When I reread my last post, I got the sinking feeling that I’d allowed myself to commit the one blogging sin that I vowed never to commit: writing primarily about myself. Way too many “I’s.” Feeling slightly redeemed by having invited you to write in, I felt even more grateful that you shared such lovely anticipations. When I started this blog, I made a promise to myself to try to write only what is worth reading, and for me that is all about what connects with others. Because honestly, the details of a single person’s life are just not that interesting. Too many bloggers forget this, and I semi-forgot it myself because I was feeling a little lazy. And when we are lazy in life, it shows up in writing. In fact, when we are lazy or distracted or just a tad too self-involved, it shows up everywhere. As John Ruskin wrote, “A man wrapped up in himself makes a pretty small parcel.” But then something wonderful came along and inspired me…
A few weeks ago I visited Generations of Hope to talk about therapeutic writing. A few days ago, I received the poem below from someone who is part of the Generations of Hope community. It is in response to a writing activity we did: to write a single descriptive sentence about something you noticed that day. Lots of you wrote in to share these descriptions as well. But not only did I receive the poem, the same email contained this response to my belief that it is not time but fear that keeps us from a creative practice: “I think not ‘fear,’ as you contend, but, for me, priorities. I ‘say…’ but I ‘do…’ Sorta like the Christian life sometimes; Praise God for forgiveness at the center of all we believe!”
That this came along just at a moment when I was feeling down about being a lazy writer was a mini-miracle. It was God reminding me that yes, it’s generally a good idea to pay at least as much attention to the world around as you to do to yourself, AND S/he has already made provisions for the fact that we’re never going to get it all the way right: forgiveness.
Garrison Keillor sang a funny song called “Spaghetti” on The Prairie Home Companion last week, which he described as “everything he had learned in the last 37 years” on the radio. It’s a clever riff on the idea that “life is a series of low comedies.” Everything said in his voice sounds completely true, and my favorite line was, “If you’re a perfectionist, good luck.” I’m starting to believe that perfectionism is just another form of egoism. I mean seriously, us, perfect? I can’t see it. And I’m done looking for it because that is just a quick slide down the road of disappointment, with no chance to take in the gorgeous scenery on the way.
Before I share this lovely poem, here’s one more thought, and then a somewhat daring invitation. Perfectionism leads pretty quickly to guilt, and guilt keeps us stuck in ourselves because it’s just another way believe we should have gotten it right in the first place. That we are the beginning and end of all knowledge. Mistakes are mistakes. Wrong and hurtful choices are wrong and hurtful choices. But each and every one of us has the right (and really, the obligation) to climb out of the quicksand of guilt in search of forgiveness. Fr. Jim McKenna, the priest who married Martin and me, had a little sign over his desk that said, “Screw Guilt.” I’m finally starting to get it, almost 20 years later.
My invitation is this: think about something you need to forgive yourself for. Then do it. And if you want to, write in and share it. I’ll go first: I need to forgive myself for not being the Best Writer in the World. I should actually forgive myself for believing that is a remotely worthwhile goal. What I’d like to be instead is the kind of person who can put my arm around myself and say, “Hey, nice job. I know there’s always more you’d like to do, and good for you for not giving up.” Sort of like a kindergarten teacher you can take seriously.
How about you?
Thank you to my friend at Generations of Hope for sending this poem, “Morning Sound Reflections.” It really does give you a glimpse into the writer’s experience of the morning, and into what you can notice if you pay attention.
Morning Sound Reflections
That insistent alarm
Not ready, even after the nine-minute doze
Humidifier blows and gurgles
Never sized exactly right
Feet on carpet, then parquet,
Thicker carpet in hall, then tiles
Water rushes at my service
We take so much for granted
Down the stairs — little thumps
Do you ever rest?
Cereal rattles, milk blubs
Spoon clinks, noisy teeth crunch
Plastic shower curtain crackles
Plastic rings scrape on metal rod
Splurt from first shower burst
Blurp of shampoo
Sloosh through my hair
What is the sound of towel on skin?
Or shirt sleeves on flesh?
The skrff of Velcro opening my knee brace
Shoe laces strain against eyelets
Ready for a new day!