I get nervous when I draw attention to myself. My hands shake when I open a Roanoke Times newspaper and know that a political commentary I wrote is inside. When the local newspaper did a story about my first book, I felt like a girl in my first training bra that the whole town knew I was wearing. And whenever I read poetry onstage at our local café, I blush and feel outside my body with fear.
Then why do I do it? I ask myself. Why do I put myself through something that takes such a toll? I could also ask why doesn’t Kim Bassinger, who has such state fright that she throws up before public performances, give up acting. I learned years ago at my nephew’s track meet that many athletes also throw up before competing – and it doesn’t stop them.
Michael Meade, the storyteller, mythologist, and author says that when you hit a block in your path (and in his case this would be a giant or dragon) you know you’re on the right path. If you don’t hit a block, it’s someone else’s path and not yours, he says.
When I was writing "The Jim and Dan Stories", I wasn’t happy with my day’s writing until I was bawling. I knew when I hit a nerve that I had reached the place of truest power. It’s those places of power that when gone unrecognized can rule our lives, usually unconsciously. Meade would say that you have to go into the woods, find and face your own giant, otherwise the giant will find you, and your chances of survival will be greatly diminished.
There is no question for me that I’m going to do the poetry reading and that I’m going to share my writing with others. The question is: will I ever solve the paradox of wanting to be heard and left alone at the same time? When I feel shaky, sped-up, or overly self-conscious I can be sure I’m getting close to some real soul work. And what else are we here for, but to be who we are, to learn and do what we signed up for?
My sister, Sherry, said to me recently, after realizing she needed reading glasses, “Getting older is not for wimps.” “Life is not for wimps!” I answered.
Note: The above theory does not apply to jumping out of airplanes and other things that I’m never going to do. I didn’t sign up for those.
From looseleafnotes.com April 11, 2005.