The words. All the words. And the sentences they belong in. I need to find the matches.
But they’re all over the floor.
They’re piling up against the wall, falling over on top of me even while I sleep. I don’t have the time to sort through them so I keep shoving them and stacking them back up; desperately holding out a disciplinary hand and asking them to “just stop! Stop!” moving. They glance at me quickly, with the sass of an undisciplined child that I know too well, and hop on their word-tushes and slide down the stack at an angle just precise enough to smack me right in the face.
The words, they have a story to tell. And I’m sorry to say, the story isn’t for you.
It’s for me.
And before I share it, let me just also say; I don’t know what the story is yet. I want to be clear about this because it’s a little secret I’ve known my whole life but only just discovered; I don’t know what I’m going to say until I read it. And I’m pretty sure that’s true for you too, maybe you just haven’t realized it yet either. And this is important, because writing is as much about the reader going on the adventure as it is the writer leading the way.
So I’ve got the words in my bag (I had to grab a trash bag because they wouldn’t all fit into a purse with any kind of dignity). Here we go.
I asked my eighty-year old self if it had anything to say to me this afternoon. Okay no, this is what really happened. The kiddos were napping and I was reading/writing, while keeping close tabs on their restless but settling little legs banging against their cots, their need to feel a hand on the small of their back just one more time before drifting off to sleep, and surveying the scene to see if anyone needed to be stared at uselessly by me while they coughed. So once they settled, this is what I wrote-
Dear Lisa, from 80 year old you.
(Pause. Hesitation. Brain freeze. Uncertainty about everything I’ve ever done and said in my life… and then finally-)
“You were afraid, weren’t you; that I wasn’t here. That the truth would come out that it actually all made no sense in the end. Because that’s the real threat, isn’t it. That it all wouldn’t just be a series of twists and turns in a life of purpose, but rather; a straight up loss. Straight up mistakes, straight up failure, and straight up shame. You were afraid I wasn’t here watching, but I am.”
And, that was it. Like a visit from a long-lost loved one in a dream, she was gone. Just like that.
But something weird happened right after this. I turned to a blank page in the back of the book I was reading, and I added this-
I have always been a compilation of who I’ve been. Nothing changes that. The story belongs to me.
I have something to learn, wherever I am today. And if I don’t see it, it’s because I’m afraid to.
I used to think the hardest thing was to take a step back. To bow out for a while from the story you’ve been telling yourself about who you are. But here’s the secret that hides beneath that; every time I step back I have a choice to make. Do I fight against this, with all my might. Do I yell and kick and scream that this doesn’t fit The Story of Who I’ve Always Been. Or do I sit my ass down, take a look around, and listen. The hardest part isn’t when you disappoint yourself. The hardest part is when you realize you have been the one building the walls that surround you.
Why is this brick here?! Who’s been mixing cement?! Who’s in charge here? Hello? Can I speak to the owner of this establishment please? There are bricks all around me! And they keep getting higher. Yes. I know. It’s perplexing to me too. Would you look at that, now there’s cement on my hands, I demand to know what’s going on at once! There is a wall growing higher around me, I’ve got cement all over my hands, on my clothes, in my hair, and all I was doing was standing here. Telling everyone about how smart I was. And how seasoned. And experienced. And accomplished. Someone needs to remove this wall immediately. This is unacceptable!
I look around.
Everyone has gone home for the night. I’m the one standing in hardening cement, by myself, throwing an ego-laced tantrum.
When you’ve got the chance to let yourself down, do it. Then wipe the crap off your hands, the egg off your face, and clear the page for a new chapter; The Story of Who I Am Now.