“Dan, you have a gift. You write very powerfully. It’s time to let that gift loose.”
Those were strong words, coming as they did, from my friend Joan, an English teacher. She was also very knowledgeable, very intuitive, and I trusted her judgment a lot. So it was hard to discount her words. But I tried.
“I hear you, Joan, but it’s just tough to find a place to start. I don’t know what to write about.” As I said it, I could hear the defeat in my voice — but that was my continuing struggle.
And yet the drive to write in me was so strong, I found myself trying to push through the writer’s block. “Write what you know.” they said, so I decided to try that. I was attending 12 step meetings for people who had grown up with alcoholism, and those experiences were on the top emotionally for me. I began to write about my experiences growing up, and how it affected me as an adult.
I was still struggling to find a voice, though. My words still came out sounding like a boring recording. But one of the reasons Joan had encouraged me to write was because of letters she had received from me. I was a very active letter writer, and wrote regularly to a lot of friends. Numerous other friends had praised my writing skills from my letters. When I’d write to a friend, my words would flow freely, and it was effortless. That was why I was puzzled when a friend would rave about what I had written —because it felt like I had just dashed off a letter quickly, and it didn’t seem like that big a deal.
Suddenly one day, I connected the dots and realized I might have something. Talk about your experiences and whatever is on your mind — only write it like a letter to a friend! It felt like a big awakening for me to realize that. And it would have to be hand written — like I would in a letter. Something about the tactile experience of putting pen to paper, I knew intuitively, worked well for me.
But would writing it as a letter work? What did I have to lose if it didn’t? I was stuck anyway, so why not take a chance? I gave it a try.
As I look back at my past and what has happened, I’m struck by the feeling of searching I continually experienced. On ski trips, while scuba diving, going to parties, on a date; whatever the activity, there was always nagging at the back of my brain a vague uneasiness. Some part of me saying “this isn’t it”, some deep seated need still unmet. It was a long time before I could even identify that the feeling was there. It felt like a void, a sense of emptiness, essential aloneness. I’ve been so lonely standing in a crowd I ached. Even when I went skiing with good friends, in what I consider God’s country, with the most beautiful scenery on earth, the little message still nagged, “this isn’t it.” What I was searching for was in one word — peace. I wanted to feel at peace with myself and my world. But what did the word peace really mean? It was just a term I’d heard a lot of people talk about.
My misconception was that peace came from external sources — from without. It didn’t happen that way, and all I did was put tremendous strain on people and events to fill that need. In my experience, peace must come from within. I took a long time to get that message, yet the result is real and totally sufficient. Having peace within leads to joy, and joy was unexpected for me. I didn’t think I’d ever see it and I didn’t think I deserved it.
Low self esteem has always been a problem for me; I grew up with a serious inferiority complex, and it took a long time to develop a healthy self image. Paradoxically, I was always proud, self willed and rebellious, because I didn’t trust God. My prayer life was a struggle for the same reason. I’ve identified and overcome a lot of those hindrances.
Since I have a wide circle of friends, I have had ample opportunities to practice what I consider the manifestation of low self esteem and lack of trust in God — unhealthy relating methods. I saw quite a while back that something wasn’t clicking in my romantic relationships; only recently have I seen how pervasive the problem has been. I have caused a lot of pain to myself and others through the poor techniques of having my needs met through other people.
Those are just the first thoughts that come to mind — more later!
Thanks for listening,
Well what do you know! It felt comfortable, it was easy to write, and I could imagine Joan sitting and reading what I had written. I could even hear the words as if I were saying them to her in a conversation. It was exciting! I had found my voice.
“Writing” The Welsh Poppy @Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.