Thursday, January 8, 2015

Write Away

They say if you want to be a writer, then you have to write.

I've been thinking about this notion a lot lately. I've been telling Patrick that I have this overwhelming need to get it all on paper.

To get back to the page and soothe my soul with some good, old-fashioned word therapy.

I am not foolish enough to believe that I'm actually a writer. Although if you believe my resume, I earned a degree in journalism back when that was a legitimate option for a major, and subsequently received several years' worth of paychecks where my main job requirement was to write (albeit incredibly boring tripe). But still, it barely paid the bills.

Before dipping my toes into the "real" writing world, I spent an inordinate amount of my teens and early twenties writing sappy, overwrought, angsty, apologetic letters to ex-boyfriends. 

One time I wrote a 25-page, kick-ass paper on Toni Morrison's Beloved and would love to know where that is so I can go back and pat myself on the back for a job well done.

I recently ran into my sixth grade creative writing teacher and she remembered me well from the cloying poetry and exaggerated short stories that I earnestly turned in each week.

And as far back as 7-years old, I remember writing down every single curse word I'd ever heard and tucking the list safely and discreetly under my pillow each night while I slept. Our housekeeper found it once and threatened to tell my mom (it was some juicy, only-hear-it-on-the-school-bus stuff), so I had to be more cautious about my prose moving forward.

The point is, I've always loved to cuss. 

And write.

So, as often as I walk away, I just keep coming back. I've spent the last six months in deep contemplation and found myself right where I always leave off - yearning to get it all down. 

My new year's resolution - if you want to call it that - is to live a more purposeful life. For me, that means doing things that have meaning and true connectedness, instead of just going through the motions and constantly falling into the same predictable, habitual patterns.

I'm an overly-organized control freak (a bad combo) and it can be difficult for me to begin an endeavor without being one million percent prepared. I'm a little ritualistic about starting new things and everything has to be just so. 

(Thus the new blog layout - "Oh, I'm going to blog again? Well then I must revamp EVERYTHING!") 

It's a troublesome way to be and something I would like to genuinely work on changing for the future. Afterall, if you spend your whole life preparing, there is no time left for actually DOING. 

The last three years have been a spiritual journey of sorts - aided in part by prayer, meditation, Pema Chodron, and my recent discovery of kombucha - and led in full by JC himself. I am not a super-religious person, but I am a super faithful one, and I truly believe that God's got it all worked out if we will only abide. 

The problem is that we want things to be EASY. And we want to be happy and joyful and calm all the time. When things are going well, we don't mind giving the credit to Jesus or whomever we happen to believe in. But, when things start going bad - like when your kid gets cancer - those are the times we stop listening. We shut down and we conjure up a billion crazy thoughts and we FREAK OUT and we don't realize that if we can just be still and listen, then the answers will come.

So, I've been practicing stillness and calmness. I've been working on trying to connect with others even when it's hard and I don't want to. When I just want to go into a rage spiral and throw things and blame everyone else but myself. 

Part of my plan to better abide and listen and grow involves a lot less technology. We're turing off the TVs and the iPads and the iPhones. Every other day - whenever we're all together - we are going without. And on the days inbetween, we can just stick our noses in a screen and zone out and ignore each other all day. I'm all for a 50 percent success rate!

Another part of my plan is focusing on being present with everyone around me - especially my family - and to take care of my mind the same way I take care of my body.

And, so, in the brief interludes of calm and stillness that I've had so far, I kept hearing the same thing over and over again.

Write. Write. WRITE.

I briefly wondered if writing about me, me, ME could actually be purposeful or if it's really just incredibly vain. For a second I thought that I should probably rework my resolution to something along the lines of, "Stop thinking you're so awesome."

But then, I thought about it some more, and realized that it's not coming from a selfish place - it's coming from a deep desire to be accessible. To put myself out there and connect to this world and the people in it. 

I've met so many people over the past two years, and I am humbled and grateful that many of them have contacted me through this blog. A few of them have dealt with a cancer diagnosis, but most of them reached out to me after a Down syndrome diagnosis - this blog was one of the places they found while furiously Googling for answers.

In my last post, I wrote that I blog just for me. But, that simply isn't true. I do get a lot of personal fulfillment from writing, but that's just one piece of the puzzle. I think it was easier to pretend that I write only for me so that I had a layer of protection if anyone disagreed with what I had to say. Putting yourself out there can be very liberating, but it can also be very terrifying. Sometimes it makes you feel better to caveat it or cushion it in some way.

But now I know it's not about whether people agree with me or even like me. And it's not about validation. It's about being completely honest and seeing where sparks fly and connections happen.

It's about being kind and compassionate and living a meaningful life; finding my way and teaming up with others for the ride. 

A few months ago, I entered an essay contest - the winner would secure a spot at a writer's retreat in Ojai, California. It was a kind of random thing for me to do, and it came about after a moment of quiet listening. Of hearing Him say, "DO IT."

So I did it. I spoke honestly about my desire to start writing again. Part of my essay went something like this:

I hate that we are always polishing ourselves up when we're really just raw and flawed. I am no more deserving of winning a spot at this retreat than anyone else because we ALL have a story to tell. We all have our own truth.

My truth is that Down syndrome and heart defects and leukemia once terrified me. But how can I be afraid when I look at my own son?

Right now, I'm figuring out how to reconcile unequivocal joy with crushing pain. How to balance my growing inability to relate to the minutiae of life now that I've seen the bigger picture. But the REAL truth is that I'm okay. I am guarded and I am vulnerable - I am weak and I am strong. I am finding my new voice and I've realized that sometimes we need to shout out loud. And sometimes the most important things are best left unspoken. 

I was truly floored when I received an email inviting me to the retreat. But I honestly can't think of a better way to start 2015 than strengthening my voice and reigniting my love of writing with a group of women who appreciate the power of putting it all on paper.

I hope we can all find whatever it is that is meaningful to us and just DO IT. There is certainly no time like the present.

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  1. Love the new layout! So excited to see the next chapter unfold! Proud of you, Brooke!

  2. LOVE that you are back at it. No one that I know can write better than you B. I am so proud of you! I hope you have an absolute blast. And, maybe I can just curl up in your suitcase and go with you?! Haha. Love you B!! CONGRATS!
    love, BBC

  3. Always inspirational! So proud for you! You know in this family we've got to work overtime on mental health, haha! Good luck in your journey, can't wait to be inspired and entertained. Love-S

  4. So glad you've decided to write, write, WRITE!!! Love your writing style! Love you and all your precious family!!

  5. Thank you, Brooke. We all miss Chip so much here in Conway. This helped a little.


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