There’s only one week left to register for my online writing workshop before it closes for the year. Head on over to Truth Collaborative to take a look and sign up if you want to join us. Registration closes November 18th.
We are wrapping up the soccer season this weekend and watched the final game yesterday in the chilly wind. There are three weeks left of my semester. December is almost here. I know I’m not alone in this, but 2017 feels like it just began. I can hardly believe it’s almost over.
I love the reflection that the end of the year brings and the goals it prompts us to make for the future. I’m thinking a lot about what I wish for my 2018. I mentioned on Instagram yesterday that I’ve thought lately about that Zora Neale Hurston line when she tells us that “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” After years of questions and hardship and confusion, 2017 was finally an answering year. Everyone in my house learned to stand a little taller somehow. We are steadier on our own feet than we were a year ago – all three of us.
I think the big answer that 2017 gave me is that I can handle it – whatever it might be – and I can do it on my own. When I think back to the past three years of my life and the catastrophes that seem to tumble one after the other, big and small ones, it seems like some divine storm. What other explanation can there be for so many things happening at once? And there are moments in all of that when you think you are not okay and you maybe will never be okay again. But this weird thing happens eventually when you just suddenly find yourself in the most mundane of tasks – grocery shopping, or stepping out of the shower, or stirring dinner on the stove, or sitting in a boy scout meeting or a neighborhood festival – and you are suddenly struck with how okay it feels now. It quietly swells in me in the most simple moments sometimes. 2017 showed me the other side of the storm.
I’m using this last few weeks of the year to ready my own self to take on 2018 with what I hope to be a combination of intention and surrender. I’ve got big ideas and little pockets of time, but sometimes the most fulfilling things can happen with that simple combination.
I think I’m ready to remember myself again now that the seas are quiet and I have a rhythm. I can feel this brewing in big and small ways. I updated my ancient iPhone 5 this week. I ordered clothes last month to freshen up my fall wardrobe. I cancelled plans to do things I want to do instead of heeding the call of a guilt-induced yes to someone else. These things are no big deal really. … The phone adds $20 a month to my budget; the clothes are simple and second-hand; the scary no felt not scary at all once I did it… I find myself wondering why I didn’t do these things before, and I don’t really have a good answer except that I was treading water for quite a while, and it’s easy to forget yourself when you are in that mode. And now it’s time to remember me again.
I caught Rob Bell’s podcast on ambition last week on my drive to work, and it’s worth a listen. It was a message meant to find me at this particular time. (I love it when that happens.) I’ve struggled a bit with wanting things for myself and my own future, I think. I didn’t even realize that I was resisting that until recently, but now I see it so clearly. It’s hard to sort out our ambitions sometimes – what we want and why we want it.
I’ve been feeling the call to greater goals but also feeling both overwhelmed and a little guilty about pursuing them at this season of my life. Rob Bell noted on the episode that the New Testament tells us that it’s only selfish ambition that gets you in trouble. The original translation refers to a mercenary which is so interesting to me – a reminder that doing things for no reason other than your own interests without a nod to a greater purpose and framework will lead nowhere good. But as Bell says, “Proper ambition will move you beyond yourself.”
I took a big leap of commitment, and my Christmas gift to my own self is a series of sessions with a professional book coach and editor. I’ve worked myself to the bone this semester teaching overloads to earn extra money for my household, and I set some aside for this purpose. I’m something like 10,000 words into a book manuscript that is disjointed and incomplete, but it’s a start. And every finished thing begins somewhere. My commitment with these sessions is a commitment to my own self too, a nod to that proper ambition I own. It’s both exciting and scary for me.
But Bell’s show made me feel a little better about that fear as well because he reminds me that “When you own your ambition, what you will notice is how humbling it is. Because when you properly own it, it will – if it is the deepest desire within you – inevitably tap into the divine within you which is the divine within everybody” Or as he says later, “When you go far enough into your own ambition, you strike bedrock, spirit, soul.” I dabbled for years without going deeper into that ambition. I guess it took the storms to find the bedrock, but I’ve found it now. Here we go.
I have things I am meant to do, which doesn’t make me special or more important than anyone else because we all do. But I think the difference for me now is that I am listening and that the call is for the purpose of a greater framework and not a mercenary life. We all have stories that can open the eyes and hearts of other people, and I think mine is meant to make its way to other people as words on the page. I feel that thread between my ambition and the spark in others, and I want to watch it grow. 2017 paved the way for that, and maybe 2018 can finally be the year I can hold that ambition without question or apology and just heed the call. I’m listening. I’m ready.
**** Photos on this post are by my friend Michelle Andrews this fall. If you are in Atlanta, check her out!