I sing the body electric. I celebrate the ‘me’ yet to come.
~ [a song based on Whitman’s poem]
You awaken with these words running barefoot across your mind.
They feel like a reminder to embrace whatever is coming, to celebrate what is, and to marvel at the chance to do both.
You are a Phoenix, that mythical bird, burning feather and ash. You rise from a silver-blue fire.
For most of your life, you’ve felt like a wallflower wearing an invisibility cape.
As a result, you sat in trees and talked to sparrowhawks and ravens; you watched the rain kiss all the plants and keep them alive; you licked its salt off your skin.
You sat in silence and coughed up dark, striated pebbles. You washed your tired feet after you walked through Europe.
You made yourself small in order to survive.
The world wasn’t a safe place for the likes of you – too sensitive, too intuitive, too heart-centered, too empathic, to able to see who people were behind their clever masks, and the claws they sharpened for ready use.
So, you developed your superpowers and lived as an outlier, like the intuitive witch’s daughter you’d been born to be.
And it worked for a while.
It worked for a long time.
Then, you found yourself face-to-face with the child version of yourself as she wept and wailed. She wanted more. She needed air. She needed to sit in the desert and watch the stars poke through.
She demanded your consideration, your care.
In your twenties and thirties, you dreamt you were pregnant but miscarried.
You dreamt you gave birth, but the baby died.
You saw your belly warm and round. You felt the pulse and kick of a child.
You readied yourself and gave birth in your dream, but the baby girl was weak, tiny, mewling.
You had to keep her safe.
So, you hid her. You hid her under the stairs in a steamer trunk. You hid her, and you forgot where.
Frantically, you searched and searched. You ran through the halls of this particular nightmare, wondering, “Where did I put her? What have I done?”
And each time you dreamt this, you found the child dead.
You mourned her, but you couldn’t save her. You dreamt of this magical child, this wondrous girl, but you lost her again and again.
At forty, you walked out of your hermitage of invisibility and safety.
You dreamt of your baby again.
But this time you found her in time. This time, you jumped in a yellow cab and took her to the nearest hospital and saved her life.
You saved yourself.
You walked away from the job you hated and people who sickened you. You walked away from the pointless chit-chat and dressing ‘professionally’ and eating lunch with coworkers who didn’t know the first thing about you. You walked out on managerial time, soul-sucking meetings, and ticking off items on to-do lists. You stopped mortgaging your life – sixty hours a week, plus the commute – to jump into the fire of your work as an artist.
You knew you were a writer. You’d been a writer since you were ten-years-old.
You wrote poems and sent query letters to agents. Fourteen of them read your first manuscript and rejected it.
You took it hard.
You wondered if you could do it.
You queried magazines and websites trying to get your work published. The rejections fluttered in like homing pigeons with undecipherable messages wrapped in the bands around their ankles.
It’s an understatement to say you felt verklempt.
You ended up doing data entry as a temp.
You were in hell.
But the thing is, you were free. You’d escaped.
And with that freedom, you spent two years writing and resting. You spent it down on your knees chanting.
You opened your gold Buddhist altar in the City of Angels and laid out your vision.
You saw yourself working as a teacher, writing books, traveling. You imagined the house you’d live in, the animals you’d share it with. You saw the velvet couch and the Indian rugs and the cherry-colored office walls. You envisioned your big desk, projects piled on the floor, littered with papers, the room full of light and succulents.
You saw the life you’d have. You saw your future.
The following August, you got your first part-time teaching job at the community college in your hometown.
Two years later, you moved to Phoenix to teach fulltime.
There, you truly began to wear the woman you are on your sleeve.
You see the alchemy of the shift now.
A few years in, you met a colleague and a professor, who told you, “Teaching will take up as much of your time as you allow it to.”
You’d been complaining about how you didn’t have time to write. He called you on your bullshit.
You took a magical realism course from him and one of the poems you wrote was published by the Huffington Post a year later. Several others landed in prominent literary journals.
Whenever you felt lazy about your writing, you’d hear his voice, “You aren’t a writer unless you are publishing.”
So, despite your terror, you sent your work out.
And you were published. Many times.
All this was a part of your visioning process.
However, you stumbled when it came time to write a book.
You didn’t come from a family where anyone finished anything.
You didn’t know what it meant to see something through to fruition. You tried to imagine it but couldn’t. You marveled at what it must be like to finish the long, complex creative projects you start.
Without a doubt, you are the truth-teller of your family. The scribe. The black sheep. The Empath. The magical child. The Storyteller.
Your books and poems and essays are the only children of your life.
You cannot hide them away any longer. You cannot let them die under the stairs.
You need to bring them into the light.
And by doing so, you will save your life.
These days, you see the glow on your face, the silver-white hair, deep hazel eyes. You see the map of your own awakening wherever you look.
You trace blue veins trailing across the backs of your hands and thank them for all they’ve taught you.
When you look in the mirror, you see someone who’s magical, raw, and real.
You wear a crown of roses.
You’ve fully entered the next phase of your life: a crone and member of the wise council of women.
You will be a part of the shift of ages.
You will keep the flame of women’s work and women’s stories alive. You will change the world by doing so.
It turns out, you’ve been a fire-walker your whole life.
Now, you will teach others.
Author’s Note: I’ve been taking a Weaving Our Story, Weaving Our Future writing workshop with Cathy Pagano since the end of September. This piece is in response to the class’s writing assignment of rewriting my story in a way that empowers me. We were tasked to take whatever fairy tale or myth had run as an undercurrent in our lives and turn the tables on it, revising it to become a story that allows us to ‘weave the future’ we want to see for ourselves. Although this piece doesn’t revamp the Cinderella story directly, indirectly it does. I am no longer the little cinder girl. I have risen up from ash and reinvented myself.
Do you relate to my experience, dearheart? Leave me a comment below or click the link to get connected to my website and email list so we can exchange stories. You can also find me via the links below to my Facebook writer’s page.
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© 2018 Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved
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