My friend Tara posted this Cheryl Strayed quote the other day.

The most important thing for aspiring writers is for them to give themselves permission to be brave on the page, to write in the presence of fear, to go to those places that you think you can’t write – really that’s exactly what you need to write.

I was as cool as milk at the time, you guys. I furrowed my brows intelligently. I said, oh, yes, absolutely. I know all about this sort of thing. It’s what I do. {{AWAKE}} It’s what I teach. {{BRAVE}} It’s what I am.

But I met up this morning with preciousprecious, precious friends, (and then this afternoon some more precious friends!) and there’s nothing like flesh and blood to teach you that you are made of flesh and blood yourself. I loosened up a little, and I made a little collage, and I wrote a little poem.* And I got schooled.

The fact is, this authentic life thing is easier to talk about than it is to do. It’s darker than you want it to be. It’s more complicated than you want it to be. It’s less finished than you want it to be.

Always.

I will speak no more angst. Please understand. It isn’t misery that I’ve been living lately. It isn’t misery at all. It’s exposure. I am really, really out there. And as I make my bumbling way toward understanding the publishing industry — both traditional publishing and self-publishing — I sense that I am inching towards being REALLY, REALLY OUT THERE.

It seems like the public view would be a bright and cozy place. Doesn’t it? I mean, it seems so bright. But what I feel is the darkness of trusting something I can’t see. And what I feel is the power of deep contact with other people’s hearts. And what I feel is something working through me, and it passes through and makes me feel smaller and weaker than ever.

God, I pray this day for a generous spirit. I pray that I would live my rebel’s life always for love, and for hope, and never for misery or greed or self-obsession. I pray that I would seek for love, and love, and only love, and all for love. And the aching kind of beauty that is synonymous with love. 

So this is the truth, you guys. I’m scared. I’m scared of publishing my story because it’s going to tell you all some things about me that I’m not sure I want you to know. And I’m scared of being crushed by the power of the story written on my heart and I’m scared of being seen.

But you know what’s coming next, don’t you? (Oh, yeah.) This is my line. Sometimes I love this line and I’m all super energetic life-coach of the universe. But sometimes I hate this line, because it’s meant for me.

{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{Do it anyway.}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}} 

I am going to start living like a monk.
Eating dry bread and silence,
The feast of sound that is no sound,
The taste of chalk.

I am going to start living like an artist
Finding tigers in the shadows
Drawing long white teeth and painting whiskers:
Dying.

I am going to start living like it matters
This and this and even this.
Half lines of poetry, nausea of fear, and dried up markers
All these scattered bits of flesh

Gathered up and carried home.
And shrunk like Alice
I will go spelunking in my cavernous and terrifying chest.
I am going to start living like a monk.

I will meet my heart, there, full and hungry,
Purple and throbbing : bright
Against the gray of satiety and the blur of passing years.
I am going to start living like an artist.

*I am taking a partial re-do of the Story201 class I took over the summer with Story Sessions. The collage above and the poem were both in response to prompts from a book by Christine Valtners Paintner called The Artist’s Rule, which was used in that class as a text.