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My Next Right Thing

Washington National Cathedral | Washington, DC

If you feel something calling you to dance or write or paint or sing, please refuse to worry about whether you’re good enough.  -Glennon Doyle Melton

It’s 3:50 am.

I used to think that there were enough female voices out there. I’ve spent years relishing the words of brilliant, beautiful, brave ladies who I looked up to and took strength from. I used to think that I didn’t have anything to add. Somewhere along the line, I started to think that I didn’t have opinions intelligent enough to take on the shrinking spaces between rocks and hard places that close in on us daily. I thought that enough of us were being heard; too many might make a mess.

Today, I’m going to believe a different story.

Years ago, I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and one of those female voices I’ve heeded, tell the story of poet Ruth Stone’s creative process:

“She told me that when she was growing up in rural Virginia, she would be out working in the fields, and she said she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape. And she said it was like a thunderous train of air. And it would come barreling down at her over the landscape. And she felt it coming, because it would shake the earth under her feet. She knew that she had only one thing to do at that point, and that was to, in her words, ‘run like hell.’ And she would run like hell to the house and she would be getting chased by this poem, and the whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. And other times she wouldn’t be fast enough, so she’d be running and running, and she wouldn’t get to the house and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it and she said it would continue on across the landscape, looking, as she put it ‘for another poet.'”

While I haven’t experienced words quite so concretely, Stone’s experience stuck around. I have been lying awake in bed or driving to across town or listening to someone else speak, and I’ve felt words coming together in my head so purposefully, I knew that they must be written down. But I let the opportunity go because it is time to sleep, time to pay attention to the road, or not the time to interrupt. They will be there later, I tell myself.

They never are.

Sometimes, I’m not doing anything important when the thoughts start to come, but I tell myself I’ll deal with them later. Maybe I’ll jot down a few notes in my iPhone and email them to myself. Surely I’ll be able to pick it up from there.

I never can.

Other times I’ve had the opportunity to share verbally, and I’ve felt the words welling up in me, burning in my chest, speeding my heart. Lately, I’ve chosen not to share, weary from all the times that I’ve quickly been moved to tears, shaking, and incoherence. There is no point in sharing if my purpose will be overshadowed – or worse, changed – by their perception of me, I’ve told myself.

And yet.

I used to think that there were enough female voices out there. But now I know I was confusing the fact that each woman’s voice is enough with the fact that there are enough.

It’s time to start believing my voice is enough. And yours, too.

Last month, I basked in the glow of another of my leading ladies, Glennon Doyle Melton. She said that whenever you find yourself lost, just listen for the still small voice that will tell you “the next right thing to do.” It will never tell you the fourth or fifth right thing to do, but will always tell you the next.

This is mine. I’m cheering you on to find yours.

It’s 5:07 am. This is enough for now.

Love, Emma

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2 Comments

  1. Gael Self says

    Oh wow, Emma! I am not young like you are, but your words shout to me that, even at my age, my voice can be and actually is, enough! Your writing is awesome! Love you!

    Like

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