Every year, my four best friends and I run away to a house at the beach for a weekend getaway. A retreat of sorts. We eat good food, stay up late, sleep in and wear our pajamas all day.
We talk about everything from motherhood to politics, breastfeeding to fantasy football, raising kids to cleaning products.
In the course of an hour, I’ve gone from laughing until my sides ache to spilling tears of humility as someone speaks words of love and affirmation into my life.
We let things get deep and real and we also make fart jokes.
It’s pretty magical.
This weekend, as we sat in a circle talking about things we feel like we’ve been learning over the last year, one of my friends read a couple paragraphs from For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker that really resonated with me. This is what she read to us:
“Can you imagine a world where we could be free enough to tell the truth?
Letting hard things be hard and confusing things be confusing? If we fought the instinct to prop things up, to polish and tilt and arrange the pieces in just the right lighting, we would be free. We could all exhale.
The best I offer the world is the truth, my highest gift. What the world does with it is not up to me. I am not in charge of outcomes, opinions, assessments. I am not in the business of damage control.
When I present a fabricated version of myself–the self who knows all, is ever certain, always steps strong–we all lose, because I cannot keep up with that lie and neither can you.”
The last few years, I’ve found a great deal of joy, healing, catharsis and purpose in my writing.
I’ve felt compelled to share with the world the truths I’ve learned about life and love and myself, and the words have flowed freely and with a courage and vulnerability that I still lack in person.
Most of this writing is cataloged on my blog and I’ve received a good deal of feedback from people who’ve experienced similar things or endured the same trials.
It’s been a really meaningful part of my life.
But lately, I’ve been completely unable to get to that place. I spend my morning walks pondering things to write about, only to sit down at my computer and hit some sort of invisible wall.
I jot down notes in the app on my phone to flesh out later, only to convince myself there wasn’t much to them in the first place.
I think about what I need to do to become a better writer but don’t actually do any writing.
I told myself at first that it was just because I wasn’t inspired, I didn’t have anything I really needed to say and when I did, I would.
But it’s been months and I’ve remained quiet.
Over the weekend, as I sat curled up in the couch listening to my friend read Hatmaker’s words, I realized as I’d received more and more feedback from my writing, I’d felt pressure to “prop things up,” to “arrange the pieces in just the right lighting,” to say the right thing at the right time to the right people.
Felt like everything I wrote had to be perfectly said and I was suddenly really worried about the outcomes my words were having.
How was what I was saying making other people feel?
How were they interpreting who I was by the things that I shared?
I felt exposed and naked, and that people who enjoyed my writing probably wondered why I wasn’t nearly that interesting in person.
Somewhere along the line I lost my purpose and it stopped being about speaking truth and vulnerability and became about living up to this version of myself I felt I’d created.
Suddenly writing, which had brought me so much freedom, was the thing preventing me from being myself.
But no more.
I’m done with that. Enough.
I’m ready to dive back in. To talk about things that are hard and confusing.
To admit I am much more comfortable sitting down alone at my desk to write this column than I ever will be talking to you about it in person.
To pursue truth and get messy, speak things that are real and risk saying something difficult.
Because it’s leaning into those things that gives me freedom, and can you imagine a world where we could all be free?