Last week, I received a care package from Missi Clements, who, having chosen me as her surrogate mom, is now affectionately known as one of my Portland daughters. Her gifts were sent as a gesture of love and solidarity following the frightening attack on Tiamo by a loose neighborhood dog. I opened the box, christened the contents with my tears, arranged the gifts in a still life and snapped a picture. Then I posted the picture on Facebook, which I knew would give pleasure to Missi and my other young friends in Portland.
Along with the photograph I included these words on my post:
Such love does the sky now pour, that whenever I stand in a field, I have to wring out the light when I get home. -St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)
Thank you to Missi Clements for a shock-treatment in remembering how lucky I am. I woke to packages on my doorstep containing some of your very special love, and it humbles me.
In thanking Missi, I had enough courage to risk tapping into both poetry and spirituality. I say courage because this has been an integral challenge for me as a writer.
Interestingly, Missi’s gift might be considered a small thing in light of the big picture we call life, but it caused a big internal response. First, Missi led me to think about my journey as a writer. Second, I was encouraged to turn my rear view mirror toward the ways I once utilized writing in my life, which led to the realization of how long it had taken me to have enough self-confidence to write in ways that feel really right. Really real. Sometimes referred to as “finding one’s voice” for me it’s more about writing with such honesty that my most authentic thoughts and feelings are revealed. Third, Missi’s thoughtfulness shone a flashlight on the happy fact that somewhere along this journey I came to understand that if some people think I’m too much, well, then, that’s their problem.
My passage from hesitancy to confidence went something like this:
During the years when I was mostly just a mom, I had precious few outlets for writing.
One of the ways I stoked my writing fires was by helping kids with their homework. I loved helping them grasp the immense power of a well-written paper. I was in my element when I sat down with them and tried to explicate the nexus between the point of the written assignment and the essence of the work of literature about which they were writing.
However, the sad truth is that for decades my writing was primarily limited to sending off letters. I loved writing any kind of letter. I had two cardinal rules in writing my letters: first, they had to be creative, with the best ones reading like short stories. Second, I performed the writing equivalent of a 4 1/2 somersault in the pike position to avoid starting the body of my letter with “I” because it seems to me that beginning with a reference to myself is inherently off-putting. At any rate, perhaps because the writer in me was buried beneath the daily demands of commandeering a large family, I poured bottled-up creativity into my letters.
This wasn’t always an easy thing for me to do. Putting my Maura-ness out into the universe was intimidating. Risky. More often than not I had to first conquer my reserve and shyness as well as my basic insecurities and, well, lack of confidence. That is why courage became intertwined with the revelation of my thoughts as well as the sharing of the fullness of my feelings. I wrestled with whether the act of releasing my imagination balloons was indulgence or lovingkindness, and indecision plagued me. When I sent these little missives out into the world I was uncertain as to how they would be received. I hoped that my sincerity shone through but, for the most part, my solution was to strike a balance between writing “unleashed” versus keeping the best (or most dearly held) stuff to myself.
In other words, more often than not, I reined in the love.
But something lovely happened along the way from then to now.
I grew into my gift.
I think it’s all about confidence.
—Read that again because my choice of words is deliberate. I think it’s all about confidence. If I was confident wouldn’t I know? Put another way, if I was confident I wouldn’t qualify the statement.
Learning that there is no room for indecision when speaking my truth has been liberating. It has also been exhilarating.
There is no doubt that this is the homestretch. I hear the pounding of the hooves of time and I feel a sense of urgency to bring all of the years, all of the people, all of the knowledge, experience, emotion, spirituality, joy and pain to bear upon what I write.
For me, the goal is not the finish line. It is the little leap I feel in my heart when I hear the *ping!* of words hitting “the sweet spot.” Tennis players know that sound. So too do baseball players: when ball and bat connect at the sweet spot, you hear it, you feel it, you see it.
Which is why when I tried to convey to Missi that her compassion and love were palpable all the way across the continent, I knew I had to keep swinging until I hit the sweet spot.
So last week when I looked at my Facebook post, a sense of satisfaction wasn’t pinging. Missi’s gift had gone straight to my heart. But the larger question was–why? Why was it so meaningful? I sat with that question until I figured it out. Turned out here was a big idea clamoring to be noticed.
This absurd era of the coronavirus has forced us into tiny worlds that are peopled by a mere fraction of the social connections we once enjoyed. The situation plays mind games on us. It spawns misleading feelings that we are alone (or almost-alone) in this vast, fascinating world that beckons with so many irresistibly tantalizing possibilities.
But we’re not really alone!
We’re as close to one another as a thought, or a letter, a phone call or a gesture.
Every time someone sends Love out into the world, it finds its target. And since Love is never wasted, even when it’s unsure of an intended target, it will find a target. It will find a person or place on which to land.
I realized that what was missing in my thank you to Missi was the piece that conveyed the enormous impact her gift had upon me. I put pen to paper and a haiku emerged.
For Missi You reminded me that Love careens the wild world until it finds me.
I added it to the Facebook post.