I am a Writer

“Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself that you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

13 years ago, my son came bounding off the bus and ran to me waiting in the car at the end of the lane. Eagerly, he thrust his black-and-white marbled notebook at me, and announced, “I am a writer! I’m not a great speller, but I AM a writer.”

As a mom, some memories are etched so deeply, they are indelible. This sunny, fall afternoon exchange between mother and son was more than a fleeting moment. For someone who fell in love with reading and writing as a child, this moment felt like a kiss on the forehead, a deep bow to the universal human connection through words.

You see, I, too, am a writer.

Recently, one of my writing mentors invited us to consider ourselves as writers, to describe our writing selves. Immediately, I began to think of the type of writer I am not. Primarily, I am not dedicated and focused. I write in bits and starts, often in the early morning when I first wake up. I have grand intentions of writing essays and books that unveil the beauty of life – the magnificence that exists even in the ugliness and heartache of it all. These grand intentions are reflected in the numerous journals and writing notebooks half-filled and the several unfinished essays and book outlines I have saved on my laptop.

But the invitations asked me to consider the type of writer I am, not my self-defined shortcomings as a writer.

I am a writer of uplifiting posts, for I believe words are better spent lifting and guiding others than wounding and tearing down. I am a writer of intentional tweets sent into the universe – hopeful one human will think a little differently. I am a prolific writer of personal notes – notecards sent to current and former students, left on the doorstep of a friend with a box of her favorite tea, or carefully tucked into a box of cookies and taken to the post office for someone I don’t get to see often.

In my own home, I have boxes of notes my family, friends, and students have written. Cards from long-gone grandparents with their careful handwriting telling me about their days, expressing guinine interest in my own. Handwritten letters from my parents, and numerous one-of-a-kind, handmade cards crafted by my father in his studio. Hundreds of notes, store-bought and handmade cards from students who have learned the power of words.

I am writing because I am a writer. Someday, I may actually write a book or have an article published, but then again, I may not. And whether I write over multiple sittings or whether I ever really finish a piece is not of importance. What matters is that I come bounding into the world eager to announce I AM A WRITER. #MakeRoomForJoy #SOSMagic

I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #sosmagic

Be the Person You Needed

“The whole point of being alive is to evolve into the person you were intended to be.” ~Oprah~

A few months ago, one of the young women I mentor reminded me of something I had told her – something she had taken to heart and had put into practice. I often don’t remember specifically what I say when I’m having coffee or lunch, Facetiming, or walking around campus with a student; instead, I speak from my heart, knowing that when I speak my truth, and use my story to help them navigate their own journeys, I can’t go wrong. After all, when you love someone, you allow yourself to be vulnerable – sincere – real. And love comes easy for me.

In a long, two-part text, my young friend mentioned advice I had previously offered her: “focus on things you CAN control” and “find your yellow,” a reference to seeking and spreading kindness and love. Something else she observed, though, gave me pause. Regardless of whether I was the team mom, she reflected, and regardless of whether or not she was a softball player, she is confident I was put in her life for a reason. The text continued with reminding me that I had told her I try to be the woman I needed when I was a young woman trying to figure out adulthood. She wrote, “you told me to be the person I needed,” and “that hit home. Changed my whole view on my future. I WANT to be that person.”

What this young woman doesn’t realize, though, is that she already IS that woman. She is recognizing her own worth – her own power – her own influence on herself and others. As a rising college sophomore, she takes the time to check on me, someone with whom she had no connection prior to this year, because she understands the need for human connection, for nurturing, for loving people she considers family, for building community.

Mentoring young people, gives me energy, and fills me with such a clear purpose it is palpable. The clarity of my life’s purpose echoes in what I know is my soul. My parents divorced when I was ten, and while I always felt loved and nurtured, I also spent a lot of time seeking answers – affirmation – and connection. With a single father whose focus was on putting food on the table and a mom who lived over 400 miles away, I was pretty much left to my own devices to figure things out. Fortunately, I had an incredible group of friends, adults in my community who nurtured me from the perimeter, and an etermal optimism and grit that have both served me well.

Early in my life, most likely through the countless hours I lost myself in the pages of a compelling novel, I learned the power of words – of creating my own story – of being the author of my life’s adventure. As a reader, I discovered characters who encountered conflict, and sometimes trauma, and emerged slightly or dramatically different. I learned the liberating effect of being a dynamic character. If I keep that realization at the center of my attention, then I can be the woman I need her to be. I am a dynamic character, ever-evolving.

I can truly be the woman I needed when I was twelve, thirty-two, or fifty-three. She is as incredible as I need her to be for myself, and, ultimately, for others. My sweet, young friend is learning that lesson as well. What a gift to realize the cotnrol we have over who we become – what a gift.

I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #sosmagic

Seeking a Joy-filled Life

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to learn to love the questions themselves.” Rainer Maria Rilke

The universe has a cruel sense of humor, constantly reminding us we are not in control. To underscore this lesson, life is filled with moments of intense pain – physical pain that reminds us of our own mortality, and emotional pain that aches so badly we can’t breathe. Fear and sadness, anger and frustration, as well as disappointment and angst, weave themselves through our days sometimes so tightly we can’t move.

And yet, as conflicting as it sounds, when we lean into these darkest moments, we have the opportunity to find joy. Yes, find joy. Some spiritual practices believe that when we embrace the gift of suffering, we gain a heightened ability to delight in even the most simple moments in our lives. Within this recognition, joy, in its purest form, occurs.

Arriving to this space, though, and not getting hung up on the suffering or even the joy, requires patience and practice; when we finally achieve this balance, we are truly in the moment. It has taken me quite awhile to figure out this secret, and I certainly have not achieved some sort of euphoric state where I transcend all emotions. Instead, I have shifted my perspective to sincerely seek joy in even the most unimaginable moments of life. It isn’t easy, but it is important.

Search for the lesson: For six years, I have worked on living intentionally, on living an authentic, present life. These six years, as well as the decades that preceded them have been filled with traumatic moments, disquieting moments that have filled me with fear and uncertainty. Since December of 2019, though, some of the darkest moments in my life have occured as I have helped my daughter navigate stage four brain cancer. To say this has been my greatest test as a human is a gross understatement. It has, however, taught me a lot about who I am as a woman.

Sitting by Elizabeth’s bed in the neuro ICU at the Ohio State James Cancer Center, I repeatedly asked, and honestly, I sometimes begged, “What am I supposed to learn from this experience? How will these moments make me a better person?” If I’m not careful, I miss the lesson, distracted by the emotion of the moment: fear, angst, sadness. To live authentically, I have to intentionally seek the lesson.

Understanding often comes in snippets, when I least expect it. I may be talking to a college student working through his or her own journey, and my own experiences offer them solace or steps of action. Sometimes clarity emerges while I’m listening to my pastor deliver his weekly sermon, and my experience connects on a much deeper level. If I focus on the lessons, the difficult moments in life serve a distinct purpose.

Feel the emotion in its purest form: One of the hardest steps in seeking a joy-filled life is recognizing the emotion as it occurs. For someone like me who would rather support others as they experience their own emotions, identifying my feelings, especially in the moment, is hard. For example, if I feel lonely, I often fill that moment by finding people with whom I can connect. Instead of feeling the loneliness and identifying the root of the loneliness or my fear of feeling lonely, I fill it quickly.

Over the last few years, I have made strides in recognizing and feeling my emotions, even the ones that scare me or make me extremely uncomfortable. This has been one of the hardest exercises in my personal journey of untangling myself. Often, the emotion from which I run has a negative memory, or memories, associated with it. However, with practice, I am learning that every emotion is fleeting and based on my perception. Understanding this, and feeling the emotion as a fleeting emotion, is liberating.

Give thanks for the moment: Regardless of what is happening, giving thanks for it is important. Gratitude for even the most difficult moments reflect a life of presence – of living in the moment. As humans, we often don’t stop to think about each moment, and as a result, we end up feeling like life is happening to us. By giving thanks for what is happening, even the moments we wish would simply slip quickly into a bad memory, we are recognizing the power of being alive. Gratitude for each moment allows us to experience the emotion and to see the lesson the universe is teaching us.

Living a joy-filled life is not impossible, but it really takes intentional work. I often fail in this quest. I get caught up in the emotion of the moment. I forget to breathe – to see a purpose – to acknolwedge the natural ebb and flow of life – to embrace the biological rythm the universe offers us. With practice, experiencing joy most of the time, even in the hardest of seasons, is possible. #MakeRoomForJoy

I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #sosmagic