There are so many things to say and how could I ever say them all?
I am trying to capture my writing in small compartments of time. Little pockets of thought that arrive effortlessly in my mind. And lately I have welcomed them as they are, rather than seeing what they are not. These bursts of creativity often go unexplored because I don’t have the capacity of time or energy or whatever else I can come up with to justify my hesitation in exploring them. The spark comes up from somewhere deep and perhaps I don’t have a pen or a piece of paper or I am in the middle of a social setting or driving or even the middle of a conversation. Maybe I should start recording the conversations to go back to them. That’s the problem. I am obsessed with recording this experience of life.
“Documenting” as Sara called it.
I should see what she meant by that when she asked if I was going to “document this on Journeyfoot” with a smile as we roamed the top of a butte near the Elkhorn Mountains with her elk-scouting, camo-clad husband. Her question embarrassed me, and I just shrugged and smiled a small, sheepish smile.
Well yes. Yes Sara. Yes, I want to document this. Fuck yes! Dude, I’m living in the gravel outside your cute home with tall sunflowers and hot sun and a small meandering river cutting through this historical little town at the base of mountains. And you and your husband and your young son are sharing your interesting, unique lives with me. Your routines. Your meals. Your home. Your time. Your work. Your values. For me, this is truly tasting life in one of its millions of possible shades, and I want to explore them all.
These experiences are arrays of colorful paint and I want to roll myself in each, picking up every last drop. Knowing every shade. Taking it in. Soaking it up. Feasting on it. The Copper Belt wine and the Barley Brown’s beer. The elk burgers and big trucks. The open space where cattle roam. Handing myself over to that bull rider on the dance floor outside the rodeo, swinging and twirling over and under his arms through the midnight summer air. The bruises tattooing my legs from rocky river beds. The dry sticks in my hair and their scratches across my arms and legs from maneuvering through this pathless forest in Brian’s footsteps.
I didn’t say any of this to Sara though. Not because I couldn’t have, but because writing pulls things from me that conversation can’t. So I say them now.
Our art is so powerful it can leave us extremely vulnerable even around the oldest or closest of our friends. And only because I have read so so so so so many pieces of art about this very topic, I see what it is and I call it by its name (vulnerability) and I move towards it. I cringe and I move forward.
The other day I posted something on Instagram that I was unsure about. I felt really vulnerable. I asked Jess Giffin if it was terrible, and she blatantly wouldn’t tell me her answer. Instead she asked why I was worried about it and what the real fear was. I know she struggles with this same conundrum, and I think everyone does, but her choice to not tell me made me immediately feel like she didn’t think it was a good choice to post. Even talking about whether something is a good choice to post makes me want to vomit, but these are the times and this is what I am doing, so I better just fucking do it and stop worrying about it.
I decided to believe her refusal to answer was her steering me towards my own answer in the end, because that’s all that matters anyway, as she knows. My fear, turns out, is negative judgment from others. And I have been working very hard to get over that in the last six months.
So because of people like Brene Brown, Steven Pressfield, Seth Godin, Kathleen Shannon & Emily Thompson at Being Boss, Marcus Aurelius and the women of She Explores (to name a small few), I am accepting what I am, feeling it is good enough and putting it out into the world because that’s when I feel the best. I usually question each component of that. What am I? Is it good enough? Why do I have to document and share it?
I’m done questioning it because I think I have made a realization, at least for now. Who I am is never going to be completely constant, so therefore I just can stop worrying about contradictions. Is it good enough? doesn’t even effing matter, because the whole point is growth anyway. My mantra lately has been “It’s not proving. It’s improving.” And whether or not it’s bad or good or wrong or right to use social media and the web in this sharing way doesn’t matter either because there is an undeniable something inside of me that must share these emotions and experiences and thoughts. I just need to accept the tendencies and not worry if I am this or if I am that. It’s time to come to terms with what I am without worrying about how it looks or if it’s bad.
So when Sara asked me that question, I thought perhaps she was mocking me. Making fun of me in some way for my blog. Teasing me. Or maybe the complete opposite. Maybe it was both. Who knows? Not knowing would have once killed me, and I would have poked and prodded her to find out or I would have bowed my head in shame and expected the worst. But now I don’t care. I don’t care if people mock me or criticize me or don’t understand or think I’m silly. I don’t care if they think I ’m the greatest either, because that is the other side of this coin.
There on the top of that butte with the orange sun sliding down lower towards open expanse of Oregon forests, following Sara through the trees, I recalled those times with her in junior high and high school. When I was “documenting” even back then. Photos and videos and writing. It’s what I have always done. [See: native genius.]
What is happening, really, right now, at this point in my life at 32, is I am realizing what I am, accepting what I am and learning how to truly present it to the world. Reflection and personal identity and ultimately “personal branding” (but I need to find a different term to use that doesn’t sound so marketing-ish, though that is partially what we are all doing.)
So anyway, I am coming to terms with this person of me.
And I have been revealing it more. Revealing it to the public, but also to my friends and family. Sometimes they are the hardest ones. Those people you have known the longest; or rather the ones that have known you the longest. They know what you are.
And that’s why Sara probably said that anyway. She knows what I am.