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Dear one who is trying so hard
a pep talk for myself & whoever else might need it
Remember when Kai creaked down the back staircase this morning to find you writing at the kitchen table? Are you ready for your daily dose of scary stories? he said. You were in the middle of a thought, something you really wanted to get down, but you willed yourself to say Yep in a way that sounded like you meant it.
You might want to leave your tea here. This one’s really scary—there’s even a jump scare, he said, with a sly smile. Still dark out, you sat together on the couch. He turned on his flashlight and waved it around, the light illuminating different parts of the room. He shifted his voice lower to read with a bit of a rasp (for drama). You closed your eyes and listened. You worried his flashlight waving might trigger a migraine but you didn’t tell him that (mood-killer).
You listened to him taking clear delight in holding you rapt, knowing what was coming, that he would certainly make you jump. You snuck open one eye a bit to see his face, age 9, still so soft, but already shades of his older self peeking through. Big greenish-brown eyes, long lashes, dusting of freckles, furrowed brow. You closed your eyes again, listened. Submitted to the experience. You remembered how lucky you were to be there. You didn’t even know where your phone was. You weren’t thinking of emails, or what you needed to do next.
For maybe ten whole minutes, you were actually just there together on the couch, held in the morning stillness, in the feeling of not wanting to be anywhere else. Listening to the sound of your son’s voice. The weight of him leaning back into your chest. Then, you jump scared and laughed together, and he started working on his puzzle, and I need to write my essay for tomorrow, you thought. Then, you thought of how another writer got that award. An award that you didn’t even apply for. But that you wish you had applied for and that you wish you had won instead. Oh hi Jealousy, hadn’t seen you for awhile, but I knew you were hanging around in the yard, waiting for me to leave open the door.
You felt the hot wash of jealousy in your chest and thought, I’m no good. I haven’t sent poems out in years. I’m not a real writer.
You didn’t say this aloud to anyone. You hoped maybe it would just slink back where it came from. But I want you to look at it for a minute, so I can tell you this:
Remember what Karen Joy Fowler told Ruth Ozeki: “You can only be the writer you are.”
The writer you are is enough. The person you are is enough.
Go to your desk. Open your notebook. Write this down: You can only be the writer you are. Write it again.
It’s ok to want more, to want to be more. Even good. But it’s not ok to forget how beautiful it is to be who you are now.
You don’t need to be anywhere else. You don’t need to be anyone else. I see you shaking your head, rolling your eyes—don’t slough off this advice because it sounds trite. It’s simple and it’s hard. And it’s possible.
You just have to keep remembering to remember it. You have to get the place Kai is in when he’s reading to you—that luminous place of possibility—and let yourself stay.
Be Where You Are is a newsletter about how to use writing and mindfulness to be where you are. I’ll be back on Thursday with a prompt.
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