When I sit down at my desk to start my day and my work, sometimes I am overcome by a drowning feeling of rejection. But what I am actually experiencing is not some truth-filled hardship I must bear, but a reminder of an old affront to myself, a previous act of self-rejection.
I had a mental list of grievances against myself as a child and I thought people's temperaments were like eye color-fixed. So if you were lucky, you were a fearless-type person. Unlucky, you were a frightened-type person (which I thought I was). I didn't understand the myriad of choices involved in creating one's experience. And I didn't understand I had a choice in deciding how I saw myself.
I painted a picture of me I didn't like and then did all I could to outrun it, all the while colluding in its creation.
And so, here I sit at my desk, a new moment before me. This moment was given me because I deserve it. Everyone deserves the chance to change their minds about themselves, about their lives; be certain and confident of the essential good that never changes within, understand, accept and cradle the morphing aspect of feelings, thoughts, and behavior. Neither the person I wanted to be nor the life I wanted to lead could be built upon a foundation of rejection; it must all be built upon love.
There is nothing to outrun, nothing to escape, nothing to reject. The choice is always what to embrace.
When I sit down to write I have a sense of someone or something listening. I don't know what - it's I and it's You and it's like a collective. That collective is my audience and my friend. And although I can write without feeling it, I find I have to feel it in order to write anything I like.
So, this YOU/ this ME listens and cares about what I have to say and wants me to say it. And that energy of interest carries my effort and buoys me on.
Then sometimes, the eyeballs of my attention turn inside out and change that accepting collective into a critical, problem-seeking examiner, a Judge whose possible disapproval haunts me.
This is when life and work can become an unhappy drill. But it's also a time that can serve to remind me of the choice I have - the choice of audience - the one in my head or the one in my heart. For this choice will determine the nature of my journey and what I have to give.
The other day, my husband was talking to me about his experience viewing footage of a talk he'd given. He said it was like watching someone else - an image for which he was responsible, but still only a reflection of his thought and intention in the moment.
His recorded self seemed to me like a foot print in the snow - destined to be gone before the season is over. And I realized that how we come across is something we are creating and recreating moment to moment rather than who we actually are.
When I was a kid, my family had a wooden trunk filled with pictures. Some were in albums but most were loose, stored in small, coverless boxes. I used to go through those boxes, repeatedly studying each photo, eagerly searching, though I didn't know for what.
Now I think I was searching for myself in all of that - for some clue about the best of who I could be. But a picture is a footprint. There is an abiding creative presence and there are all the footprints or products left by that presence. No marker of where anyone's been (ourselves included) can define us- for the true self, the best of who we are, is that which has already moved on to make its next mark.
One of my favorite passages is from the book Little Bear's Friend, by Else Holmelund Minarik, in which Little Bear writes his new friend, Emily, a letter.
It is snowing.
I love the snow.
I wish I could send you some.
Owl, Duck, Hen and Cat
send their love.
So do the ducklings.
I cannot wait for summer.
These words still me. The communication is intimate. In the first journal I ever kept as a child, I wrote the same first line:
"It is snowing" (because it was). And that was my first attempt to connect to myself, to put form to my experience and tell SOMETHING/SOMEONE I was here.
My experience of Life is that it speaks to me. And to the extent that I'm listening, I am happy. For it never tells me I'm late or wrong or too anything, instead it speaks behind the dramas and stories of the day, offering me friendship- like Little Bear- in the simplest, sweetest terms.
I've always wanted to write the simplest stories and I always end up writing more complicated ones. I don't know what that impulse is exactly, but sometimes I'd like to have it surgically removed. When I started writing Violet Bing, it was an easy little picture book, but the fates and various editors nudged me into developing it more, and before I new it, I was back in the fold of complexity.
I still yearn to write something simple (or at least to experience the thing I write as simple!). One of my favorite books in childhood was The Baby Beebee Bird by Diane Redfield Massie. The story is about a bird who comes to live in a zoo, but he sleeps during the day and is awake at night. And at night he sings his song, "beebeebobbibobbi beebeebobbibobi". He keeps all the animals up and they are furious until they think to keep him up (with his own song) during the day. Finally, he sleeps at night- with the rest of them.
The sweetness and simplicity of the story makes me return to it, even after all this time, with an open heart.
From the Inside