I'm newly obsessed with "Dear Sugar" who writes a weekly column over at The Rumpus. She spins words of truth and words of beauty and power and a little bit of feisty language, and there's so much good in it all that I wanted to soak up her atmosphere for a while.
And that gave me this idea to write myself an "advice column" this week. I'll be the person who pens the letter looking for the perfect constellation of wisdom, and then I'll take a whack at being the constellation-draw-er too.
So, here we go!
I want to dream the big dreams, but I find that more often than not, I dream the - practical dreams. They are good dreams, I guess - but how do I imagine beyond that? How do I imagine the harder things to grasp? And what do I do about being so scared that they won't come true? I'm terrified I won't ever be good enough or beautiful enough or smart enough... but I feel like this fear keeps me from living fully and joyfully. I don't want to be a perfectionist, Hilary, but it creeps into the smallest corners and crevices of my life. What would you do?
A Perfectionist and a Dreamer
I have good news for you. Your letter to me suggests that you already dream big enough to see where your fears inhibit you. Your vision and your hope is intact enough to want the changes you talk about. Sometimes, when we're deep in the muck of our fears (as I've been, many times), we can't even tell that our way of seeing the world is off. We can't see how illogical, how untrue it is to believe we won't ever be beautiful or smart or powerful or good. And it is, you know. It is wrong to believe you won't or aren't beautiful and smart and powerful and good. You are. And you are wasting precious time, time you won't ever get back, by telling yourself this "not enough" story.
Now, sweetheart, you've got your fair share of work to do. Exercising the muscles of our imagination is like exercising our prayer muscles, our love muscles, our generous spirit muscles. You want an imagination that flies free into the world and is hopeful beyond all reckoning? Practice. Every day. You want to write the words that shimmer with truth? Write. Every day. Sit down at your computer or your notebook and watch the world beckoning to you. And write it down. It's only and ever going to come from you because only you have the two eyes you have and only you can tell us what those two eyes see.
You want to compose music that colors the air with its cadences? Compose it. Sing the songs in your head to your mirror. Sing to your best friend. Scribble it down. Go out and listen for the songs hidden in between bricks on a sidewalk and overlooking the harbor and in the murky clouds.
You want to chip away at the questions of ultimate meaning? Think it. Read good books and wrestle them in your journal. Carry the question - what does it mean that God exists? - in a pocket in your heart and start seeing the answers in each encounter, in each miraculous moment of living. Tell us about what you learn.
Live a life colored by verbs: compose, sing, write, laugh, pray, weep, cradle, cherish, learn, worship.
Live the verbs, love, and the rest begins to follow just as it should. And above all, be patient as the moving forward unfolds before you. You are so young, love, so before all the beginning, as Rilke whispers. And he and I beg you to be patient, and trust that the biggest dreams are always perched in your soul, ready to be taken up again. And trust, too, that the beautiful, and the good, and the intelligence? They follow the obedient heart. They arrive at the doorstep of the person who loves sincerely, who speaks truth, and who obeys the Good Shepherd.
(This was fun... perhaps I should try it again sometime?)