Ruminations of a Quasi “Writer”

It was a simple exercise performed at the beginning of my very first writer’s retreat that had me facing my subconscious. We were instructed to approach others in attendance, greet them with a handshake, and then proclaim, “I am a writer and I am here to write!” We moved from attendee to attendee until we had made the rounds and matter-of-factly greeted one another with these same words.

No big deal, right? Honestly? Wrong. It made me squirm, likely because I’m not exactly sure what a “writer” is. And I am not certain I am one.

No matter, saying those four simple words – “I am a writer” – stirred up some shit. Oddly, it quickly became an exercise in how I see myself – how I truly see myself – rather than how others may or may not perceive me.

“FRAUD” is the word that bellowed in my head. “Who the hell do you think you are referring to yourself as a writer?” “IMPOSTER!” was hidden behind my awkward smile. I’ve struggled my entire life with the measure of my achievements completely out of sync with my internal view of myself. And so there it was…again.

I don’t embrace titles or accomplishments well. And for those who know I have, among other things, written a book (that has been published, for gosh sake), you might find that curious, even strange. Yes, intellectually, I do, too. But to my way of thinking, a layperson bravely stepping forward to deliver a baby in a moment of crisis does not make one an obstetrician. So writing a book in an effort to help others did not make me “a writer.” In my estimation, all I did was deliver the baby.

And when the “imposter” in me reappears, that logic seems incredibly, and unfortunately, rational.

That is, until I had to say it over and over again: “I am a writer,” “I am a writer,” “I am a writer.” It begins to reach a level of sensibility to add “writing” to my list of hobbies because, well, hobbies are “safe.” “Reading, gardening, baking, knitting…writing.” I might consider being brave enough to identify with the -ing version of the word.

But the -er version of the word? Can I legitimately call myself “a writer?” Maybe the constant crashing and colliding of all those words in my brain is the “writer” trying to find a safe place to land: a piece of paper, a Word document, or an entry on the Notes app of my phone. If, on some level, that were not true, it would have been completely irrational for me to have been compelled to attend a writer’s retreat, and of all things, not once but twice.

Is there possibly a “writer” in me trying to find her way out?

For now, I may not be able to fully embrace “writer.” But maybe I can embrace “word pilot”: someone who carefully lands collections of ordered letters and reasonably articulated ideas safely onto a page. And then maybe I can admittedly breathe a sigh of relief each time I place the tires on the tarmac. The repeated touch and go maneuvers of my thoughts have been, and are, incredibly exhausting and not the least bit satisfying. I desperately need to create a runway to land my words.

So, may I introduce myself?

“I am a word pilot and I am here for a very hard landing.”

There. That I can live with.

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Embracing the Idealist

It’s been just over two weeks since returning home from a writer’s retreat at the Mabel Dodge Luhan Lodge in Taos, New Mexico. What an amazing seven days: powerful women writers with stories to tell, supporting one another in their journey to find their truth. Jennifer Louden’s inspiring leadership. A beautiful setting. And exquisite food that included scrumptuous bacon each morning and a vegetable tofu lasagna that even made tofu taste delicious! (Before Taos, I honestly never imagined “delicious” and “tofu” in the same sentence. Indeed, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are magical!)

DepositionI came home completely enthused and rejuvenated. I started off my week at home by preparing a batch of gluten free homemade blueberry muffins in honor of our last Taos breakfast, brewed a strong cup of coffee, and settled in for some challenging reading. It was my 3-hour deposition from almost exactly twenty-five years ago to the day that was the result of taking on our school district over rampant segregation and discrimination. The deposition hadn’t seen the light of day in over two decades.

I waded through page after page of the deposition. Multiple times I had to put it down and walk away. Remembering that “thirty-something” idealist, and all the personal sacrifices made, was just too much. The attorney tried his best to give me quite a beating. I hadn’t forgotten. He was an asshole. I was a warrior.

Then I began to feel my week slip away. The reality of all that is required of me in my day-to-day life with Ashley’s 24/7 care took over. A few sleep-disturbed nights made the day following all the more challenging, and I struggled just to get through, much less write.

But I kept writing in my head, even when I didn’t feel strong enough, or focused enough, to commit my words to a text document. I began to recognize a potential structure in my approach. And I was reminded of the concept of “conditions of enoughness” that was so eloquently explained, and a point that was driven home, by Jen during the retreat. All those strong, wonderful women begin to identify their “conditions of enoughness.” Now it was my turn to define mine, not just at a retreat but in the context of the complexities of my life.

Two weeks later, I made it through to the end of the deposition. Dozens of colored tabs cover the one hundred and twenty pages. And I’m now ready to dig out the Letter of Findings from the federal investigation that has also not seen the light of day in decades.

Today, I believe I can begin to share my truth. I can be hopeful. I can recognize the “thirty-something” idealist that still resides within me. I can start a new week. For now, that’s enough.