I’m not scared, but I am a little bit terrified.
What am I getting at with that vague statement? It’s a common theme for me, and I’ll try to explain. It’s the feeling I get when I reach a tipping point after having been quiet for a long time. It’s when there is so much bursting inside me—words, feelings, observations, expressions—that I can no longer hold any of it in, and I have to start blurting.
Sometimes my blurt comes out smooth and with its intended meaning. Sometimes it’s a false start or a mistake altogether. And sometimes it’s an action I’m compelled to take—the next step on the journey to being me.
This time I’m challenging myself to blurt in an organized way on a regular schedule, and there are several aspects pushing me forward:
- I’m writing memoir and want to get comfortable sharing the hidden pieces of my life.
- The pandemic has given me a lot of contemplation time.
- I tend to act on ideas even when they’re scary, because they often lead to growth.
- I’m over fifty and feeling more permission to be my authentic self.
So, what’s my challenge? One year of blog posts (Weekly? Monthly? Bi-weekly? Not sure, we’ll see!), which all follow the theme: I’m not ______, but …
The posts may be funny, thoughtful, inspiring, or informative, and they may cover a wide range of topics. If you find time to read some of them, please send your thoughts in a comment. And no worries if not—I completely understand the desire to stay quiet for long periods of time.
When I wrote my first book, Shine Bright: Live A Supernova Life, the series of essays naturally formed themselves around a theme of contraction and expansion. Sometimes we need to trim and cut and step back and rejuvenate. Other times we’re ready to grow and take risks and shine. Lately, I’ve found myself wanting to step forward to support others through this cycle. After a year of developing content for eLeadership Academy, I’ve put those learned skills toward developing my own five-week online workshop. Shine Like a Supernova starts September 17.
Alongside the challenges of running a workshop and regularly posting to this blog, I also aim to complete the memoir that I said I would write in 2018. I’m now three or four or five drafts in, and I’m still plunking along and a little lost in it. Here’s a scene that I don’t think will make it into the final work but that seems appropriate for this post.
I watch my dad from the hallway as he turns on the faucet, gets the temperature right and leaves the bathroom to wait for the tub to fill. I enter the room where a ceramic fish family with painted red lips swims motionless on the wall. Incandescent bulbs poke out the sides of flower-etched glass on the wall above the mirror, and the dark night is framed by a square windowpane. I watch the water falling into the tub.
I am nearly six years old, and I miss my dad when he is away on his fishing boat. He’s home now and I want to be near him. I stand where he stood, warming my bare feet on the bathmat, and taking in his presence as if I were a part of him. I want to slip out of my nightie and panties and enter the water to be with him. He will come back and join me, and we will have fun together.
I know this won’t happen. I know because I’ve shared the shower many times with my mum, always with my back turned or my eyes closed. I’m not allowed to look at the parts of her that are normally kept covered. It is all private, all secret. When I face her body in the shower, my eyes must be closed tight—and they are. I always obey.
I know my dad will make me leave the room when he comes back, so I move to the stack of shelves between the bathtub and the door. The upper shelves hold a jumble of towels, but the space between the lowest shelf and the linoleum floor is bare. I’m small, and I fit there, nightie stretched over knees pulled up to chin, hands hugging the hem at my ankles. And I wait.
I watch my father’s blue-jeaned legs re-enter the room. I listen while he undresses, his belt buckle tapping the floor as it falls. He steps into the bath, and the tub squeaks as he gets seated. I hear the more serious splashes of a good scrub, then his relaxed sighs, followed by whistling, and then it gets quiet.
I dare to lean forward and peek out. The mirror reflects the shower tiles above the tub, but I can’t see my dad. I stay folded in the cupboard.
But when the water has been still for a long time, I can’t bear my silent discomfort any longer. “Dad?” I say shyly.
“What the hell—Sheila?”
“Where are you?”
“In the cubby hole,” I say.
“What?!” There is a lot of splashing and fumbling. “Get the heck out of here! Right now!”
I scramble from my hiding place and run from my dad’s scolding. I’m down the hall to my bedroom in an instant. Heart pounding. Safe.
I’m reflecting on that little girl as I think about the goals I’ve set out for myself over the next year. Goals that push me to be more visible, more audible. It can be a little bit terrifying to speak up when I’m uncertain of the outcome. But sometimes the risk is better than staying small and cramped and folded on the floor. And even when the sound of my voice could send me back to silence after a time. It’s a cycle. I’m not scared.