My friend Bethany Hegedus wrote an amazing picture book about a grandfather, family and the search for peace. Reading Grandfather Ghandi reminded me that my own life is often lived in a whirlwind of activity and movement from one thing to another, coupled with the strangely engulfing fear that I’m losing something. But what? I worry that I’m losing time to write even when I’m writing. More important, I fear I’m so busy I’m losing the chance to connect to friends and family. And they might be losing the same.
The whole cycle of being too busy to live fully in the moment turns anxiety to anger and fear. I don’t like how I act when I’m in that space. I need to change it.
For instance, this morning, I woke up aware that I still haven’t resolved a recent telephone conversation with my daughter in which I was super-crabby, sitting with my shoulder wrapped in ice, hating that I hurt, and wishing my daughter were with me rather than 6 hours away. I took it out on her by being wickedly critical of everything and everyone. I was far from peaceful and far from feeling the light of my life. I imagine it made her feel she was in the dark corner with me. So, this morning, when I saw this pledge on facebook, I decided I’d take it. Then I’d share it. But I also want to take this opportunity to publically apologize for allowing myself to be caught up in the busy-ness of life rather than the light of conscious being. Here’s the pledge to live your life as light in case you want to join me — and now I’m going to call my daughter and tell her I love her.
The “Live Your Life as Light” Pledge
I pledge to listen to my anger, to see what it has to teach me.
I pledge to not bully or cause harm, with words or with weapons.
I pledge to look for the light, to see it in every situation.
I pledge to find my own unique tools and talents.
I pledge to forgive myself and others. I pledge to live my life as light.
I listen to music while I’m writing, revising and editing. So this year is ending with work on Things I’ll Never Say, Short Stories About Our Secret Selves (Candlewick, spring 2015) and music by Cloverton, which is so different than the music I usually listen to — those of you who know me, know that I’m more a Joan Jett and Pink sort of fan.
The anthology is also a reach for me because I’m not a secret keeper myself. It came out of a workshop I participated in at Mount Mary called Untold Stories–a workshop facilitated by the Voices & Faces project based in Chicago, a project that uses writing to change the face of violence in our culture. We were encouraged to write from the perspective of a different gender and I found the voice of a boy named Luke who….well, you’ll just have to wait until it comes out to know his secret. The stories I’ve received provide a breadth of young adult experiences. They’re about the good and bad things that can happen when we choose to keep a secret or share a secret or break a secret. I don’t want to say too much about this anthology until it’s closer to publication. So I’ll just recommend that you stay tuned.
This has also been a year in which I have come to fear that I can’t teach full time and manage to stay with a novel long enough to do the sort of revisions it takes to really nail a novel. It’s been frustrating to sit day after day with characters who just haven’t felt like talking because my head is full of student work and the details of our English Department’s day-to-day responsibilities. So I’m turning to something different for awhile. I’m working on a lot of short stories and poetry in the hopes that this shorter work will fit inside my days. I’m also hoping that playing a bit more–at writing and, well, just playing at life– will clean out my soul a bit and maybe make room for the work of a novel.
As a result of the Untold Stories workshop, I volunteered to facilitate a ten-week workshop for women at Sojourner Family Peace Center. I worked with some amazing women to create Empowerment poems and prose as they moved through the series which we called Writing as Healing. They inspired me and gave me hope. That hope and inspiration are what drew me originally to Cloverton. That music, by the way, can draw me to tears.
And so I’m ending this year with a prayer of sorts for us: ”I hold close those whose days are long because their lives have taken difficult, sad turns. I pray that as the days get longer, their own choices lead to better places and I pray that horizons expand and they discover hope and meaning in the task of living each day with a conscience.”
Happy New Year.
It’s time to say happy graduation to five more writers from the Mary University English Graduate Program and to welcome them into a world where their creative work will inspire and challenge readers to transform and make lives that are true celebrations of each day.
If I could be a fairy godmother, I would give them each the gift of dancing and singing and writing each day.
I think they’ll do that without my magic because through this program, they have discovered the magic of their own talents. And now they’ll head on out to share their talents. I expect great things of each and every one. Whether they’re teaching writing in their own classrooms or writing grants for the arts or nonprofits or free lance writing and publishing articles and books, I know that their writing will be read. Their work has the power to change the world one word at a time. That’s the power of the arts — to create magic — to create understanding — to create change for the good.
Blessings to you, graduates!!