I hit send and my whole body cringes.
That is what happens every single time I put words into the world and open myself up to sharing them with others. It was a lot easier when I started @thewanderingyogis. It was an anonymous social media account and website with a blog where I could share anything with really no response. It was a beautifully pure creative outlet that was just for me. I have since removed the blog and website but still use the Instagram handle. Of course, I attracted some strange folks and even stranger comments. I get my fair share of weird 15-year-old boys sliding into my DM's as well as self-proclaimed 'spiritual sisters' (plagiarists) who copy and paste my words with no credit yet hurl anger and accusations when I ask them to remove them. I have been told more times than I can count that me asking someone not to plagiarize my words is not very "yogi" of me right before they block me. It happens every time.
Every. Damn. Time.
I still create and share on that platform because it is a healthy outlet for me and has brought more good into my life than I can even explain. But what happens when you share your creativity with people who "know" you? Sharing your words, thoughts, feelings, experiences and creative expression with people you went to grade school with or worked with 10 years ago or saw at a family reunion once when you were 15 (99% of my facebook contacts) is a bit different. They knew you in a certain capacity once upon a time and despite our desire to be open-minded creatures, we compartmentalize people to death.
Many years ago I was working full-time as a psychotherapist during the day at a community mental health clinic. At night and on the weekends I worked as a Host and Maitre D' at a high-end bar, lounge, and restaurant. Sadly, being paid to seat people and smile was more lucrative than providing a community in need with mental health services. So I worked two full-time jobs and began paying off my graduate school loans while also paying off my mortgage. Most weeks I clocked 100 hours per week at these jobs but I had a goal in mind, no safety net and a strong work ethic. One evening, while I was at the host stand an employee from a sister company approached me and began talking to me about this terrible meeting she had down by the seaport earlier that day. I listened and mentioned that my office was located at the seaport and that I had probably crossed paths with her. She started laughing and said "Office? Is that what you call it?" I mentioned earlier in this post that I worked 100 hours per week so during this time in my life many things flew right over my head. Exhaustion is wild and fun that way. I told her I felt like I was missing something. What had I said that was funny?
"You said 'office.' That's hysterical." she replied.
"Yes, I have an office. I am a psychotherapist. What am I missing? Is that funny?
Her face contorted in confusion. 'Oh, when you said you worked down at the seaport I thought you meant you sold coffee in a cart or something."
I just stared at her in silence until she walked away.
That interaction is important because it reminds me that someone who has seen you in one role cannot possibly imagine you in any other the moment than the one you originally crossed paths in. No one in the world of hospitality and nightlife could ever imagine me being a psychotherapist. No one at my clinic could ever imagine me working in a bar. No one I dated could ever imagine me being a birth doula. No one I have been a doula for could ever imagine that I used my math skills to work for casinos calculating player ratings of gamblers. No one in that hot mess of a business could ever imagine me teaching yoga to cancer patients. The list goes on. But in my experience, most people live these strange lives full of nooks and crannies where they have played every role from the teacher, student, lover, fighter, liar, savior, and martyr. How difficult is it for us to assume that others do as well?
In the past when I have shared anything creative on a public platform attached to my name it is followed by the sound of crickets...nothing...nada. Either that or a sarcastic comment from someone about how I must fancy myself a "life coach" now. Way to whip it out and piss all over someone's creativity and self-expression!
The truth is that I like talking to people about the human experience we are all having and I really love talking about our spiritual experience. If you have ever had a conversation with me then you know that I ask a ton of questions. I do that because it is all part of the experience. Tell me about you. Tell me why you said that. Tell me why you thought that way. Tell me how you felt. Take up some space! This sharing opens doorways in my mind. That does not happen when I sit next to you blinking with my mouth shut. It happens through dialogue, probing, bad jokes, and long-winded stories about failures and successes. And sometimes I write about it.
Chances are my writing will never be where I want it to be but does that mean that I should not write at all? If we cannot produce a book equivalent to "The World According To Garp" on our very first writing attempt, should we just not even bother? If someone cannot imagine you being creative outside of the snippet of life they have seen you in, should you hide your creativity? If you are not "the best" and being paid six-figures for something should you not refer to yourself as a creator? What is the impulse to crush someone who is taking up space with their creativity? What is so bad about using that space to speak your truth with transparency and vulnerability?
Because when I share my story you hear yourself in it and it frightens you.
We do not always like to be woken up from our slumber. We do not always want to see someone try, stumble, fail, try again, and rise because it reminds us that we never got off the couch. Creative self-expression in others can either be a wolf howl across the plains that we perk up and respond to or it can be a mirror showing us all the things we are not doing ourselves.
Recently I was listening to the Magic Lessons podcast by Elizabeth Gilbert and found so much inspiration and freedom through her dialogue with Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery. The focus of their talk was "Showing Up Before You're Ready." So much of they shared struck a chord with me as I resumed writing and sharing publicly again in the last few months. I thought I would leave you with a few snippets:
"Somehow in this culture, we've got this misconception that you're not allowed to either create or produce anything until you're already good at it." - Elizabeth Gilbert
"It kept me from ever considering perfectionism. I didn't have the luxury or what turns out to be the terrible weight of making sure everything was shiny and perfect. All I had to do was do what I had promised myself which is show up, put my butt in a chair, type the words, and press post no matter what." - Glennon Doyle Melton
"Put your stuff out there but you are not going to babysit it. You're not going to follow it around and make sure everybody likes it and when someone misunderstands it write back to that person and explain yourself. That is not your job." - Glennon Doyle Melton
"Your courage of expression makes it easier for other people to find theirs." - Elizabeth Gilbert