Who Am I Now?

“As things change, help us to be gentle with ourselves and with each other. We are all wearing newborn skin right now.”

Nadia Bolz-Weber

Life never stops wafting before us the opportunity to make sense of it all, does it. We can get a bit lazy about how we’re supposed to live out our own little lives on this planet. So once in a while, life sneaks up in a whisper to say it’s time to pay attention. And if that doesn’t work, it ramps up the pressure.

You know what I mean. All I have to do is say, “Pandemic!” and you get my drift.

Many of us now are haltingly coming out of the fog, and the world looks mostly the same as when we had to hide ourselves away. And yet, it doesn’t at all – not yet and not ever.

“I’m so afraid that I will never be who I once was. And I am also afraid that I will be.”

Nadia Bolz-Weber

I’ve been pretty relieved that I have come through pandemic and cancer life pretty well. I’ve washed myself with relief that I’d reached an oasis of calm and acceptance and forgiveness and purpose.

That turned out to be just the time that Life always loves: when we think we’ve become invulnerable. When we’re satisfied. When we’re not looking for anything special. Just resting.

It was so good to get back to the familiar territory of this blog!

I got back to my long-neglected autobiography for my family. It was high time.

I also began a new daily practice of writing – long hand – 3 pages of free-floating thought before breakfast. It has been astounding what I have unearthed about myself! Then, a week ago, to my astonishment, my writer’s “flow,” as we call it (also known by its actual name, Spirit), suggested to me that I have a book in me. Uh huh. No way. Just, not.

Yet, I began to make notes, just testing out the idea of “a book.” Copious notes and memories flew across the paper. It felt so good, but it also began to feel overwhelming. It wasn’t going to work. I was not up to such a big challenge. I gave it up with a sigh of relief.

“Life” was not pleased. Spirit was also not giving up.

An hour later, as I was going through social media, there was a “sponsored message” about a new online course, “Memoir Writing,” with a video by the instructor. I was smitten! Within the hour, I had plunked enough money onto my credit card to make me take this seriously, without breaking the bank. And I take my financial welfare very seriously!

For the next 6 days, I was obsessed with learning about memoir. My mind was super-charged. The course is indeed everything I hoped it would be – and more – and I have been doggedly focused on some of the early steps that I’ve needed to turn biography into memoir. They’re significantly different.

The problem is that I am also exhausted! I’ve had to rethink how I go about this. My brain is so full of creative energy that I cannot sleep well. I am so wedded to this opportunity that I am hunkered down and at work too long at a time. I am overeating, under-exercising, and not balancing work and rest well. Addiction suggests itself. Last night, I slept for 12 hours!

Nadia Bolz-Weber’s “newborn skin” is fresh in my mind as I again throw myself out into the unknown. I have no idea where this may go, but I know that it goes nowhere unless I let it be born. Newborn.

So it is with every new “thing” that comes along to teach us and draw us out of the familiar. It can feel scary, overwhelming, improbable and unlikely. Only we can choose whether to pick it up and give it a try. I’m saying, “Yes.”

I haven’t lost one whit of the vulnerability that sat with me through cancer treatment and through this pandemic. I hope, though, not to lose one whit of the bravery that it also took to get me to “Yes” today.

We’re all on the road to discovery. The pandemic made it impossible to ignore.

I wish for each of you that the new “skin” that you’re growing now becomes some form of new life that is emerging in you. And that if it feels unnerving, we might, as Nadia prayed, “be gentle with ourselves and with each other. We are all wearing newborn skin right now.”

There’s something comforting about that.

So is there a “new me” yet? A memoir writer? We’ll see. Maybe, maybe not. But we writers have to write first for our own joy, anyway. That’s the only way that good writing shows up.

Will there be enough time to even write a memoir at age 80? Who knows? All I can do is begin.

It’s all grace.

And I’m very okay with that.