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BEGINNING

In the beginning, I wasn’t afraid.

In the beginning, I was a blank slate eager to be written on.

It was kindergarten, the beginning of my formal education and I remember it well, which is remarkable considering I was only four years old.

I was overwhelmed at first. So many things packed into one room so well organized and so neat. Tiny desks and chairs arranged in straight, orderly rows. Brightly colored abacuses on shelves and scores of bins storing an array of toys and gadgets. Large letters and numbers and flowery pictures decorating the walls. The teacher’s desk looking official yet inviting set off to one side in front of the blackboard.

When I see the piano, my new teacher notices me noticing it and invites me over to try it. Her name is Sister Christine. She teaches me scales and how to play the only song I can still play today. She exudes kindness and warmth and empathy and unconditional love. She supplies me with fat crayons and rounded scissors and Elmers glue and Play-doh on demand.

Play-doh is still my Prozac. Whenever I pry open its cover and inhale I am right back in that classroom, back to the beginning when I wasn’t so afraid. Its unique aroma reassures me and gives me the courage to begin again. There would be hundreds of new beginnings after that exhilarating first day of school but none where fear didn’t play a factor.

New beginnings always require us to let go of something, which is why they can be so scary.

It’s strangely comforting to know that at four I was unafraid to let go of my mother, but then again she wasn’t holding on. By that time she already had eight children, the oldest eleven and the youngest about eighteen months old. I’m sure it was a relief to her when the six of us got on the bus together leaving her alone with my two younger siblings and a moment or two of peace to do the million other things that she was expected and counted on to do every day.

From that day forward I would have countless other new beginnings, some forced while others were freely chosen, but ultimately it didn’t matter, they all registered varying degrees of terror.

During the few years that my own kids attended elementary school and I was left home alone with more free time than I knew what to do with, I got it in my head to write a novel. It was an idea I had kicked for years never imagining that one day I might actually do it. Since I was now able to get my paid work out of the way pretty quickly every morning and was no longer constantly being interrupted, I figured it might be the perfect time to try.

I had a lot to say but no idea how to go about it, so I just sat down one day at the computer and began. I got as far as typing the working title before I froze, suddenly paralyzed by fear.

I wasn’t delusional enough to think that my first attempt at writing a novel would ever end up being published, so I couldn’t understand what the hell was holding me back. My resistance was powerful; it registered in my bones. It felt like a force field freezing my fingers in place preventing them from typing another word.

Eventually, after several more attempts, I was able to push past it and begin again. Soon my paid job started to interfere with my writing so when I learned that an uncle had left me some money upon his death, I didn’t hesitate, I knew what to needed to do.

I took the three thousand dollars I’d inherited and used it to take a three-month leave of absence from my job so I could devote all my time to my writing. Three months and four hundred or so pages later it was finished and so was I. After letting a sister who I am very close to as well as my husband read it, I took all four hundred or so pages along with the flash drive I had stored it on, over to the fire and tossed it in.

I had spent hundreds of hours delving into my pool of pain to write it and had emerged victorious for having completed it, but I had essentially splayed myself wide open for all the world to see. My vulnerability morphed into a monster that would lock me in a cage if anyone else were to read it, so I did the only thing I could think of. I destroyed it before it could destroy me.

Years later I would begin again. I was homeschooling both my kids by then so finding the time to write was extremely challenging. I was met with as much if not more resistance each time I would sit down to write, the familiar fear never far away.

Somehow, once again I was able to push past it, yet once again the result was the same. Four hundred more pages of rubbish. Kind words were relayed by my husband and my sister once again for having the fortitude to finish what I’d started, but I knew in my heart it would never see the light of day. I was warned by both not to burn it this time, so I packed it into a box where it now sits on a shelf in my closet, out of sight but never entirely out of mind.

Third times a charm and soon after I am beginning yet again.

My son was attending a trade school, my daughter was now in college, and I was no longer working as a painter from home. I was not going to give myself the option to opt out. People were beginning to talk. They were suddenly asking, “What exactly, do you do all day now?” and I needed to be able to give an honest answer.

This time I did my homework. I was no longer naive enough to believe I knew what I was doing. I cared deeply about this now, and it deserved a more honest effort. I read what may have amounted to every book ever written on writing determined as I was to give it another go.

Somehow word must have gotten out because this time that all-powerful force known as Resistance wasn’t messing around.

“Beginning is difficult, and our procrastination is a fine ever-present measure of our reluctance in taking that first close-in, courageous step to reclaiming our happiness.” – David Whyte Consolations

This time I had to make sure the house was vacuumed first and the dishwasher was run, and the dogs had been walked, and wasn’t I going to paint the upstairs bathroom? Didn’t I just get done saying how badly it needed a fresh coat of paint? Shouldn’t I be doing that first?

I was turning into the queen of procrastination in regards to my writing until the day I finally recognized it for what it was. That’s when I wrote the following on Post-it and stuck it in a prominent position above my desk: FUCK RESISTANCE! It was suggested in one of those writing books I’d read, and now I understood why.

It was a constant struggle to push past all the distractions, but after three long years, I had finished writing my third novel, Relish. I was sure that this was the one. So sure I started designing its cover: a canned jar of relish being held in an old woman’s hands.

I should have waited for the dreaded feedback first. I should have known better; the first draft is never the last draft. The confusing part was that it received overall positive feedback from the story coach I had hired, but much less of an enthusiastic response from my trusted editor, my same sister who must have been a glutton for punishment after agreeing to help me out once again.

So I completed the second draft and believed it to be even better than the first. It was painful, painstaking work and proved to be much harder than the initial writing of it. But in the end, it was still a bust. It was going to require a third draft, but I had had enough. I was a hamster spinning on my wheel, going nowhere fast. It was time to take a break and take a step back from years and years of laboring.

I was pushing so hard to give birth to something new but now I had major doubts about its viability.

Maybe the conditions weren’t right for it to take root, maybe it was time to transplant the thing, find a new medium for it, find a way to nurture it again and bring it back to life. And so it was that this blog was born. It sprouted out frustration and failure, and its survival was tenuous at best. Nevertheless, the seed of the story was still alive.

I had a second chance at a new beginning as a result of my novel coming to its end. I was immediately and unexplainably enthusiastic by the prospect of it. Once again I had no clue what I was doing, no idea how to even go about setting up such a thing, but by its nature, this new beginning implied a forward momentum, and I was all for not looking back.

Only now I am required to both.

With each new week and each new word, I am traveling back in time to reexamine and rewrite the stories that have shaped who I am.

Writing each post is scary. I often wonder, do I really want to go there? But it’s the reading of it after I’ve hit publish that is the truly terrifying part. I hate the thought of something I might say hurting someone I love, for that is the very last thing in the world I would want.

Still, I feel compelled to continue.

Somehow I have circled back to the place where I began, and surprising no one more than myself, I am no longer afraid.

“There occurs in effect, a form of internal corporate downsizing, where the parts of us too afraid to participate or having nothing now to offer, are let go, with all the accompanying death-like trauma, and where the very last fight occurs, a rear guard disbelief that this new, less complicated self, and this very simple step, is all that is needed for the new possibilities ahead.” – David Whyte Consolations

 

I am telling my story. I am unlocking parts of myself from rooms that haven’t seen the light of day in decades, and I am setting them free. I am letting them go despite the death-like trauma involved. I know I have something new to offer the world and I am exciting by the new possibilities that lie ahead.

Two steps forward one step back, every word a brick on a new path that I’m excited to follow.

 

NEXT WEEK: BESIEGED

About Amy

I am many things to many people. Daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, friend. I am a worshiper of nature on a journey inward, rewriting my story one word at a time.

8 Replies

  1. Heidi

    Bravo Amy! I enjoyed reading your post and look forward to more! I am so proud of all of your accomplishments !
    Love you …

    1. Thank you so much, Heidi! I apologize I’m just getting around to replying to my comments now. I’ve been so busy getting this up and running while writing a new post each week, that I’ve fallen a bit behind. Glad you’re enjoying them. Love you! -Amy

  2. Pam

    Nice writing… so many stories to tell… love you.

    1. Thank you, Pam! Love you, too.

  3. Linda

    You write so, so well Amy!!
    Love you!! Keep on writing!!!

  4. Susie

    Amy, I am so glad you have found your voice through this blog and are willing to share it. I just started reading this morning and can’t stop. You area very talented writer with a lot to say. Your descriptions are so vivid that I am transported to similar places and times in my own life. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement, Susie!

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