relishyourstory.com

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WITHDRAWAL

A couple of years ago I began reading the book this blog was based on but did so only sporadically.

I would pick it up every now and again, and choose which essay to read based on my curiosity to certain words listed in the table of contents.

But when I picked it up again late last fall, something felt different. What had changed I really can’t say, but the first thing I noticed was the four essays I had dog-eared earlier: Haunted, Honesty, Vulnerability, and Withdrawal, so I decided to reread each of them.

“We stick to the wrong things quite often, not because it will come to fruition by further effort, but because we cannot let go of the way we decided to tell the story and we become further enmeshed even by trying to make sense of what entraps us, when what is needed is a simple, clean breaking away.” – David Whyte Consolations

I was gearing up to begin the third rewrite of my third novel and was already several years into the writing of it, and when I read this one powerful sentence again, the truth of his words hit home for me in a very big way.

After all of my hard work and focus, I wasn’t keen on letting go of the way I had decided to tell the story, even though I knew in my gut it wasn’t working. I felt trapped and was aching for a clean break from it all.

Not only that, but I realized the same could be said about the stories I’d been telling myself my entire life, which is why this one sentence had such a powerful effect on me and made me want to cry when I read it again.

I was at that point, inching ever closer to the fifty-year mark of my life and was aware that I had spent so many of those years enmeshed in my stories trying to make sense of how trapped they often made me feel.

I wanted a clean break from them; a clean slate from which to start over.

Relish, was the working title of the novel I was still laboring over. It was the story of a young woman who despite having an incredibly challenging childhood and painful relationships with most of the people in her life, over time, and with the help of her beloved grandmother (that’s where Grandma’s relish comes in) she comes to see that life is meant to be savored, that she can always find something about it to be relished.

And that’s the moment when the seed for – Relish Your Story, the blog – was planted.

I reached out to David Whyte’s publicist the very next day to ask for permission to base my blog on each of his essays and was surprised to hear back from someone by the following morning. I was told David was out of the country, but that they’d approach him about it when he returned home in a few weeks.

By the end of the following month, I was excited to learn he had given my blog his blessing.

After the initial shock wore off, the panic set it. I had no idea how to go about setting up a blog but the new year was fast approaching (I wanted to time all fifty-two essays to coincide with the start of the new year), so I wasted no time getting to work.

It would be the break from my novel I felt I so desperately needed, though not quite the break I had anticipated as far as my workload was concerned.

I decided early on not to read Consolations in its entirety before beginning. I wanted the work to be spontaneous, wanted to allow each word to have its way with me just before writing about it.

For perhaps the first time in my life, I was ready to get real. It would make me vulnerable. I would need to be honest about all the things that still haunted me from my past, and I would need to withdraw from the world every week to do it.

Holding off on reading all the essays beforehand added to my overall vulnerability and anxiety and proved to be much more of a challenge than I’d anticipated, but I felt it was vital to my process.

So when I reached this week’s word – Withdrawal – again, the first thing I noticed was that turned down corner of the page that started it all.

Once I had a chance to reread it, I understood why the word withdrawal was a catalyst for getting me to share my stories; withdrawing from the world has always been my modus operandi. It’s what has kept me sane in this often insane world. The downside is that it keeps me even more isolated than I already am.

I’ve worked from home (including homeschooling both my kids) for the last twenty-five years – which amounts to half of my life, so I saw this blog as a unique opportunity for more connection.

“We withdraw not to disappear, but to find another ground from which to see; a solid ground from which to step, and from which to speak again, in a different way, a clear, rested, embodied voice, our life suddenly an emphatic statement and one from which we don’t want to withdraw.”  – David Whyte Consolations

If I could change my perception of my past – find another way in which to see my stories and solid ground from which to speak about them in a different more honest way than I ever had before, maybe I would stop feeling the constant need to withdraw.

This blog has given me a new embodied voice to speak with. As I write this, almost an entire year has passed since I began.

In typical fashion, I have withdrawn from the world to celebrate my birthday alone on a chilly beach.

I slept for twelve hours the first night I arrived, and when I walked the beach alone the next morning – on my birthday, I thought about my mémère who died on that day sixteen years before, and about the innocent lives that were violently taken from their loved ones in Newtown, Connecticut, six years before, and about my sister who never got to see her fiftieth birthday, and all I could feel was gratitude to be alive and free as tears poured down my face, and I walked one foot in front of the other into the future.

My husband, who joined me later for the rest of my stay, never once made me feel bad for my wanting to be alone the first couple of days.

He has, over the years, always supported me whenever I’ve felt the need to withdraw from the world.

It began when our children were still children. I would withdraw from the demands of my family as a means of self-preservation and spend time alone hiking in the woods or at the beach or a meditation or breathwork or creativity retreat, as a way of recharging my batteries while he took over caring for the kids. We both knew that if I’d reached the point of needing time alone away from everyone, it was for a good reason and time spent away from everyone would end up benefiting everyone.

He even backed me immediately, without reservation, when I told him I wanted to volunteer for a couple of weeks alone in South Africa.

And he has supported me every step of the way while writing this blog, which often required me to withdraw from family life and lock myself away in my room to write.

“Withdrawal is often not what it looks like – a disappearance – no, to withdraw from entanglement can be to appear again in the world in a very real way and begin the process of renewing the primary, essential invitation again.” – David Whyte Consolations

I will forever be grateful that he understands this about me – that I need to periodically withdraw from the world so that I can come back better in every respect than when I left.

For me, that is vitally important, but I think it’s also a universal feeling we all share.

Sometimes you just need to get away from it all. Withdraw from your family and friends and coworkers, withdraw from the demands of life that never completely go away.

“To remove ourselves entirely and absolutely, abruptly and at times un-compromisingly is often the real and radically courageous break for freedom.” – David Whyte Consolations

I am of the mind that it would require much more courage from me to stay put when every fiber of my being is telling me to take some time for myself and go – withdraw from the world and follow my heart wherever it leads me for a time.

To me, radical courage is required only when fear is a factor, and I’ve never been afraid to be alone.

Quite the opposite; I relish it.

 

NEXT WEEK: WORK

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.

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