the fears that keep me from writing

If I write, then people will know.
They will know I’m different.

To some it’s that I’m quiet, that I’m not always bursting with jokes and laughter, always casting spells on the audience, singing loud and uninhibited. I know the truth about myself, and it is hard enough to accept because sometimes I wish I was all of those things. But I also know what’s true: I’m full of life, of energy. I create, I have ideas.

And I also watch.

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That can be a blessing and a curse, because the watchers are the storytellers, and they have a special role in the world. They help people remember, help them see what they would normally miss.

But also sometimes the writer sorts  sit back, sit still,  wait for the people to come to them instead of standing up and reaching out.

I can be like that.

Some of you can be like that.

You don’t reach for things. You’re all curled up inside yourselves. Every once in a while I can see inside enough to know you’re the same way I am, I see just pieces and glimpses of the you you’re hiding.

And I think it’s beautiful.

Because I’m the the sitting-back-and-putting-pieces-together sort. The finding-beauty-where-it’s-hidden sort. The sometimes-quiet sort.

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Course, there are times I unfold and spill over, loud and excited, but those are when I am absolutely, completely surrounded by people and routines that say, every day: you are wanted. you are accepted. you are useful. 

I’ve been there before, and I’m not there right now, but rather in this strange limbo world between safe-places.  I can relate to C.S. Lewis, who said when he first came to Oxford: “Is it that no man makes real friends after he has passed the undergraduate age?” Something about adulthood, about reserve and manners and dignity, makes that joyful “you too!?” so much more difficult to say.

I kick myself for not being able to reach out, for letting my scared little heart be content to only watch. The excuse? “I’m a writer, I was meant to observe, not engage.”

NO.

That’s a lie, heart.
A writer has to live, too. The best writers have compelling stories of their own, and though they can tell someone else’s with honesty and grace – well, they have to be able to tell their own with the same force.

And they have to lower their guard enough to discover the others in hiding.

So this is me, waving a white flag of sorts, saying, I want to  live, and watch, and run headlong into all of the scary new places of that lonely world called adulthood. I want to know your story, though I’m terrified to ask.

If you can relate, leave me a comment about it, will you? I’m in desperate need of some kinfolk.

February 27: road trip to North Carolina

(where awaits a cabin, a hot tub, and Appalachian mountains under a stony sky) –

The hazy minutes waking out of a doze next to someone in the car can be revealing. When people think you are asleep it leaves them in the pleasant self-awareness of being alone with themselves, yet with the cozy connection of a sleeping soul close by. Yet the sleeper, in a poetic haze, watches dazedly and feels like a secret onlooker, loving harder than ever an hoping it can spill over into the waking hours.

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the paradox

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Spending the weekend with my husband’s family. It’s been full of good things: tea and blueberry scones/stacks of maps/husband in camo/light earlier and later/secret plans

Be grateful for the home you have,
knowing that at this moment,
all you have is all you need.
~Sarah Ban Breathnach

 

 

My OneWord365: Why discipline needs a prefix

I’ve read about OneWord365 on several blogs. It seemed like a good idea, but I hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I almost ditched the idea of posting about it entirely, but I can’t. Because my one word is

self-discipline.

I’m in a transitionary time in my life: I just graduated from college, got married, and realized a whole bunch of things about myself that I need to act on and not just sit on. Basically, The direction I choose now will be the direction I take my entire future. Therefore, (and perhaps more importantly),

The habits I create now will affect the direction and results of the rest of my life.

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me, at NAIA Nationals in Portland Oregon

Because habits add up.

I read a post on artofmanliness.com (tomboy! don’t judge) called What’s Your 20-Mile March? Using the famous race to the South Pole between Robert Scott and Roald Admundson, authors Brett and Kate McKay outline the major differences between those who achieve high levels of success and those who don’t reach their goals. They also cited a research project done by Collins and Hanson, studying businesses that performed 10x better than their peers.

The secret?

The magical key?

“It was actually discipline, fanatic discipline, that was one of the true master keys of the companies’ success.”

Oh, gracious. How boring.

But, as I reflect on my own life and what I consider to be my biggest accomplishments so far, I have to agree. My career as a runner in college is something I consider one of my best accomplishments. I graduated with eight records from my (albeit small) college, a posture of confidence in myself that I never previously dreamed of, and a host of wonderful memories of even more wonderful friends that I will never, ever forget.

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I’m the one on the bottom row, in the middle, with the smile so big it’s about to crack my face in half.

And why did I reap these rewards?

Every day at four o’clock,  I walked over to the gym.
That’s it.

Those early days, when I hated running and all the weird people I had to be around all day (they actually liked running, so something HAD to be wrong with them!) my motivation was (I’ll admit) completely externally motivated. If I wouldn’t get into a buttload of trouble with my coach for skipping practice, there’s no way I’d be there. If I hadn’t the constant fear of my uber-consistent teammates sitting me down and giving me “the talk” about giving it my all…slacking would have been my default option.

It was only after I started reaping the rewards of my consistency that I grew in my own confidence and ability to motivate myself. When I started winning races. When teammates became friends, and practice actually meant fun – I started to look at the whole 4 o’clock nonsense a lot differently.

That’s what I have to do now.
Minus the team. And the winning. And maybe even the fun.

Which makes it really hard, I’ll admit. I miss having the perfect excuse to stay ridiculously fit. I miss having scores of friends to keep me motivated and encouraged. It’s so…lonely!…trying to do it by myself!

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My relay team. We were tight.

But…

The habits I create now will affect the direction and results of the rest of my life.

That’s why my word this year isn’t just discipline, because that isn’t enough anymore.  I need to make use of my resources  and right now those amount to…

me.

I have no choice, really.  Not now that I know what I’d be missing in the long run.

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running and poetry

{Found this among the stacks of drafts and decided to pull it out. Critiques welcome!}

 

The woods are January-quiet, and smaller than in the summer. (In the summer, you can get lost in the foliage and winding trails, but here, now, the paths are bare.) The air is icy hard, even the gold-liquid sunlight takes on a silvery glint that catches on the snowflakes as they fall. Only the trails catch the snow without melting it, so I follow the winding white over well-worn footpaths. From the ridge I can see over the river and all the trails beyond – silver-white ribboning between the damp dead trees. One set of footprints leads before me, gentle on the new, hard snow.

I stop at the bridge (which is a crossroads), panting a little for air, then listening. All is quiet, so I break the silence by yelling.

“I hate Mondays and I hate college and I-want-to-go-home and I’m sick of not feeling useful and I don’t know what to do with my life!!”

Then the woods ring with silence I gain. I grow quiet to match and the swift rush of the brown river beneath the bridge beneath my feet becomes apparent.

Quietly this time, taking in all the paths.

“God, which way should I go?”

I hadn’t really meant to ask that question the way I did.

Up. Go up.

So I do, and when I reach the top of the ridge I realize the lonely set of footprints had gone up too.

And the woods breathe so clean and meld the earthy wintry dull browns with a new clear white and I dare not speak any more so I don’t break the beautiful hush of the air. To my left gleams a sharp late-afternoon sun through pewter clouds, ice and silver and gray swept across the sky all on the same brush.

I have to stop again, and take it all in.

At my feet there is a seed pod the shape of a heart. It adds to the beautiful everything on all sides. Like a poem, I think.

This is how God writes poetry… this silver day is his poem.

A few lines, a few minutes. For my eyes only, seeping with reminders of his love. The woods are his page, the trails are his lines, and I am his pen.

I turn towards the distant opening in the woods and start running again.