even worthy of talking about because it is so silent, so subtle, so often something not seen by anyone outside of yourself in the moments you offer it. Yet keeping tabs on all the quiet, tender moments you have with yourself — no audience, no witness, no validation, no big outcome — might surprise and delight you if you let it.
Sometimes I notice how seriously I’m taking everything and just start laughing. I laugh at the bigness I ascribe to blips, the things I make matter that ultimately don’t matter at all, the worries that consume me and end up never happening, the time spent gripping to things I have no control over — and I can’t help but laugh in those moments I’m able to step back and see things for what they are, see myself for what I am. Both big and small. Both everything and nothing.
“Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. And between the two my life flows.” ― Nisargadatta Maharaj
Worry is a room I don’t want to live in. Worry is something I am actively practicing doing less of. Worry is hard to release. Worry is harder to inhabit.
For some of us, it takes practice to not hold things alone. It’s a continuous practice for me to reach out, to not keep everything contained within only my own body, to let the ups and downs be witnessed. And whenever I choose to share something with someone I love and receive back the mirroring and care I need, I remember why it’s so crucial to be seen up close by the people in my life — and how each time I let it happen, I’m unlearning the once closely-held belief that doing it all alone is safer.
I made a list on my phone (I know) the other day titled Places To Get A Dopamine Boost Other Than On My Phone. I made it because life has felt a little wonky lately (when does it not?) and I need places to get a dopamine boost other than on my phone. So much of the Phone World feeds the things I don’t want to feed in myself. Here is what I came up with, and I highly encourage you to make your own list and keep it somewhere handy, preferably off your phone:
I recently listened to a podcast episode and the host said something about how annoying it is to open someone’s Substack and read what should be a diary entry, what is clearly not an Essay, which they seem to think is the only thing worth reading or sharing publicly. I instantly shrunk and thought about my Substack — how it sometimes contains unfinished thoughts, untied loose ends, questions I’m still swirling in, things that don’t have a point, parts of myself that aren’t concluded, experiences I move through that haven’t become the subject for something more professional or useful or impressive yet. I thought about how I’m far from the most talented writer. I thought about how my writing is sometimes cliche, sometimes boring, sometimes very emotionally charged. I thought about how un-literary my writing is most of the time — how it isn’t something you’d find in The Paris Review. I thought about how a lot of my writing is from an in-between place, which to some might look like something best kept for a journal, aka to myself. I thought about how maybe the podcast host wasn’t referring to someone like me at all.
And then, I thought about the last five years of sharing publicly, and the ways sharing from this space allows me to see myself more clearly. I thought about the shame I’ve shed, the skins I’ve shed, the Shoulds I’ve shed through writing. I thought about the countless messages, emails, and comments I’ve received from strangers sharing their resonance, their gratitude. I thought about the generosity of mirroring our humanity to one another. I thought about the hours spent learning to write as a whole person instead of a helper. I thought about the relief of just being honest instead of trying to be impressive. I thought about how true it feels to write the way I write — to share the way I share. I thought about how I don’t write here to perfect anything but to say the truest thing on Sundays. I thought about how my trust in my writing has grown since I’ve let myself just say what I have to say in the way I have to say it. I thought about how writing this way has helped me learn to like myself more — to be myself more.
And I stopped shrinking and turned back toward my own belief: it is always a gift to choose to show up and share what you have to share when you’re called to do so, whether it’s a diary entry or the most boring prose or the most diligently researched and impressively written 3,000 word critical essay you spent months on. There is room for you. There is room for your words and art, your message and your heart. There is room for your in-between process and your finished product. There is room for your offering, your gifts. There is room for everyone, and none of it needs to be “better” or “worse” than anything else, because none of us are better or worse than anyone else. What one person finds annoying, another finds profound. What one person finds amateur, another finds inspiring. Sharing is how we practice. Sharing is how we learn. Sharing is how we grow. So say what you’re here to say. Do what you’re here to do. Let it find the people it is meant to find. And see where it takes you — maybe to places you can’t possibly predict, to places you couldn’t have ever imagined.
△ Bernadette Meyers’ list of journaling ideas — one of my favorite lists
△ This podcast episode: Adventures in Rejection (right on time)and absolutely loved it
△ Staying grounded with clay in the dark corner of my garage.
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