Updated: Sep 24, 2019
“I want to be cracked open,” Kathy said. She was talking about her writing. Kathy is one of my private coaching clients. We’ve been working together since April. She writes a lot about her childhood. Today she wrote about the summer of ’54 when she was ten. Her writing is raw and honest and her use of imagery is stunning, vivid. When we started working together she held back. Her work was more confined, controlled, self-conscious. "I don't know what to write," she'd tell me. “Everyone says I should write a book about my life,”
She isn't the first client that's said this to me and I can say with surety, she won't be the last.
“But I don’t know how to start, or where to start.” She said. "I don't know what to write,"
That’s the thing about writing, we often don’t know where to start. Or how. And sometimes that other voice creeps into our consciousness and sounds off, Why do this at all???
“I feel like I have so much personality,” she continued. “So much, because I’ve been living my whole life in a way to get approval.”
Wow, I thought, This is so familiar. Not only for me, or Kathy. There are others out there. Other's trying to live creative lives. Trying to thrive. Others who feel that in some form or another they’ve been living their lives for someone else.
Trying so hard to please your mother, father, brother, spouse, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your sister, partner, your boss. It arrives in so many different areas of your life that it's sometimes hard to recognize. You tend to put other's needs before you're own. You're a people pleaser. You can't say no. Guilt or shame keep you from saying yes to something you'd love to do.
Kathy shook her head and looked down at her hands, folded on her lap. I imagined her, a 10-year-old girl, dressed in her plaid skirt and white blouse with the peter pan collar. “I’m afraid to write,” she said. She took in a deep breath. “I’m afraid,” she said and sighed. She looked up at me. “But that’s how I feel about anything in my life.”
Being cracked open is scary. It's messy. It's unpredictable. And, it's where your heart is. The heart of your voice. The heart of your words. The heart of your art. The heart of your life.
If you want to be good. I mean GOOD with a capital GREAT. Then you have to be willing to take a risk. Willing to be cracked open. Cracked open and then you have to be willing to explore that dank and musty cave. Dark, cavernous, uneven under your step, you feel that you could trip and fall, twist an ankle. You can make a fool of yourself. You might have people laugh at you, judge you, tell you why you're wrong. Or they'll reach out like I did today.
I smiled and shared with her my own experience of trying to be someone perfect. How my whole life was all about trying to be the best, to be likable, to fit in. But I didn't. I kept choosing people based on how they reacted to me. The thing was they were reacting to who I was TRYING to be. Not to who I was. And so, if you were to look behind me, you would have seen too many broken girlfriend friendships in my wake. Then I read her words back to her as if I were reading a memoir:
I want to be cracked open. I feel like I have so much personality that's in the way of being who I really am. And it came from living in a way to get approval. I'm afraid to write. But that's how I feel about anything in my life.
"Wow," she said, "That's amazing. It sounds like you read that from a book."
"I did," I said. "I read that from your book."
You're afraid, I'm afraid, the girl standing in line next to you at Starbucks, she's afraid. Not all the time, but sometimes. And it's in the 'do it anyway' attitude that you will find your genius. You'll find your heart. You'll find your voice.
You'll transform. Your art, your writing, your life. You will be changed for having cracked yourself open.