When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.
I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own.
So settle in, and I’ll get you a cuppa something refreshing…
And let’s have a conversation…
Tonight, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before.
I’m boldly going to a local coffee shop,
to read a poem at an open mic poetry night.
No, it won’t be the first time I’ve read my poetry aloud to an audience. This isn’t even the first time I’ve read this particular poem for an audience, and the last time, the audience was much larger – on the order of a hundred people!
But there’s a huge difference.
The first time, I read to unschoolers at a talent show that might possibly be the most supportive event I’ve ever been a part of. There was lots of space, and lots of relative anonymity. At the same time, many of the people in that audience knew me, my family, and our story.
This time, I’ll be reading to an indeterminate group of people in an intimate setting – the library of Professor Java’s Coffee Sanctuary.
I have no idea who will be there, other than me, and most likely my eleven year old daughter.
To make it even more butterfly-inducing, my poem is deeply emotional, deeply intimate –
It’s a poem that commemorates the twelve-day life of our second child, Elijah James. And today is the twelfth anniversary of his death on July 25, 2003.
When I saw the notice for the open-mic night, and when it was, I felt a zinging ‘a-ha!’ feeling. I tried not to feel it – I’m not especially comfortable with groups of strangers watching me; I prefer a higher degree of anonymity in a crowd. To be the focal point, in an emotionally vulnerable moment…and in front of people I don’t know…or, maybe, even some that I do know…
And the type of thing I feel I need to do, for inner reasons that aren’t easily articulated. It’s a threshold I haven’t crossed before, and the timing is right…
I think these moments come to us all, and they’re pivotal. Do we stay where we are, in our comfort zone, playing it safe? Or do we pay attention to that zinging, “This is it” feeling?
I’ll admit that there have been times when I’ve turned away, run off hiding, pretended that I didn’t see the opportunity. But, from time to time, that sense of rightness has compelled me – when I traveled cross-country on a train with fifty dollars to my name, to take a job at the Grand Canyon, where I knew no one. When we decided to shift our parenting model to one that’s peaceful and partnering. When I chose to release relationships that weren’t mutually beneficial.
Something’s changed in me, since I entered my 40s. I’ve realized that this is my life to live, and, since no one else can live it for me, I’ve got to be the one who decides how to live this, my one and only life (well, I think it is, if you don’t count the fictional worlds I very often inhabit!).
I draw inspiration from people, music, literature – wherever I see daring, and openness, honesty, vulnerability, and the spark of passion. That’s why I’ve included the photos and music in this post – these things remind me off why I’m doing what I’m doing in only a few hours, now…
How about you?
Have you ever done something that was very scary to you, but where you just knew you had to do it to grow? How did you prepare for it? What was it like just before? During? After?
My nerves, and my soul, are a little frazzled, today. I’m just going to sit here quietly and listen. Please, go ahead and talk amongst yourselves; I find it fascinating, inspirational and soothing.
And then I’m off to explore that new world, and dedicate this growth to a soul who didn’t have the chance to stretch in this way…maybe not where no man has gone before, but certainly where no Shan Jeniah has grown before.