Confessions part 1, or Standing Out in the Open

out in the open, Central Park, photo by Meg Brothers, www.megbrothers.comSince this week's journey through the journal is partly about the things that we regard with judgment ("uninteresting", "unimportant", "too unspeakable to write"), it seems fitting to do a brief series of confessions here to go with it.  The next post will feature a page from my own copy of Take Me with You.

But, in the spirit of Go Big or Go Home (as my husband likes to say), here's one to start us off:

When I got the email saying the Squam 2010 class descriptions had gone live online, I couldn't even open them. Now, granted, I had other things on my mind at the time, but even so this was a moment I'd been regarding with trepidation for months.

The new classes weren't easy to plan, to describe, or to send to Elizabeth. She even called one day to talk me off the ledge when I was feeling nervous about committing to so much so far ahead of time, and doing it publicly nonetheless.

"There's this book I've been working on, and I think it should be a class, and I hope you aren't disappointed because it's not really a writing class," I said, and then I told her about my emerging project that didn't even have a title but seemed something like a care-and-keeping-of-artists-kind of manual.

"I trust you completely," was her reply.  And then she gave me everything I needed to move forward: understanding, permission and space to be in the emerging and unknowing between now and June.

The classes alone aren't my problem. The first problem is the audacity of my intention to write and publish companion books for all the classes I teach this year.  (I'm teaching in the Spring, the Fall, and at Squam by the Sea.) I'm compelled to do this, but I have no idea how I'm actually going to pull it off.  The second is the voice that is always waiting in the wings for its cue to jump onstage and declare while pointing to my chest, "Who do you think you are to do such a thing? What you know is so small compared to all that you do not."

And it's true.  I do not know many things, and anything I have to give I can only offer with humility.

So perhaps the two problems are really just one thing in disguise: fear.  Fear that I'll publicly fail to deliver all that I've promised, or that my work will be found wanting, which for me always boils down to the fear of not being loved.  These things are with me always, quietly humming in the background, but these next projects have them shouting and gesticulating and hogging the stage.

So I'm taking my own advice about courage, and recognizing that bigger leaps need to be solidly rooted in bigger love.  I'm trying to let love in more deeply than I ever have before, folding my hands quietly and handing things over to a more abiding trust than I have ever practiced, and confessing my fears so that courage can find me out in the open and not have to search for me under a rock.

Even though standing out in the open like this feels small.


What could you confess, in your journal or here in the comments section that would help courage find you?

"I see you just as you are, and just as you are not, and I have nothing but love for you." --Fortunes

A Year of Being a Beginner

I've been feeling nostalgic this week about the year drawing to a close.  New Year's Day feels like a lifetime ago, and so much has happened this year.  A year ago the Diana+ camera was just something on my wish list.  I thought I should figure out some photography move so I could have some visuals to pair with my writing.  My camera arrived a little into January, and so began my crash course in film, my adventures in cross-processing, and the way shooting saved me when I wrote all the way to the fence.

This year also began with the Portfolio Project game, which Jen and I hatched up in late December and many of you began playing with us in earnest on January 1st.  The game was a 12-week fast and dirty productivity burst, in which we focused on quantity over quality, trusting that even though it wouldn't all be good that some of the raw material would be.  I started podcasting then to have more time to write offline, and ran a podcast through the whole game.  The best of my work--visual and written--from those first three months became the Fortunes collection a few months later.

Being a beginner didn't stop with the photography or the new way of getting creative work done; it was the biggest theme of the year.  I started doing live storytelling on-stage at The Moth Story Slams in Manhattan and Brooklyn.  I found the courage to tell the stories that I never tell, and traced back to the roots of that courage. I met a community of storytellers there that is kind and generous, and that continues to teach me more than I can say.

I attended the Blogher conference for the first time, met many of the Shutter Sisters and all the Kirtsy Girls.  Felt immediately more hopeful about the state of the world knowing that those women are in it.  Meeting online acquaintances face-to-face continued at Squam, my first art retreat and an event that itself held many firsts for me.

I felt the vulnerability and humility of being a beginner over and over again.  I had steep learning curves, which seems to be my way as I crash-course everything I can.  My word for the year was fearless, and I tried to leap into every project and event just as I was, without knowing what it meant or where it would lead.  You might expect that to feel strong like flexed muscles, but it didn't.  It felt crumbly and raw and unsettling--I felt unlaced and undone more than anything else. All. Year. Long. But looking through my photos from the year, I didn't see those things.  All I could see was the beauty of where trust can take you. 

Here's a quick, no-frills and flawed slideshow from the year (I can feel all my film friends cringing already)--just a few favorite moments and images that I'm holding close as I get ready to begin all over again. 

2009: A Retrospective from Jen Lee on Vimeo. Featuring the song, Ageless Beauty by Stars.

"Marching Orders" and A Voice Recovery Revolution

Central Park at Sunset, Diana Instant+, mulitple exposures

Dusk in The Mall, Central Park, Diana Instant+

Here are a couple pics from a beautiful little date we had in the park last night.  And a podcast to start your morning and your week.  I'm talking about receiving "marching orders" and holding big dreams.  (I mention this book.) Being bold enough to say it out loud has power, so the comments are open for you to tell us the marching orders you're currently following, the ludicrous assignments you're still regarding with suspicion, or the big dreams that make you gape and stare.

I went first. You can do it, too:

(Click on the link to listen in your browser, or right-click to download.)

If I wrote you a song

Carriage in Central Park, Diana+It was a few weeks ago when I was trying to wriggle out of the work unfolding before me, and I was having a really hard, fragile-feeling day.  I went into Manhattan for a story slam, and realized once I got there that I was there on the wrong day.  It was Tuesday, and the show wasn't until Thursday.  On the subway ride back home, I watched the sun set behind the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.  The sky was glowing with color and light, and the water below the bridge was a mirror next to the flame.

I was listening to one of Jonatha Brooke's songs on my iPod, and thinking how magic it would be if she was there right that minute.  If she could take one look at me and write the song I needed to hear.  What would that song be, I wondered. And I came home and jotted down these lines.  Then I forgot about them until this morning when I was thinking about a friend. 

If I wrote you a song, it might be something like this.  Because maybe at the end of the day, we are asking the same kinds of questions, trying to work out a truce with the same kinds of fears. I think we all have less frightening lives that woo us from time to time (the coffee shop barista apron beckons me more than you can know).  But I've never regretted being brave.  If you've been thankful, even once, for another person's courage, use that memory to help you believe that someone will be thankful and loving you on the other end of yours.

Love Me This Big (or Song I Wrote for Myself on a Shitty Day)

Can you look in my eyes
and see all that I carry
set it to a sweet tune
so it won't sound so scary
Will you write a lyric about dreaming
and another one about fears
Something that will make sense of
this laughter and these tears

Will you love me this big
will you love me this small
hold my power and passion
and my fear that I will fall
Do you see me on the mountaintop
and crying in my bed
Will you love me this big
will you love me this small

If you say what I need to hear
but put it in a rhyme
it will sneak up on me
when I'm having a good time
Tell me to come out of hiding
because it's not all about me
others are counting on me to speak
so they can also be free

Will you love me this big
will you love me this small
hold my power and passion
and my fear that I will fall
Do you see me on the mountaintop
and crying in my bed
Will you love me this big
will you love me this small