“Me, write a book?” Sometimes I have to be dragged kicking and screaming to do what I know I’m supposed to do. For years, I had been telling myself all the reasons I couldn’t possibly write a book.
I recently spent the weekend with someone I tend to ignore a lot of the time…myself. I don’t spend enough time listening to the small voice inside—there are just too many distractions—the TV is on, the phone ringing, the internet calling and the text messages dinging, not to mention all the things that need to be done—housework, laundry, grocery shopping, messages to return and the list goes on and on with all the “I shoulds”.
“STOP”, solitude was calling. “But I don’t have time. How will I get everything done? What will I do?” This was my second retreat at Christ in the Wilderness, a retreat center in the middle of nowhere with a cabin where I was totally alone—no phone, no TV, no internet and not even cell phone connection. Talk about feeling isolated.
To be honest, the first retreat that I went on, I went loaded down with reading material—another distraction. There were lovely hiking trails so every day I would go for a long hike because I should—I needed the exercise, it was good for me. I even climbed the highest hill on the grounds so I could get cell phone reception. That was a lot easier than having to listen to the voice I’d been ignoring for so long.
If you’ve never gone on a solitude retreat, let me tell you, it feels weird at first. I was in a lovely cabin, in a beautiful setting and had absolutely nothing I had to do and no one in sight. It took me awhile to give myself permission to nap when I felt like it, eat when I wanted and to sit on the porch and do nothing. Instead of “I should” go for a hike, I allowed myself a leisurely stroll and a nice long rest on a bench by the stream. But “I should” kept rearing its ugly head. “I should go for a hike or run for the exercise. I should find something to read or at least write in my journal. I should be doing SOMETHING!”
“STOP”, the voice inside said once again, “You don’t have to do—just be.”
“But I don’t know how—isn’t that just being lazy?”
There is a message in the silence. To hear it, you just need to get behind all the words and noise that crowd it out.
For this retreat, I took only pens, paper and for some reason, at the last minute, threw in a box of crayons. I wondered why I took the crayons—I have absolutely no artistic ability. The first night, not knowing what else to do, I got out paper and crayons and started to draw. They say a picture is worth a thousand words—words had always been my medium of choice. Using a different medium, one that I was uncomfortable with—started the flow of creativity. I couldn’t write and draw fast enough to get all the words—all the message out. I found myself, at times, laughing and crying. (One of the beautiful things about solitude—you don’t have to worry about what anyone else thinks. You can let everything out.)
By the second day I was starting to learn how “to be”. The voice of “I should” was getting quieter. I was starting to be able to hear my purpose calling me, “Write a book to help women who are going through some of the things you’ve been through.” And of course “I can’t” raised its ugly head. I had thought about writing a book on and off for years—but just didn’t believe I could actually write one. My self-confidence and my words just seemed to be blocked—I wasn’t sure why. Through the drawing I found an image come out of my voice being shut off, holding down my creativity. It was time to find my voice which I knew would be a challenge since I had always been labeled and labeled myself “shy and quiet”.
The last morning of my retreat I went for a walk to a quiet place, still contemplating how to find my voice. In the quiet solitude one word came to me—shame. I realized shame had been my block—I felt ashamed of my abilities, or lack thereof; my body, it’s far from perfect. How could I have the audacity to think I could help anyone else when I still have my own struggles? I found tears streaming down my face. I felt so inadequate for what I felt so strongly I was called to do. I sure don’t feel like a leader. I’m still on my own journey and at times I fall down or take the wrong path. I’ve struggled and I still struggle. I’ve been brave but I’m also afraid way too much of the time. I’ve taken the leap a few times not knowing if the net will appear—and it always has—but sometimes I still doubt. “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.” Eleanor Roosevelt
I’ve been given a message and a mission. Maya Angelou said it best, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” I don’t have all the answers but I can walk beside you on your journey and share with you what I’ve learned. I can help pick you up when you stumble and fall, because we all do, and I know what that is like. No matter how tough times have been, I’ve always known this journey is an exciting adventure worth whatever obstacles need to be overcome. “Life is either a great adventure or nothing.” Helen Keller I can’t wait to see how far we can go. See you on the journey and remember, “Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” Marie Curie