“You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every
moment of your life.”
–Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”
Once upon a time, I was a messy-haired girl who rejoiced in the feeling of mud squishing between my toes. I sang impromptu, horridly off-key songs in my backyard. And hours of my time were spent in fern-filled forests of home, making up my stories or pondering the meaning of life.
I’m twenty-seven. What happened to that little girl?
Yeah, she grew up. Somehow, that happens, and while we remember some of the moments with painful clarity—the guy who broke your heart, or standing beside the grave of someone you loved and realizing that person is no longer there to guide you, or chastising yourself when the credit card bill comes and you realize there’s no one but you to pay it—a lot of growing up is gradual and unrecognized.
I love adulthood. I love the freedom of making my own decisions. I could move to Texas or to France if I wanted. If I want to draw on the walls in marker, I can. Of course, I’d be the one to go to the store, buy paint, and paint over it myself, and I recognize that I’m no Picasso, so I refrain from the creation of murals. Being an adult, for all of its hectic, non-stop insanity, is good.
But not that long ago, I had a realization. I occasionally feel homesick, not for the house where I grew up, but for the woods where I first realized I wanted to be a storyteller and a writer, where I first found a connection to nature and spirituality that would drive the person I would become. When I meditate, I often imagine walking in those very woods because they are a part of my deep self. I’m more real there than anywhere else. And that’s when it hit me. Something was missing.
That something was me. Me, being the person I wanted to be, not to impress or please anyone else. I’m not talking about irresponsibility, about immaturity, about selfishness. But our lives are our own. As children, we recognize that. We know we don’t want steamed peas and no, daddy, we’re not going to eat them. We hate that ugly hat Aunt Edna bought us. But sometimes as grown-ups we’re so busy pleasing everyone else that we forget to tune in to the voice that knows what we really want. When we silence that voice, we open a door to unhappiness. And we put up barriers between our “talking selves” and the writer we’re meant to be, the stories we’re meant to write.
How we remain in touch with the deep self and our sources of inspiration
Like most people’s, mine is a busy life. A husband, four pets, a fledgling writing career on top of two other demanding jobs, one in public relations, the other teaching. It’s a lot, and I enjoy all of it. But recently, I realized, I couldn’t find the person wandering in those woods anymore. I’d become a walking to-do list.
To be a writer, it’s necessary to be in tune with who we truly are. Writing is art, and art is deep. It comes from the heart and from the soul, and we have to be dancing to our own rhythm, the song of ourselves, in order to write. Writing isn’t just a profession. It’s a calling, a higher purpose. To write, we have to be us.
When I’m out of touch with myself, running around crossing items off lists, my writing often feels flat and stale. I’m disconnected from my characters and their struggles. It’s then that I realize I need to step back, take a deep breath, and find me.
So I’m remembering to slow down. Getting there isn’t the thing. It’s the journey. It’s the stops along the way. What makes a life? We can’t chalk it up to our successes and failures. The warm spring day spent sipping iced tea and reading Mary Oliver poetry while seated on a blanket in the grass, what’s that? It’s nothing, just being, just existing, just relishing the feeling of being on this earth. It’s soul-food for the inner child with her messy hair and her head full of dreams; it’s an invitation to the muses and to the faeries.
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We won’t always be on our A-game. We’ll have to work on days when we just don’t feel “in tune,” because writing takes that kind of perseverance. Many parts of writing are highly technical, full of grammatical rules and plot structures, with plenty of revision to make sure the writing is doing the work it needs to. Ours is also a technical profession. But there’s still a part of it that is spiritual, and for that part, we need space for ourselves.
So in all of the chaos, I hope you remember to feed your soul. It’s not just about goals. It’s about the intangible beauty of our lives and how they intertwine with this world and the universe, all that is seen and unseen. Have yourselves a beautiful day. 🙂
More soul-food: Read Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”