Photo: It always comes back to this, doesn’t it? Lord, it feels too soon. I didn’t have enough time to dread and brood and wait for the cold and the wet… winter decided to simply rip off the bandaid and get things started this year. I would normally say, “I wanna go home,” but Maryland got it just as bad as we did. Mom complained over text all day. I might have said, “I wanna go to Florida,” but crazy political shit goes on down there. So, I guess there is no escape. Nooo essccaaaapppeee….
I went to my second class at Grub Street on Tuesday and got some phenomenal feedback on a piece I wrote that I’m really proud of. Where I was worried that I was going to learn that I am a mediocre amateur at best, what I’ve learned is that these years of writing every day and working hard on my voice and my craft are proving to be worth it. I’m not a master, but I’m on my way somewhere.
This has been an autumn that has been entirely focused on writing. Between producing the Profile for church, teaching my class, taking the Grub Street class, and doing work for NaNoWriMo, writing is all I can think about. In the end, for all of the work that I’ve done, what I’m most proud of is the connections I’ve made along the way. I have lovely students who I adore and admire, I have classmates who I want to emulate and I have writing neighbors who I want to spend more time with. Most importantly, I can measure how much I’ve grown in my craft in just the last few weeks. Words come quickly, progress is steady and critique feels productive. I’ve met new friends, some who are pulling me into writer’s circles here, others who are encouraging me to get back into submitting to journals. Suddenly, I’m helming a book club and possibly establishing a critique group here in town. I’ve joined new Facebook groups and found a fellowship opportunity and two submission opportunities I think might be a good fit for my work. A dear friend gave me a great idea for submitting to a favorite magazine. It’s a tight deadline, but I’m confident I can pull something together in time. Something is happening here and it’s wonderful. It makes the lonely days of doubt worth it.
My Quiet Thoughts this Friday are on just how important community has been for making this growth happen. Growth often requires some time sequestered and toiling, but it’s the time out and illuminated by the steady engagement of others that can inform just how effective that toiling has been. I’m finding that community is teaching me how far I’ve come and is giving me a vision of how far I yet have to go. Community is also encouraging to keep moving forward: celebrate what you’ve got, embrace the push to go forward, become something new and better with the help of those around.
I think my Quiet Thoughts are also set on the power of “yes” again. I really do relish the opportunity to join something already in motion and let someone else lead the charge. Yet, that’s not always satisfying and doesn’t inspire me, frankly. When I choose to engage in a leading way, which forces me to think ahead, collaborate with others, and adhere to deadlines, I do better with whatever I’m doing. Leading is exhausting work. It consumes and interrupts and drains. However, it forces me to be my best self, which always feels good in the end. I think I have finally said a full and unequivocal “yes” to my writer’s identity. This is who I am and what I do.
“Yes” is a powerful word that has powerful consequences. Some of my dearest friends have asked me to become better acquainted with its equally powerful opposite but, frankly, I don’t want to. It’s true that “No” often makes me feel powerful. I am the master of my own fate, I tell myself. I am the master of my time and my place in the world. But “No” often comes with an empty echo. Regret feels like a strong word to use here, but perhaps I should be truthful with myself and with you, Dear Reader. Regret isn’t fashionable, so it’s hard to admit to, but it’s real and it’s there and it’s the truth.
I’m writing this all to write: choose wisely, Dear Reader. You never know where that “yes” might take you or what community might support you through or how much you’ll grow and change without even noticing. Alone is easy, yes. It can feel efficient and effective, even powerful. I trust myself and my hands and my feet and my mind. Other people can gum up the works. But you can only get so far alone. Without anyone else’s eyes on you, you won’t feel inspired. Without anyone else’s open arms, you can’t be carried when the going gets too tough. Alone means, ultimately, it’s just you: the best of you, the worst of you, and entirety of you. Give yourself the expanded range by saying yes to community. Say yes to yourself by saying yes to something beyond yourself. The work will pay off. That’s what I’m learning.
There is snow on the ground, cold in the air, a waxing moon in the sky and so much on the horizon. Good news mingles with bad news. Jingle bells mingle with voices still crying out to be heard. It’s a time for listening, Dear Reader. It’s a time to hear the call and go back to the table. I’ll write about that next week.
I believe that Fridays are good for wishes because Fridays represent a transition point. If you’re lucky enough to have a weekend to look forward to, then this is the night you stop and breathe. When you get the chance to change gears like this, it’s a good time to reflect and then look forward with a little bit of hopefulness. That’s where the wishes come in. I wish you warmth this weekend, Dear Reader. Be it simply extra time under favorite blankets in favorite pajamas, or unhurried snuggle time with a pet or a kiddo, I wish you true and physical warmth this weekend. I wish you time to prepare for the week ahead. Pie crust needs to be prepped. So does soup and casserole and bread. So many of you hostesses have lists a mile long this weekend and I see you. I wish you joy in your work, though. Let this not be a burdensome task, but a time to show off. I wish you time for quiet and care. Listen to the wind blow or the rain fall or the snow melt off of your roof. Listen to a child’s laughter or the dog snoring or your partner’s puttering. The moment of stillness can be brief or extended, but have it this weekend. It’s important. I wish you a phone call with someone dear who is far away and a memory brought on by a good smell or a story spoken. I wish you an opportunity to say yes to something, something new for the new year ahead, or something now that will challenge you and help you grow. Open your mind and your heart to say yes to something that scares you and excites you, Dear Reader. It might not happen today, but you never know what will happen tomorrow.
This world needs you. It needs you because it’s flawed and broken, and it’s full of needs and challenges. There are some problems that are too big to fathom and others that can be fixed on a whim, and plenty more in between. Somewhere, somehow, you have an answer to one of the world’s problems. You never know when it’s going to be your turn, your chance, your voice, Dear Reader. All we can ask is for you to be ready. How? Simply be, Dear Reader. Be your best self. Be your brightest self. Be your fiercest, your strongest, your fastest, your bravest. Be infinitely beautiful. Say yes to your light and inspire others to do the same. The better world we want and need starts with this simple, elegant, powerful action.
You are loved. What you do matters. If you know nothing else, Dear Reader, at least know this.
Until Monday, shine on and take care.