When last year began, I kicked my blog off with an entry on the nature of receiving. Though the words within it were public, they were still deeply personal; they revealed heart truth by being spoken in that voice that is just me being me– y’know, the same way Miley is just being Miley. That’s probably why I was surprised to discover how much they resonated with other people. I was touched by how many messages I got about it, ranging from what it meant to someone else to readers extending me support and letting me know what I’d offered up had been seen and honored and held. It was the most positive response I’d ever gotten to a post, and a great way to start a year, knowing I’d struck some shared chord of humanity and, in doing so, created a motion that brought back as much as it gave. Clearly, the next step after such a rewarding experience would be to go more or less radio silent for 10 months. Right?
If you find that confusing, don’t worry– I did too until recently. If you’d asked me even two weeks ago why I went MIA, I would’ve been like, “Hahaha yeah good question” and changed the subject. Okay, maybe not that exactly but I couldn’t have given you an answer. I didn’t know then but I do now, and funnily enough, it’s intimately connected to that “letting go, letting in” missive I penned oh so long ago. It’s because receiving is hard…. and being truly open to receiving requires having the space to do so.
That idea might sound simple, obvious even, but personally? I struggled. Which makes sense now — I was uncomfortable with empty hands because I was used to them being full. It felt weird and wrong and kinda scary and I don’t think I’m alone in this. Let’s face it: nature abhors a vacuum and so do most humans. (Empty drawer? Fill it up! Boring outfit? Bedazzle that shit! Plain tote bag? Put a bird on it!) To say it in the simplest way, I felt uneasy in the face of that blank space.
And while I know some of it stems from expectations (and all the ideas I had of how things ‘should’ be, whether consciously or not), it’s also about control. Full-on opening to receiving means letting go of the notion that you have any control over what you’re going to get at all….and while sometimes those surprises are amazing, other times it feels more like you’ve just been handed a Christmas present from your relative who has terrible taste and, guess what, the whole room wants to watch you open it!
Not that I had considered such a possibility at the outset. I didn’t do much ‘considering’ at all, really– whatever process led me to setting the intention to receive was so not conscious. Just because I knew what I needed didn’t mean I knew why I needed it. At the time I did not realize how the many specific ideas I’d carried with me to London about what my project would end up looking like was hindering it from just becoming what it really was. And I definitely was unaware of the other things I’d lugged with me across the Atlantic: old beliefs and emotions that I carried because…. well, because I carried them, I had for years, it was just something I did though I couldn’t quite remember why or what they were for.
The idea for receiving came to me during the holidays, when I flew back to America and noticed how heavy my baggage was. Not just the suitcase I wheeled but all of it– all of that shit was just so heavy. And I decided the best thing I could do was stop holding it: leave it in America, chuck it in storage with the rest of my things, whatever I had to do so it was no longer just there in my hands. It seemed like that was the best way, maybe the only way, to start the process of receiving.
And receive I did. At times, the flow was so abundant, it washed over me with an energy that was more ‘flash flood’ than babbling brook….but I was receiving, even if not everything I got appeared positive upon first glance. In fact, six days after I posted that entry, I fell down a flight of stairs and ‘received’ a concussion, my very first ever all while I was living alone and working on deadline to finish a solo project in a foreign country…. and that was just the first week! So much more to come!
But despite the almost overwhelming undercurrent of the Receiving River I found myself in, I didn’t want to pause to try to understand or ‘take it in’ or sort through what was happening– no, I wanted to be in it, to feel it unfolding around me, to be truly present as it all washed over me. I couldn’t simultaneously observe the experience and undergo it– so I went quiet. And I’ve been quiet for some time now, waiting until it felt right to speak again, even as key dates passed me by: I finished my project; I left London; I moved back to America.
At times in these past ten months, I’ve felt almost guilty about my silence. After all, so many of you supported me in my big overseas endeavor, in a whole variety of ways, from offering me assistance to cheering me on to just straight up giving me love, and not just to me as a writer but as a human, which all touched me deeply. In my gratitude, I so wanted to give something back to you all, even if it was just reports back from the frontlines– I mean it’s not like I had an excuse since we have technology that lets people connect from opposite sides of the globe at the touch of a button, right? But post-New Year declaration, I went quiet and stayed quiet. The more time passed, the worse I felt about not updating people and not saying anything and not and not and not and not.
It’s only since I’ve been back in the States that I’ve come to understand why I needed that time. While going through what I’d put in storage it really clicked into place. I saw my belongings differently, and not because they had changed but because I had. But in an insta-world, processes that require slow and gradual unfoldings are not looked upon kindly. It’s hard to have patience when all around us, we are met with prompts asking us define what we think, show what we’re doing, sharing how we’re feeling, regardless of whether those things are fully formed or not. (Sorry Facebook, but no I actually don’t want to tell you what’s on my mind.)
It’s interesting to note that my singular break in silence was this: just a simple wave hello, a quick reminder that yes I was still here, quietly caring and loving and being me, and had only re-emerged to suggest that others do what I was currently was and create their own private safe space where they could let things grow and change and happen, knowing that until they chose otherwise, those things, and that place, only belonged to them.
Which brings me to now, I guess, because I’ve arrived at the point where I’m ready to again offer up my words (and myself because hey, the two are pretty intimately connected) to be seen in this particularly public way, by telling all of you who have been supported me or loved me, both as a writer and a person, that my year of receiving has been so very, very fruitful.
My project on female narratives resulted in more material than I know what to do with, including a full-length play (I had a grant/a promise to deliver so I did) that somehow only touches on maybe 5% of what I received, leaving me with enough leftover research and data and interviews to fill multiple books. But the honor of having these stories, each one told by in the person’s own unique voice, bestowed upon me left me ever-aware that I had a responsibility to treat them with respect. After all, one of my points setting out was that no girl should be forced into some pre-set female space; it only makes sense the same would be true for their individual tales. Some of what I received just did not fit into the medium I wanted to use, to which I say: good. Let the narratives create their own paths just like the girls who shared them did. What I produced in London was just part of the project. I’ll tell the rest when the time is right.
Incidentally, I did tell another story before I left England. After my big project was completed, I picked up a different play I wrote and decided I wanted to put it on. That idea ending up spiraling into this magical collaborative experiment that ended up on a West End stage, and reminded me why I love the theatre so very much. It was my happiest day abroad, one in which I put on a show, one that I wrote and directed and even acted in, making my nervous-but-excited return to the stage after seven years.
And also, besides my work, I had this whole life abroad. I made friends and saw plays and went on adventures. I fell in love with a man I met in a coffee shop, and he showed me secret parts of the city and of myself, a whole slew of treasures I wouldn’t have found without his help. I trained at a dance studio under a woman who was all things fierce, flowy and feminine, whose teaching style was akin to organized chaos. Her guidance challenged me, inspired me, and made me grow in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I first arrived. I brought what I learned there back with me, along with many of the other things I created from all the gifts I was given during my year of receiving. I carried them with me across the pond and will continue to take me forward to serve me, wherever I may go next.
Though to be honest ‘next’ is a question of events not geography, because when I left London, I returned to the place I was born and decided to stay here, in Dallas, Texas, because it had always been my heart home and now I wanted it to be my home-home. I have wandered long ago and now, as Rebecca Solnit put it, “I have come to long not to see new places but to return and know the old ones more deeply, to see them again.”
I don’t know what that means really– not what I’ll receive or what I’ll create with it but I am open and excited about the possibilities. (Truthfully, I already have multiple projects in the works, though I’m not in a rush to reveal. I’m letting it unfold.) Overall, I’m doing what I did on Halloween when my niece asked if she could ‘dress me up’ which meant choosing my costume, fixing my hair, and doing my make-up: I’m saying yes and seeing what’s being offered instead of just rejecting it outright and keeping my my mind so made up and my hands so full that I might miss something amazing.
As for that night, when all was said and done, I found myself dressed up in a beer maid outfit I got at Oktoberfest and I had pigtails and two giant hearts drawn on my cheeks in lipstick. I looked in the mirror and thought, “Yeah, I can work with this.” It didn’t even bother my niece that I tweaked a few things– she was just so happy I trusted her enough to give her a chance.
Since the combo was a bit wacky, we had to brainstorm a creative solution as to who I was “going as” that night, ultimately settling on a doll– more specifically a German heritage doll, the Madame Alexander kind but not one of those you find still in the box, all perfect and pristine. No, this was a doll that belonged to a child. You could tell by what was scribbled all over her face: this doll had been seen and held and played with; this doll was the recipient of so much love.