Thursday, November 19, 2009

On shining

It's so hard to shine. To just take our wild and wonderful selves out into the world and show up. We're afraid that we'll mess up, forget our lines, drop our index cards. We're afraid we won't look perfect: we'll get a zit, our bulges and bumps will stick out, we'll stain our blouse, we'll break a heel. Most of all, we're afraid we'll be seen, really seen-and, of course, there's nothing more terrifying than that.

And yet, for people like me, with a built in microchip for performance (and I've yet to meet the human being who hasn't got one), there is something even more challenging: Not shining.

All of my life, I've dreamed of being an author. From the moment I held that first book in my hands, as I read my way through every volume in the children's section of the Great Neck Library, I knew.

I knew that I wanted to spend my whole life immersed in story. I knew, somehow, that this was my gift and that I was meant to shine it into the world.

But I never ever dreamed that getting my stories out there would require me to become a social marketing maven, a packaging whiz kid, a public relations expert. And I'm not sure I want to...

I love my quiet life-arriving at the Internet cafe at dawn and writing flat out, deep in the flow, until the lunch crowd arrives. I love putting on my sneakers and walking through the nearby corporate parks and the woods that surround them until the 9-5'ers return to their cubicles. I love returning to "my" corner of the cafe to write some more.

I do not love selling myself. To me, the simplest: Hey, wanna read this? feels as if I'm pushing myself on people. I don't like to impose. I don't like to ask for favors or, even worse, ask for money.

So I've been thinking a lot about shining as my book gets closer to publication.

I think about it when I read this blog from Elissa Stein, an up and coming author who's been blogging her way through the uncomfortable process of expanding the self, as her book is released.

I think about it in yoga when we do a pose that requires us to "shine out from the heart" and I get kinda wobbly.

I thought about when my daughter called from film school, sobbing--not because some boy broke her heart, not because she'd failed a test--but because she'd just shot her first roll of film and, after so many years of working and hoping to wind up here, she was absolutely overwhelmed with joy... and terror.

And then, yesterday morning during shabasana at the end of practice, I was lying on my yoga mat listening to the steady thrum, thrum, thrum of Tibetan singing bowls, when the teacher began to read David Whyte's poem, "The Winter of Listening" and I felt, arising from a deep place, a web of connections.

I thought about my father, whose mind is expanding beyond all boundaries even as he sits in a wheelchair, in a nursing home; and my mother, who seems, finally, to be finding her center while painting, in watercolor, the intricate patterns of the stones she's collected all of her life.

Two quiet, contemplative people, shining.

I thought about how, three years ago, when I gave up one project (the launch of an online magazine) for another (helping my parents sort through the sale of their home and the separation of their lives) I expanded into the unexpected: healing the heart of our family. And how that choice has informed and driven everything in my life since.

And how loving my parents in this new way is the deepest kind of shining I have ever felt.

I thought about how this year, just as I was starting the final leg of this book-writing journey--my book was finished, I'd enrolled in a master's program, my kids were safely tucked away at college-my husband's business collapsed and it looked like many of my own plans would have to be set aside. And how, this time, instead of feeling resentment, I felt... kinda shiny about it.

I thought about my daughter's film in which a young man falls to the earth, suddenly sprouting a pair of enormous, stunningly beautiful white wings.

And I started to laugh--but quietly, so as not to disturb the other students who were properly doing shabasana.

For until that moment, I'd wondered if I'd ever find a steady course to my dreams. But now, every one of those distractions, revealed itself as a soul call, enriching my life and bringing me a deeper understanding of how it all fits together.

I saw the whole thing stretch around me in a pattern that was both everywhere all at once and was, also, contained in a tight singularity at the center of my soul. It told me: It may seem as if you are being led astray, as if you are being distracted far off of your path. But you are exactly where you are meant to be.

There is a guiding "knowledge" deep inside of me, an inner core of certainty, a driver of the little car of my life and she knows exactly where she's going. I may not understand the turns she makes and I'm sure I will argue with her detours. But she does not care. Somehow, in spite of all my striving, my doing, my scribbled plans, she--the "lit angel" of my desire--is driving the car.

The thing that I've been chasing has been here all along--in the imperfect, the broken, the mistake, the struggle. She does not live in the destination, she lives in the side-trip, the flat tire, the distraction that disturbs and then nourishes everything we need.

My work always lands where it's supposed to... and so far, it's arriving just fine, in front of more than a million pair of eyes each week through the magazine column that I write. When this book is ready, the lit angel will make sure it lands in the hands that are waiting to receive it.

What I am trying, very clumsily to say is simply this: We are always shining. Every moment of our lives, already shining our beauty into the world, right in the middle of our messy lives. Life comes toward us like a road, we meet it as best we can as it slides beneath our wheels, constantly changing. And yet, the driver remains, constant and steady and certain.

That's why I laughed. And in that laugh was my shout of joy, one step closer to being born.


Shelly Kramer said...

Once again, there is nothing more beautiful than your words, my friend.

Life is, without question, about the journey. All the little side-trips, detours, wrong turns and mistaken stops along the way. They all are meant to happen, even if we don't know or appreciate that fact as they are happening and leading us in different directions than what we had originally planned.

What a lovely story, Amy. There is no hint of struggle there, just absolute, breathtaking perfection. Once again.

Thank you. Mwah.


Trish said...

So simple - so beautiful. Thanks.

OMYWORD! said...

So lovely. Thanks so much. You brought warmth to my heart on a cold and windy Paris morning. And reminded me of who I am - a writer with rich stories to tell. Oh, and shiny, too.

Celtic Scribe said...

What a simple, yet profound, piece! It is a beautiful reminder of what is important and what is mere window-dressing! The question posed by you, as I perceive it, Amy is Do we adhere to intrinsic values (to Shine) or extrinsic values(allow societal pressures and demands) to dictate our lives? Interesting times ahead as we walk through the answer to that question!! Thank you for opening your heart to the world, May we all Shine!!

Amy Oscar said...

Thank you all - for reading this post, for commenting - for being so, you know, shiny!

I've heard that Rudolf Steiner explained that the angels see us as light, shining, and that when we are engaged in prayer or other spiritual activity--and to me, this would include the times when we are deeply engaged in our true heart's work--we brighten.

When I heard this, it was clear to me that the more we pray, the more we deeply engage with the world and with each other, the more brightly we shine, the more the angels can "see" us and, as a result of our increased visibility, the more support they can offer to us.

In the same way, when we reach out to support each other, as each of you have done for me, we brighten, becoming more visible, more connected at the heart.

Bless you.

Elissa Stein said...

You summed up, so beautifully, so much of what I feel but can't put into words. Thank you, for sharing what most of us experience, spun in a way that we can own it.