Friday, January 24, 2014
It's Always the Quiet Ones
The other day a friend asked me to take a look at a writing project she's been working on. She said those five words that always put dread into my soul, "I want your honest opinion." It was with double dread that I agreed, because she really is a dear friend and I love her bigger than the universe. So, I was already making up my mind as to how I was going to say in a very diplomatic way, "It's nice, but...." or even worse, "I love you. Don't quit your day job."
Fifteen minutes into reading her work I completely forgot that I was reading her work. In a good way. I thought, "Wow. This author really has her shit together!" Then I remembered that it was my beautiful friend whose words I was reading. I dropped the pages, grabbed my phone, and texted her, "You have no idea how great you are, do you?" I also let her know that it was a serious question. I wasn't just looking for her to say, "Aw, you liked it? You're so sweet." Because that kind of shit makes me gag - you know, when someone asks for your opinion, good or bad, and dismisses it - that pat on the head for catering to someone's need for external validation.
She didn't do that. Her reply was kind, mentioning that I had inspired her, but it was obvious that her real answer was, "No. I have no real idea how brilliant I am." Then I jumped on Facebook and three other friends had almost apologetically posted their writing or artwork. They presented their precious - yes, precious, because I know first-hand that it feels like handing your infant baby over to a complete stranger - they presented their precious crafted bits with words like, "Here's what I was messing with... LOL..." The nervous "laugh" at the end made it clear that they felt like they were presenting a dirty diaper rather than a beloved child for everyone to look at.
It pissed me off.
It pissed me off so much that my next move was to post the following as my status update:
I am absolutely flabbergasted by the number of very talented people I know who are afraid of their own talent. Yes, I'm also looking in the mirror when I say that. What kind of horrible shit have we all been listening to that tells us that what we love doing, that what we're really good at, what makes us feel alive is a pathetic waste of time? Well, friends n' neighbors, it's time to listen to that other voice - the one that says, "This is you loving and alive."
Comments that followed seemed like somewhat nervous applause. You know the kind. It says, "I like what you put out there, but please don't look too closely in my direction." There was also a lot of talk from people about the negative voices they've heard, and are still hearing, that keep them from running wild with their own power. Trust me, I know those voices. I've got a freakin' stadium full of them. But I've learned, almost mostly, to listen to the smaller voice. It's the voice of a young girl with a slightly wobbly smile saying, "We are meant for this. This is our gift."
We've been taught by society and our families that fully embracing our gifts is arrogant, that it's conceited to say, "I'm good at this and I want to take it further." That's just so many flavors of bullshit! There is absolutely no hubris in acknowledging your gifts! Let me say that again, there is absolutely no hubris in acknowledging your gifts! They're gifts, after all, given to you by God, The Universe, The Flying Spaghetti Monster... wherever you want to believe they come from. The real crime is when you don't acknowledge them. The real evil is when they are disused, misused, and worst of all, unused.
So, what's the big deal about your little gift, your teeny tiny talent in a vast universe of talented people? Why take note of it, much less put effort into it? Because, guess what really happens when you completely embrace, love, hug, kiss, have raw, naked jungle sex with your gifts? You become selfless, quite the opposite of the arrogance everyone warned you about. You inspire others to use their gifts and you champion them using their gifts.
Things I've written inspired my friend to write, and that she writes so beautifully, that whatever I did made her let loose with her glorious voice... well, I'm humbled. That's a tremendous responsibility to shoulder. I meant what I told her in response, "If the things I've written inspired you to write, to let that beautiful light shine. If that and nothing else comes of my writing, then it's all worth it. I don't need anything else."
That is why I do anything and that why it is worth doing.
So, this year I'm writing a book. Because there are amazing people in my life who inspire me. Because it needs to be written. Because the voice of that young girl with the slightly wobbly smile rings with truth and I've decided to listen to her.
Do you see how this works? Good. Do something about it.