Writing Your Way to Love and Shitting Nails
Last weekend I gave a talk at the Indiana Adoption Conference on how to write your story. I don’t have a problem talking in front of people because I was a teacher forever and because I think, selfishly, having an audience is like medicine for someone who didn’t feel completely heard as a child (aaah, and as an adult). With all that said, I was…not terrified, but not joyful for the weeks that preceded the talk.
I had no idea what to say.
This rarely happens to me.
I have been going around telling everyone to write their story, that writing will change their lives and etc. I tried and tried and tried to write a story and then I did it, and, oh!, the relief.
But it has been just about two years since I finished and self-published it, and I found myself sliding into some sort of pit of slow despair.
Like…uh…how come I don’t feel good? I did it. I wrote my book, and, miracles of miracles, there are people, people I don’t know, who like it! I have over a hundred reviews on Amazon. This shocks me, that so many people sat down and took the time to write what they thought of my work. People write to me on Facebook messenger, on Instagram, on Twitter, and they tell me how my writing has helped them.
Here’s the thing: you know when you were a kid (or yesterday), and you were eating cotton candy and it was so, so sweet and you just could not shove wads of it fast enough in your mouth because the tangle of delight kept melting on your tongue? That is what praise for my book felt like:Oh!! More! More! More! And yet I couldn’t get to the resting heart of sweetness. It was all so fleeting.
I realized something. I wrote a book for love. More than anything what my body and mind craves is the moment of connection a baby feels when it locks eyes with its mother as they rock together as a unit, flesh of flesh, touching. That moment when the baby recovers from the trauma of birth (What the hell is that about? God invented the universe and yet he could not figure out a better way to get a baby out of a mother?) and sees that he or she is safe, is home.
I did not get that bonding moment, and just as if your mother beat you, but only one time, that specific shock can never be completely erased, and my body is still searching for the reset button. How can I feel at home if home disappeared so unexpectedly before I had the tools to properly respond or process the event?
My secret hope was that I could write myself home. I could run the bases and slide into home plate by writing a book. It would have my name on the cover. It would say I am here. I am valuable. I have a voice.
And those things did happen. I did feel that way. Mostly.
But what I learned at the adoptee retreat I co-led with Pam Cordano is that home is about community, and I felt on a cellular level how much my body and mind responded to intimacy and love and trust. Twelve of us adopted people got to bathe in that healing atmosphere for four days, and then it dissipated because we all had to go home.
I changed. I’m still changing because of that time we had together. I understand my life’s focus is less about the time I spend alone trying to get words right on a page and more about how much human closeness my often-beleaguered nervous system can tolerate and how much it yearns for more and more and more. I love language. I love writing, and I love having written. I love feeling that I got something right and beautiful on the page. Writing is a form of prayer and thanks and living for me, so I am not saying I don’t want to write. I am saying that I see writing is a way of preparing me for love.
So what I told the people in my talk at Indiana, if you are writing to get love, you can skip the writing part and head straight for the Love Aisle. Just go for broke. Hello, hello, hello. What’s your name? I’m (insert name here).Do you want to dance? Get coffee? Fly to the moon? Can I help you carry your groceries? You have incredible eyes.
Writing, if you don’t like it, is like shitting nails. I mean, come on. There isn’t enough time in life. If you want validation, if you want to be heard, if you want to feel real, just go find a friend and talk openly. You don’t have to sequester yourself in the basement and stare at a computer screen, trying to find the words that will get you love. You make love, you don’t type it.
Except when you do.
I’m starting my 93-Days to Home on May 1. I’ll be documenting it here. I’m going to get my body and mind in shape to be at home in my body, mind, and out in the world and I hope you’ll do it along with me. If nothing else, I’ll have a whole lot of fun working with talented healers. I am so curious to see how much I can accomplish in 93 days. If I wrote a book in that span of time, what can’t I do? And you, too. Let’s see how at home we can get in three months for the sheer joy of the effort.
Just because my birth mother didn’t bond with me doesn’t mean I can’t bond with the world. I know I can do it. It’s already happening.
And you. You can, too.