In my never ending quest to understand myself and this life, I have a practice of beginning each day reading some inspirational material and journaling. I have been doing this for 5 or more years, and have read a bit of everything from pop self help to Plato. Much of it over my head, or under, and much of it intelligent and worth some pondering. My last book of choice (though it came to me by chance) was Life is a Verb: 37 days to wake up, be mindful, and live intentionally, by Patti Digh. The book is acollection of 37 short stories from Patti’s life all with a meaningful lesson, and complete with writing promts. Really good stuff, and perfect for my morning ritual. In an essay called Give Free Hugs Patti tells a story, in essence, about stepping out of your comfort zone to meet your better self. The story is mainly about an experience she shared with her daughter, but there is a side story that blindsided me. It goes like this:
“A friend, Marybeth, recently told me about gathering a group of women friends from around the country together to help her celebrate some occasion—perhaps a birthday?—to help her be more herself, to give her feedback, to embrace her. At one point in the weekend, Marybeth said to the group something like this: “I am trying to find my voice.”
Her friend Pat spoke up, giving the kind of real, honest, true feedback that Marybeth needed and wanted (and perhaps shocking the rest of the group who didn’t know Pat as well as Marybeth did): “I’m so sick and tired of middle aged white women saying they need to find their voice. I’ve heard that a million times. I just have one question for you: If you did have a voice, what would you say?”
Whack!!! If I had a voice what would it say? Here I am starting a blog because I feel compelled to tell my stories, share my journey, use my voice. I have a long list of topics I want to write about, not to mention the the daily challenges involved in starting over (career wise) at 50. So why has it been over a month since my last post? Because I haven’t trusted my voice. I realize that while I have worked hard this past year to define my self, my work, and what it means to me, I have not convinced myself that I know what I’m talking about. Well too bad for me. The old catch phrase “fake till you make it” comes to mind, and that is exactly what I plan to do. I did not quit my job to sit sit around second guessing myself. When something is the right thing to do (and I believe this is), now is always the right time to do it. Whether I feel like it or not. Whether my motives are 100% clear or not . Whether I get any reward from it or not, now is the time. I am reminded of another of my college stories.
My first attempt at college was community college when I was 17. I was an art major, incredibly unsure of myself, and usually stoned, which did not help my security or my productivity. 1976-77 was a tumultuous year in my life. I got through my first semester by the skin of my teeth. I ended up leaving in the middle of the second semester after being evicted from my Mother’s home shortly after I turned 18. My memory of that time is pretty vague, but I distinctly remember my 3-d design teacher Bob Dodge. He was an interesting man, a good teacher, and most of all took time to make each of us floundering adolescents feel special. If I learned anything during those months it was from him, and one incident provides incentive now. I have always been a procrastinator, usually up all night before assignments are due, but I usually have the wheels turning all the while, so I know what I intend to do. There was one assignment in that 3-D class that baffled me I guess. At any rate I had no idea how to complete it the night before it was due. It involved constructing something with toothpicks and glue, but with specific references to some art historical something, and metaphorical connotations, and lots of big words. I read the assignment over and over, and finally slapped something together having no idea ( or so I thought) if it fit the assignment. The next morning I studied that paper again, and reluctantly went to class to present my “sculpture”. When my turn came, just short of crapping myself, I got up and started talking. I wove together some tale about my piece, referencing all the important topics, and using those big words. Somehow I managed take my clumsy pile of splinters and turn it into art, fooling even myself. It was a success. I faked it, I made it. The power of words is undeniable. So here I am 30+ years later learning from my 17 year old self to go for it.
I created the self portrait above specifically for this post, and I am really pleased with it. I am dropping it off at a friends gallery tomorrow where it will be showing for the month of August. The next time I find myself doubting I have a voice I will remember this story, this image, and fake it. I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work.
I wish to thank Bob Dodge wherever he is (Germany according to his website) for making me think, and for listening when I ventured to speak. May I continue to do so! I also wish to thank Patti Digh who has helped me turn the pages, and taught me to “come as I am”.