My birthday is a few days away and I have decided to give myself a present. I have decided to write. I was going to say that I would give myself the time to write, that I would take the time from my busy day, stealing it away from my family and other responsibilities but the truth is I have always had the time to write. If I said to my husband and the girls that I was going to take a few hours to sit at the computer to write and please don’t bother me they would say “great!” and my sweetheart would probably quietly refill my coffee cup with only a briefly distracting kiss on the neck. If I got up an hour early every morning, or took an hour after dinner every night or otherwise scheduled daily writing time, they would be on board, enthusiastically on board. So, I don’t have to give myself the gift of time; my family would give that gift happily. What I need to gift to myself is bravery.
Writing scares me silly. I doubt my abilities, doubt the value of my voice. I worry what people close to me will think, even those generous and loving supporters who would rally behind my efforts. Will I be discovered to be a faux intellectual fraud? Will my version of events be challenged, or cause pain? Will I disappoint myself when, after three days I no longer have anything to say?
I’ve been back on track with daily writing for about a month now, after a long silence. When I look back on the difficulties I had this year I think there has to be a connection between my struggle to understand and deal with the complexities of life around me and my lack of writing. Writing is thinking for me. And that in itself makes it scary to share. Writing is thinking, processing, coming to an understanding. There is value in sharing this process. But sharing also inspires me to polish it up, to make my thinking clear to other than my own cluttered brain. In my job, as in most, clear communication is crucial (alliteration just plain fun). Giving myself the gift of writing, and sharing my writing, will help me in the process of becoming a better teacher and choosing the path to follow.
But its much more personal than that. Writing is a spiritual process, and here is a statement that requires lots of that bravery I mentioned so I hope my birthday gift arrives on time. Writing is spiritual. I have long been reluctant to talk about my spiritual journey with anyone, have barely recognized the existence of a journey. It's a topic that makes me feel like a new-age poser even though I admire several writers who took the time to tell about their own journeys, and gained so much from their sharing. Spirituality is deeply tied to my thoughts on writing.
I grew up Catholic and we went to church every Sunday and “day of obligation.” I attended Catholic School through 8th grade and in high school, as a sort of self-imposed penance for some missteps, I taught Sunday School to young kids. My family was “openly religious” but we didn’t really talk about spirituality. There were a few religion classes at school, especially with Sister Roberta who had me thinking about becoming a nun in 7th grade, where we talked about the joy and mystery faith but for the most part it was all about obligation. I’ve struggled with finding my spiritual path as an adult. I’ve attended a few Sunday ceremonies at different churches and have been drawn in by some of the ritual there. I was incredibly moved by my mother’s funeral mass, filled with familiar prayers and songs, but when I attended my father’s anniversary mass, a regular Sunday with intentions for his soul, I was angry by the time I left at all the changes which felt like change for change sake because frankly I hadn’t been a part of the church or the conversation around making them. That mass was a betrayal to my memory but more importantly it separated me from the spiritual comfort of mass at a time when I thought a move back to church might become part of my haphazard spiritual journey.
Wait. This is not how I envisioned this post about giving myself the gift of writing courageously.
What I really want to say, to myself since I am my only guaranteed reader but here in public so I can feel as if I’ve made a commitment, is that I am going to write. I am going to write at the risk of becoming a disappointment, of being disappointed. I am going to take the time to be brave.
Happy Birthday to me.