I had a brave moment this weekend. This is not an attempt to sing my own praises. Actually it is, a little. I've spent a lot of time not choosing the brave moment and I am proud that I made a different decision this time. So it's a little bit me singing my own praise. Mostly, though, I'm marveling at how the simple, small choices are the brave ones. They are, I'm starting to think, the only ones that ever actually lead anywhere. Anywhere, to my mind, is a destination more like growth and becoming the person you want to be than, say, meeting Meryl Steep at the Oscars, but I think that ties in too.
Here is my brave moment: I submitted an essay to an online magazine. For a few months now, I've noodled with the idea of essay writing and working with publications, outside of my blog here. I talk myself off the ledge regularly- I can't keep up with a blog, let alone follow through on that. What do I have to say that's interesting, new, or fresh? I have no credentials! I have no history! This self-talk comes up and it's not just demoralizing, it's debilitating. It can keep me stuck in one small spot if I allow it.
I have so many plans in my head. Any day of the week you might find me folding laundry in my bedroom, but in my head I'm giving my acceptance speech at the Oscars for Best Screenplay Adaptation. It's important to note, I've not written a screenplay. I've not written a book from which I might adapt a screenplay! Yet here I am, sorting socks and folding 5T skirts, while accepting my little golden statute from Meryl Streep and receiving appreciative applause from George Clooney and Helen Mirren.
It's easy for me to imagine doing the big, complicated things, and much harder to contemplate the simple, everyday tasks in front of me. I do not know how to write a screenplay. I am damned good at my acceptance speech, but I have not typed word one of the script for which I'm awarded.
What I did instead was write an essay. No, first I wrote a query, to ask if this publication had any interest in such material. That took an hour in bed, after my family were already asleep, and it took a great deal of deep breathing to do. Then it was sent and done. No, wait. First, I sat down and dashed out five pages of thoughts in my notebook about the essay I wanted to write. Then I read through it and made notes on what I thought fit and did not. Then I wrote the essay. Then I sat with it for about a week. Then I took a breath and wrote the query. Then I took another breath and sent the query. When the magazine responded with interest and asked me to submit, I took my notes and my laptop and wrote a 1,300 word essay about a shift I've witnessed in my family since my daughter was born. After that I rewrote it a little. Then I went to bed. The next morning, I got up and made a gluten-free pancakes recipe for breakfast. I added chocolate chips. They were delicious. When we were all fed and functioning, I took myself off to the bedroom to rewrite some more, while my family kept themselves busy and out of my way. Then I had to find photographs to accompany the piece, an intimidating task in and of itself. This publication is arty. We are not so arty, going more often for that, firing-squad-stance-and-smiling-in-unison-on-the count-of-three style photography. Eventually, after only a minuscule amount of arguing with my husband, who gallantly offered to assist, I picked out three photos and added them to the essay. This took a little while longer, as I changed my mind, picked new photos, named them, read the submission guidelines, renamed them properly, arranged and rearranged their placement in the essay. Around 3:30 on Sunday afternoon I submitted my essay. A few hours later I heard back, asking for my bio and bio-photo submission. I felt a brief heady rush of excitement until I checked the submission guidelines again and realized this was required with all essay submissions.
Since submitting my bio and bio-photo, it has been quiet. I have no idea if my essay has or will make the publication. What I know is, I did something important for me in these last few weeks. It might seem small- I wrote a little bit, on notebook paper, in hastily caught moments between parenting and homeschooling and cooking and taking out the trash and folding laundry and composing Oscar speeches in my head and showering and all the other hundred pieces that make up the sum of an ordinary and possibly wonderful life. The writing itself, the entire process, turned out to be just like ordinary life. No trumpets heralded my essay's completion and the closest we came to anything celebratory was finally toasting an old bag of hardened marshmallows left over from last winter.
Writing my essay was hard. And scary. The imaginary approval of George and Meryl have nothing on actually producing a piece of work and submitting it for review. I will say here, I think there is something powerful about imagination and we all need our jaunts with the Academy Awards to keep a feeling of possibility and hope alive. But for me, doing the next, seemingly, small thing was my important step. Moving out of my head and George's attractive gaze, to the page, that was what I needed to do. The fictitious friendships of the talented and celebrity cannot keep me fed forever. So I took time off from my speech (and, really, it's good- not a dry eye in the Kodak Theatre) and wrote a real, short piece about something I know. I had a brave moment. They're available all the time, to all of us, aren't they? I'm a little late to the party on this one, but I'm so glad I showed up this time. Brave moments are out there, everywhere, waiting to be seized, to be choked down and spit out, leaving us a little trembly and roughed up and excited about the small, real-life possibility. I'm so glad I took a breath and took mine.