I’m rereading Dani Shapiro’s memoir Still Writing. I checked it out of the library the day it closed for the COVID lockdown. It was one of the few books I read in those early months of uncertainty in 2020. I loved it so much that Dr Marry ordered it, and two more of her memoirs, so that I could have my own copies. She is a beautiful, stripped-down, fragile writer.
I find myself doing what I so often do when I read words or watch acting from people whose essence comes across the written page, stage or screen with such quiet, undramatic but certain presence: I long to be like them, to embody their characteristics. I wish fervently to be able to settle my massive, roiling energy into something resembling peace. I wonder if I can train myself to move through the world less like a raging bull confined to the narrow streets of Pamplona and more like a gentle butterfly, delicately landing on a flower petal only to move with silent elegance to the lip of a cup and off again. Can I be the woman who lingers in bed, drifting in and out of some dreamy in-between world rather than immediately charging into the day, my mind already moving a thousand miles an hour? Will I ever develop a yoga or mediation practice where my mind, body and spirit connect in some long, languid rhythm: breathing deeply in and slowly out, sinking lower into my mind and body with each exhalation?
I suppose we all know the answer: No.
My desire can not outweigh my reality, however much I might wish it to. That’s not a failing on my part. A sadness? Yes, but a failing? No. And the same is true for you, too. Whatever qualities or traits you wish you possessed but don’t are not likely things you can adopt, take on or develop in any permanent way because that is not who you were born to be. That’s not what your birthright spark is destined to illuminate.
In the third section of the book, Ms Shapiro writes, “It is the truest lesson I know about writing—and about life—that we must always move in the direction of our own true calling, not anyone else’s” (192).
For mostly good and sometimes less than good, I have consistently showed up this way my entire life. I can either fight it, resent it, regret it, or I can look these traits squarely in the eyes and determine how to utilize them to the best of my ability. I can apply them to circumstances where they have the highest chance of being successful. I can own them and not apologize for them. AND I can work to temper them, to sand down the roughest edges a bit, so they do more good than harm more often than not
Believe me when I say I’m not the only person throughout my life who has wished I could sometimes be the butterfly instead of the bull, but I am who I am. And I believe that’s true for everyone. We have the opportunity to make tweaks, but a full-scale personality swap? I don’t think so.
The goal is to look at who we are and celebrate it. Yes, I will always have some weird longing to at least sometimes be seen as soft, demure and quiet. I will more often than not continue to tell myself before entering meetings that this time, I’m going to sit back and just listen. I will let an opportunity for advocacy go…just this once.
But I know that none of that is likely to happen however much I might desire it. My true calling is to be the one who takes the first hit for those who don’t have the strength to withstand it.
Mazz and I revealed his alcoholism to the world because we knew we could take the criticism from people if it meant others might find some hope on their own journey. Our joint spark, our true calling, is to openly share our experiences so that others feel less alone. And it’s working.
What I didn’t anticipate is that not only is it working for others, it’s working beautifully for us, too. The more we lean in to who are meant to be, the brighter we see the spark becoming. That’s been a true gift to discover.
So what’s your true calling? What’s the spark you were born with and how might you (re)discover it again after all this time?
There are a few spots left for the February 26th and 27th virtual (re)Discover Your Spark retreat. Is one of those spots calling out to you?
Are you afraid? That’s ok. We can all do scary things if they matter to us. Are you worried I’ll come charging at you when what you need is a gentle butterfly kiss? I promise, this is not boot camp. This retreat is a gentle, inviting opportunity for you to (re)discover you, to whatever extent and in whatever way you want to be present. I know that my true calling is to do this work with others, but that’s MY calling. The retreat is your opportunity to (re)discover yours.
I invite you to say yes to yourself, yes to the spark you were born with and yes to your truest calling.