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Growth Spurt

At the conclusion of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop the other night, many of the participants shared their fledgling works with an audience assembled in a large chilly auditorium. Some readers volunteered, others voted upon, some selected by the faculty leading them through the week. The selection process from the creative nonfiction class was simple since there were only five of us and two declined the opportunity.

I wanted to share publicly not because I thought my piece was particularly worthy, but simply because the experience was part of the S-T-R-E-T-C-H, which I feel is imperative for growth as an artist and human being.

I hadn’t even planned to attend the workshop this year, and I didn’t know what I wanted to take to critique, which was part of the requirement to attend. I needed space from the piece I wrote about my weight loss journey so I decided on something that I’m writing regarding the relationship between Russell and me. I wanted objective input before I got too attached to the piece. Deep down, however, I really wanted some insight on how I needed to structure a memoir about the time surrounding the death of our twins.

It was a powerful week and we learned so much from the entire faculty. I love the results from stepping beyond my comfort zone – when I get up from that comfy chair and fling myself into a swirling pit of uncertainty. Sure, it’s scary as hell, but who needs safe, quiet, nice?

I met my objectives and so much more this week. I read a humorous excerpt and loved the audience response, but more importantly, I allowed myself to be vulnerable enough this week to discover a way to write about the twins. The conference was draining and simultaneously exhilarating.

During the last night of the conference, I shared a bit of myself with our instructor on the way to a martini bar where we would all whoop it up one last time before we went our separate ways. I told him that I had needed to leave my old job because with each passing sunrise I was becoming less and less myself (O.K. I added the sunrise bit, but I have after all been at a writers’ workshop so I have to throw in a little added description, but you get the point.)

I’ve thought a lot about the last few months and how vastly different I feel since I took this new job. Suddenly any stretch feels possible, welcome and even required. Is a mental stretch perhaps more similar to the physical one than what I previously realized? Once our minds become limber, does it make the process easier?

Attending Antioch Writers’ Workshop the last two years altered me in ways that everyone should experience. Last year, I didn’t receive near the level of instruction as this year; however, the take away arrived in the form of a deeper spiritual understanding that led to many personal changes. As I eluded in the previous post, the identity shift altered my path and resulted in a new job. My inner voice returned and the person I was on the inside made a friendly pact with the one everyone else knows. Suddenly I found myself with just one persona, which by the way makes therapy bills a hell of a lot lower.

This year I left with more of that, plus a notebook and mind chocked full of things that promise to propel me forward in this creative journey. I’m not certain where any of it will ultimately lead and I’m not sure I even need a clear and defined course, as long as I’m living an authentic life. I’m centered and grounded.

I’m learning to define who I am and who I want to be without regard to how others may see me. I never thought I was one who was too concerned with the way people viewed me. I prided myself in upsetting people’s expectations/social norms, by throwing in a well-placed dig or sarcastic comment into any given situation, but there was also a place deep down where I wanted to be liked, but a change began to bubble up there too. Suddenly, I realized I needed to be the one who likes me – the whole me.

Can I learn to be content with my physical and spiritual shell? Can I accept and embrace my physical flaws? Will I ever sit down with Gertie (for those of you new here, click here to read more about Gertie) and break bread together one day, or will I be relegated to a lifelong battle with my physical self?

What brings you the most inner peace?


2 Responses

  1. I have no idea what brings me inner peace but after reading this I would love to share what you are experiencing:)

  2. Yea, it’s a good place to be in. Everything is not “rosy,” but it feels positive and fresh. I think as much as anything it is about taking time for JUST me. It’s hard to do, but it pays off big dividends.

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