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What We Wish For

My life broke.

That’s the best way I know to explain the past nine months. I’d been going ninety to nothing, publishing my first novel, loving my family hard, raising three kids, each in a different school, managing aging parents, aging pets, peanut allergies and a husband whose work kept him out of town for a good portion of every week. And I was managing. I was moving. I was shaking. I was paying attention. I was doing everything right. And then…I woke up one day and the people in my life started dropping like flies.

In truth, no one actually died, but every person who was significant went into their own personal crisis and I was the last (wo)man standing. I’d been a celebrated teacher, an award winning author, a beloved wife and mother and daughter – that didn’t stop the breaking. It was more than I could manage. And it was nothing I could mend. As the ones I loved struggled, I felt my foundations tremble. My hands were completely tied, my heart was broken, and I’d never been so alone. So here’s what I did: I went into my closet and shut the door.

The thing is, I love my closet. It is my nest. It is my metaphorical womb. It is my most favorite place. And because I have my closet, all my life I’ve been a person who persists. I’ve been a survivor. I’ve been the person who is grounded. I’ve been able to turn inward and find what I need because I lived a rich, creative, thoughtful, faith-filled life. I believe in miracles. I believe in magic.  I like to act like I’m all rational and worldly, but truthfully I am a die-hard optimist in a pessimist’s clothing. But that day in January when I went into my closet and I shut my eyes and went to gather my strength and belief in good, good things, a terrible thing happened.

I was empty. Depleted. Exhausted. Where I’d always been able to come out of that closet refreshed, with a plan, ready to take on what came next, suddenly I couldn’t even bring myself to open the door. And I kept thinking the same things over and over. Mostly, I’d catch myself thinking one thing, an unfinished thought: I wish…I wish…I wish…

And when I turned to my work, the thing I thought would get me out of my mess – writing – I discovered every creative person’s nightmare. I was blocked to the bone.

What happened to me? Life broke. And the pieces created a great big dam.

For the past few months I’ve been floundering and questioning. I’ve been wandering around, blinking like a mole, picking up pieces and tucking them into my pockets. I’ve been doing a lot of sleeping because it’s hard to get out of bed. I’ve been eating lots of carbs and reading lots of books and taking care of my house and not answering the phone at all. I’ve been fighting cynicism. I’ve been afraid. Of so many things. Of having nothing special to offer the world. Of being ordinary. Of days passing and watching them go by without being inspired…or inspiring someone else.

Friends and family have watched me, uneasy. It’s scary for them, too, I think. They’ve never seen me…well…stop. I mean really, seriously STOP. But I did. And something new started to happen. I realized this: creativity – the source that has always been the soul-restoring energy available to me in that nest-closet of mine – is like any other thing on this earth that FLOWS. It needs a clear path.

If I wanted to continue to survive – and especially to come back from trauma – it was going to be up to me to learn how to take care of my creativity. And that started with taking care of myself. I started by taking care of myself in all the extravagant, thoughtful ways I wished to be cared for. (Which also gave me the renewed strength to care for those around me.) I worked in ways that felt good instead of exhausting, clearing a path for my creativity. (I learned to say no to a lot of things, too. I’ve never had a problem saying no. But I did have a problem saying yes to the wrong things.) And then I allowed myself to enjoy all the unexpected ways that recovering my creativity brought well-being and purpose and joy back into my life.

Sound like I’ve gone all Oprah? Well. Not really. Half the time I’m still guessing. I don’t live in Chicago or know everything. I know very little, actually. And I like it that way. I like that I’m learning from so many women who are also on this path. So when I started looking around at the women in my life, the girls I see at the grocery store or the school meetings, ladies who sit beside me at church or on airplanes, or book clubs, I started to notice so many of them are whispering things to me.

I’m lost. I’m burnt out. I don’t even have time. I don’t even remember myself. And…I wish. LOTS of I wish.

Tinderbox Writers Workshop came out of I WISH.

I’m calling it a writers workshop, but really it’s a creativity workshop. I believe stories are the surest path to our source – our hearts. Stories teach us how to speak our truth. Stories change everything. Stories teach us about our wishes. Stories are the home of every creative effort, no matter the form.

I’m a believer that if you want something in life, you should create it. And then you should share it. I wished I could create the life I wanted each day. I wished I could create a space for women who are blocked, who are stuck, who are silenced or depleted or just searching for a safe place to discover or recover or express their gifts. I wished for a space for women to share and explore and CREATE and celebrate their stories and voices. I wished to nurture my own soul and the souls of sisters and daughters. I wished for a sanctuary where women can learn to live fully, joyously, passionately – lives lived from our creative core.

I hope you’ll join me.

Discover your story. Recover your voice. What do you wish?

October 1, 2014 - 11:58 pm

Pat - What a fabulous entry.

October 1, 2014 - 4:22 pm

admin - Leslie, your humor does so many women a world of good every day! I think what you bring to the table is priceless. Anybody needing a really irreverent giggle ought to check out for women laughing their heads off through this crazy life. xo

October 1, 2014 - 4:19 pm

admin - You’re right on the money, Adam. “Affluenza” is rampant in our culture. Thanks for the book recommendation.

October 1, 2014 - 3:23 pm

Leslie - Oh, I so get this, Kim. Spending more time “wishing” (or praying, or just being) is probably the right prescription for what ails so many of us women who find ourselves overcommitting to too many things. So happy for you that you’re finding a creative way out of the darkness! XO

October 1, 2014 - 2:24 pm

Adam - Hey, I read this because a friend posted it on Facebook. Coincidentally, I’m in the middle of reading “Affluenza” a book about the need for simplicity in our lives for both our sake, and the planet’s. It might be worth a read-through, as it’s made me realize I need to step back from some of my work and school obligations to focus on what I really need in life, which is both SPACE and my personal relationships.
-Cheers 🙂

October 1, 2014 - 1:13 am

admin - For me, that creative energy comes from/is the Creator, Kim. I love what you shared here about being given momentum.

October 1, 2014 - 12:46 am

kim drake - Personally I crawl up in the fetal positon in my closet and sit there until God helps me get up and restores my hope. I too have walked through yet another diffult season in life feeling that I wouldn’t survive. God showed up, gave me momentum when I believed Him for supernatural favor.Thanks for your transparency and courage.

September 30, 2014 - 9:09 pm

admin - Love you, Jaime Boler. Lots of support here any time you need it! xo

September 30, 2014 - 8:10 pm

Jaime Boler - Thank you for this. I have felt so alone over the past few months. I want to write about it, but it’s just so personal. I feel broken and it helps to know you’ve been there.

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