This week on Whidbey Island, I’ve spent my days writing, running, sharing words in a circle of wonderful women, and getting to know them more fully as we spent evenings before a fire with a bottle of wine or a cup of tea, depending on our moods. It’s been a wonderful week.
First, I’ve been reminded of how hard it is to put words together on the page in a meaningful way. I’ve written each day. I’ve written in my journal. I’ve written on the computer. I’ve written in a spiral bound notebook. Each bit of writing has been helpful to me in some way, but each bit has been hard. Some of it has been hard because of the subject matter. Some of it has been hard because words don’t just come out of me on demand, though I wish they did. Some of it has been hard because the words sometimes pour out but do so in a jumbled and filthy mess, and it’s hard to know which messes are worth pursuing and which are better just left alone. Writing is just hard.
I came here hoping to leave with one completed essay that I could submit for publication. I haven’t met that goal, and I won’t on this trip. Yesterday, I did find the beginnings of an essay. Today, my friend Gretchen spent some time reading it for me and asking the sorts of questions that are helpful in guiding me towards fleshing it out and making it better. I’m leaving with a project in hand, but not a completed one. And I need to be okay with that. I need to see that as progress, accept it with gratitude, and go home and continue to plug away at it. That leads me to the second thing I learned.
The biggest realization I’ve had on this trip is that I tend to value myself based on what I do. On the days when the words were not coming as I wanted them to, and I was stuck, I felt worthless, like I had nothing to offer this community of writers. Did I even belong here? And then the words came, and my mood lifted tremendously. That was wonderful, but I caught myself in a mistaken way of thought.
I can’t be valuing myself based on what I do. I can’t be telling myself that if I produce – if I write, if I work, if I train – then I’m worthwhile. I need to get to a place where I value myself the same way I value others – for being who they are. I need to be comfortable with myself and be of a mindset that anything I do that’s an accomplishment of some kind – whether it be writing something beautiful, completing a challenging race, or climbing a mountain in Africa – is just extra. I should do those things because I enjoy them, not because I need them to feel worthy in my own mind.
It’s been a good week. I’m grateful for the company of old friends, the beginnings of new friendships, the start of what could be a good essay, and the way my eyes have been opened that I think will allow me to unclench a bit. This week – and this year – I’ve been pushing, pushing, pushing to do, to see, and to achieve. I think life is about to change in a big way. I think it’s about to slow down. And I’m excited.