Last week I had a profound epiphany. Not the kind that happens in the cold, clinical brain, but the one that settles gently with a thud in the centre of your being, where your experience dwells.
I was getting ready for bed, puttering around applying Flexitol on my heels to prevent cracking and putting Blistex on my lips, when this crystal clear phrase landed in my spirit: I am not responsible for the outcome. Instantly, these seven words loosened something that had been jammed up inside of me. I felt lighter, more whole, complete. I began to cry, equally grateful for the revelation and the fact that Jason was out of town so I could work through this on my own while crawling into bed.
All good epiphanies have a lot of significant moments leading up to them. Without these preparatory steps, the big paradigm shift wouldn’t carry as much weight. My breadcrumbs included this podcast from Rob Bell, this kind comment on my blog, this tweet from an author I respect, and this beautiful post by Glennon Doyle Melton.
I’ve been struggling for a few weeks with a sense of purpose in my writing. I’ve been unmoored, adrift, afraid. This fog had nothing to do with the work itself, but everything to do with how others reacted (or didn’t react) to the product I put out into the world. I got mired in the familiar self-doubts, the ones that taunt, “You are wasting your time. Go do something better with your life. You’re never going to get anywhere with the type of writing you do. It has no meaning for anyone but you.”
Most of us face these soul-crushing thoughts from time to time. For me, it rips at a very old and weak scar in my psyche. I want to protect that wound at all costs because it didn’t heal properly and will throb like hell if I allow any air on it. This one goes way back to early childhood, filed in the YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH folder. It’s soaked in shame and regret. I don’t want to look at it and I sure don’t want to show it to anyone else.
But to heal it, I know that I have to face it. So Jason went out of town for a week and I used the time on my own to stare this beast down; to intentionally stop running from my fear of scarcity and instead list why I do what I do. I made a long list of my career priorities, then knocked out one after another until I could see the core. I brought my three priority words for 2016 back to the forefront of my life – strong, clear, optimistic – and made sure they fit with the writing, speaking, nurturing and innovating goals I identified as most important.
All of this led to the revelation that I am not responsible for the outcome. My job is to follow my curiosity, be true to myself and my vision for the work I’m doing, and then let go of it. I love it when Glennon says it’s not our job as writers to defend our art. We write because we have an innate need to create, but then we must let go of what happens to it out in the world.
For the new forms I’m experimenting with, particularly Literary Salons and my Nurture is Valuable project, I’ve done my part if I show up and do my best to connect people in a meaningful way. That’s it – that’s all I can do. The rest is not up to me. Knowing this is true in my very bones and marrow suddenly makes it fun and simple again. I feel refreshed, happy, ready to rock and roll.
I’m responsible to show up and do the work. Everyone else is responsible for the outcome.