Kelsi and I have been having a lot of conversations lately about writing. She’s been writing a book about a girl with OCD and it’s been such a joy to see her using her gift of writing.
I have been passionate about writing for decades and have read numerous books on the topic over the years. Sometimes when we’re talking, I find myself wanting to implant some of my learned knowledge inside Kelsi’s head so she won’t have to work as hard at the craft of writing as I have. Certain things she says triggers a memory of something I learned from a great author and my first instinct is to tell her all about it.
Here’s what I’ve done instead; I’ve trusted the fact that Kelsi is already such a talented writer and she has wisdom beyond her years so she will pick up the books or listen to the podcasts she needs to hear when the time is right for her. Sure, I may suggest an author like Elizabeth Gilbert or Anne Lamott or Steven Pressfield when it’s appropriate to do so, but to convey everything I have learned about writing to her in just a few conversations would be counterproductive.
Interestingly, while I was reading this morning I came across this short paragraph by Hugh Prather that spoke directly to my thoughts on teaching Kelsi what I have learned. In Love and Courage, Prather says:
“There doesn’t appear to be a way to give someone else what you know. Whenever I think I have succeeded in keeping someone from going through one more little hell, the long run proves me wrong. We each have to learn it all over again for ourselves. If we say we are all in God’s hands, perhaps it is arrogant to believe we can improve on the job.”
What I have learned about teaching Kelsi and Keaton important life lessons is probably exactly opposite than most would suspect. You see, I believe we all have an innate wisdom that guides us. The last thing my children need is me running my mouth about how smart I am and how dumb they are because I have been on this earth longer than them. Age does not equal wisdom and authority—one visit to any Walmart proves that. I speak loudest and clearest to my children when I let my life do the talking. A life well-lived that can be witnessed on a daily basis speaks volumes compared to forcing them to see how smart I think I am.
Whenever someone starts yakking about how smart they are your first instinct is to say, “Yeah, but you do this, and you do that.” So I know I’m not perfect in this department, but whenever possible I let my life speak more than my mouth does.
In much the same way as I attempt to do in my writing, I strive to teach my children to be comfortable with their humanness. Friends and loved ones make mistakes. We will all fail one another probably sooner rather than later. Life can get messy and confusing at times. But it’s important to remember we are all human and learning as we go. Friends and loved ones sometimes have to convey their thoughts several times before they say what they really mean. Prather speaks beautifully to this as well:
“It’s becoming clear to me that none of us fully knows what we are saying. In conversation we don’t have the luxury of a rough draft. Just take a good look at individuals trying to talk: every time they open their mouths it’s an experiment and a gamble, often a minor disaster. Our friends are the ones who don’t hold this against us. Even if one had unlimited time to word each thought, there is no fact or feeling so obvious, so simple, that it would fit perfectly into a sentence.”
Isn’t that wonderful? Everything that comes out of our mouth, or the mouths of those we encounter, is a rough draft. If I truly grasp that concept then I don’t have to walk around offended anymore at the little things my family or coworkers said wrong. It’s all just a rough draft, man. Or as Anne Lamott would say; “All good writing starts with shitty first drafts.” Much of our speech begins with shitty first drafts also. If given the opportunity to edit our speech much like we would edit our writing, most of us would definitely go through a truckload of erasers.
I spent a lot of years in the dark. I felt as though I woke up in the pitch black, no idea where I was. I would feel around with my hands to find a familiar nightstand or closet door. Nothing. I ran my hands along the walls of this unfamiliar place desperately trying to find my whereabouts. Still nothing. I bumped into what must’ve been a dresser—because dressers are in bedrooms—but it still gave me no clue to where I was. Panic set in. Eventually I found my way to a flat surface on the wall that felt like a window. I found a toothpick in my pocket so I scratched and clawed in the dark at this flat surface until finally a tiny hint of light illumined on the other side. My panic faded. I still didn’t know where I was but I suddenly remembered I have an uncanny ability to figure out my next step in any situation. Finally, I made my way out of the dark. I began to see clearly and make sense of my surroundings. I learned to trust my instincts and trust the process. What felt like a lifetime of fumbling in the dark is now a distant memory. Having emerged from such a dark place has done wonders for my eyesight. I don’t see the world through the same lens I once did. My eyes have shifted to see the beauty in life. I now attempt to serve as a flashlight for those who find themselves in their own dark place.
So back to talking to Kelsi about her writing . . . . I have no doubt she’s going to learn what she needs to learn in perfect timing. I wholeheartedly trust the process. I unequivocally trust her innate wisdom will shine through and will navigate her to the information she needs when she needs it.
Living in the mysterious flow of life is less about control and more about acceptance. I am just kidding myself if I think I have any control anyway. Life is so much better when I let each moment unfold inherently and effortlessly. Every moment is exactly the way it’s supposed to be and every lesson is learned the minute I’m ready to learn it. This is true for Kelsi and it’s true for me.
I trust the process!
Peace my Friends!
PS. Here’s a link to Kelsi’s story Finding Me.