Today I am 43, and this is what I do know: The more I open my heart, the better it gets.
It only took me 42 years to figure that one out, but the more I adhere to the principle, the more I get out of it. The return rewards are quick, tangible and delicious. There has been so much good happen in my life in the past year that I can hardly believe it.
It hasn’t been without its hardships, though. The thing is that the more flexible and expansive that I become, the more I don’t fit into my old mold. I suppose that it is life’s little irony that the more you open the less you are able to inhabit the space you once occupied.
I remember an incident that occurred a little over four years ago. I was in the park with a friend, someone that I was very close to and that held a lot of influence over me for a very long period of time. We were talking to someone that we’d just met, sharing dog stories, when this stranger asked what we did for a living. I responded that I was a writer, which I was. I had spent the previous five years earning money for putting words onto a piece of paper, which technically would qualify me as one. I haven’t been nominated for a Pulitzer, and most of my work was in very small publications, but the fact of the matter is: I wrote and people gave me money to do so.
A few hours later, though, this person that had a lot of influence over me said, “Why did you say you were a writer? You’re not a writer.”
That was one of those comments that crush your spirit, if you let it, and boy, did I let it. I allowed a whole lot of doubt and self-hatred and insecurity and ICK to just creep in there and take over. I froze. I felt all of my dreams and all of my aspirations just slip away. At the time, I had been working on a novel and I was about 150 pages in, which is a lot of writing. It stopped. Not a peep from me since that moment. Not a word despite the fact that other people, one of whom I really trust and who had a great track record of supporting me, told me that it was great. I’ve taken it out and looked at it a few times; I even printed it out once, but then I dropped it and all the pages got mixed up and I just put it away again because, who am I kidding, I’m not a writer.
It seems so unbelievable to me now that I let this person tell me who I was, but I have let a lot of people tell me who I am and who I am not over the years, mostly because I did not know who I was. I had to look outside of myself for the answers, and while I realized that many of them were unreliable, I had nothing to truly measure them against – no personal yardstick of Janet to allow me to define myself.
I was so closed. I was so closed that I couldn’t allow the sunshine in, and all I could do was sit in the darkness, afraid to move, afraid to act, afraid to take a chance doing something that I loved lest someone tell me that I was quixotic for doing so.
It took me four years to reclaim that spot, which was tenuous at best before. I mean, if I had any sense of who I was, I never would have allowed anyone else to tell me who I wasn’t. But now I do know, and I claim it with conviction: I am Janet. I am a writer; I am a facilitator of healing for others. I am open.
And being open has brought the most wonderful changes into my life. I am in love, for one. I have returned to school to study something that I am passionate about (versus what I did when I was younger, which was to get a Master’s Degree in something that I liked but that held no long term interest for me), I have started a blog so that I can write, and I have met an abundance of amazing people lately that hold the same interests as me and that support me in everything that I am doing. The more I open my heart, the more I fill up with love. It may be quixotic, but I’m not above chasing windmills these days. In fact, I kind of like it.