October 19, 2012
When you want to stay dressed
So here's the deal, friends. I've been out.
Out of words. Out of steam. Out of touch. Just plain out.
And I have this crazy friend who is more like a lifeline and a year ago we decided to "do this thing until it becomes a thing." We didn't have any big plans really; we just knew it was time to get busy being brave. Stop lingering in the back row, start giving what we had. I had stories to tell. She had words to speak over women. And we had quite a year together- doing that thing- whatever it was.
She is one stage ahead in life, with big kids in big-kid school. She does life first, then coaches from a distance. She encourages me to love my man with a thumbs-up, teaches me to spur my children on toward cleaner teeth.
And for whatever reason, for all these years, she has taken on this friendship. Calling, speaking bold encouragement right through the phone and over the distance. Praying me into and home from work, and driving north on 95 to share some weekend courage.
The other day she proposed something crazy (the way she does) and I protested (the the way I do). While chatting in my ear, she brought me up to speed on her latest Wednesday. And her Wednesdays are all wrapped up in her "doing her thing" and she stands up brave in front of women and she is as real as they come.
She calls it being naked and we talk about that a lot.
Not about being naked, but about how it feels to put honest words out there. How the words can't be taken back. How being brave can leave you a little over-exposed. We talk about how the wanting to hide can overwhelm, how the self-critic whispers in the aftermath, how it's a fight every single time to not cover up thick ... decide right then and there:
"Next time I'll show less skin."
And while she chatted in my ear from another state, I drove and listened and I made two wrong turns before pulling over altogether. Because she asks tough questions and tells straight truths. She requires my full attention. So I parked in the bookstore lot and turned off the engine. I spent the better part of my free afternoon with my car in park.
I cried and told her how I just don't have anything to say these days. She didn't bite. I told her again.
I told her I can't be a good mom and write too. I told her I'm too tired.
And then I told her one more thing and it fell out of my mouth like a brick.
I told her I don't like being naked anymore, that I don't know how to write words that aren't see-through. That, right about now? It all feels too risky.
"What if I can't do it anymore?"
"What if I can't keep writing the real?"
"Because I do have things to say. I just don't want to say them." And my chatty friend said, "Mmm hmm."
I hung up after crying some more, wandered into that bookstore and bought an empty Moleskin.
It's still empty and the irony is this: I've self-talked myself right out of words.
And so I guess I have to write about being afraid or else I just may never write again.
And her brilliant plan, the one I protested, was that I write every day in October. Just like last year. And naturally, I froze up afraid this week ... and the week before that ... spoke that whole line again about not having any words. But I've been chewing on my lower lip over here, watching October come and go. We've camped and we've picked pumpkins, plucked apples in a mountain orchard.
All without words.
But my friend called again last night, always right on time. She reminded me gently that we are stewards of words, not keepers. Borrowers of our gifts, not hoarders. And when we manage them too closely, we can snuff them right out. And instead of slimming down in the sharing, we fatten up on all things self-indulgent. Fear, insecurity, pride ... All the while, we suffocate while others search about for gifts we have - and won't offer. Words, time, compassion, joy.
And I imagine Wednesday mornings with all of those ladies in Florida, poised and ready with my friend nowhere to be found -- hiding out somewhere with words she won't share.
This would never happen, because my friend is fiercely brave. But if it did? What a shame to miss out on her, in her shoes and her bangles. Her sharp, no-frills, no-fear truth that cuts right to the heart in a most ironic and tender way.
Listening to her, I'm certain of this. Her wealth to share with the world? It's truth and grace all wrapped up in words. Every time she stands up, she speaks it. And women drink her in,
because it is the truth that women really want to hear.
And my friend will tell me it is costly. And in the same breath she will tell me it is the only way.
Last night she said, "You have got to speak up. You don't get to stay quiet after you say 'yes' to a gift. You risk everything now. You risk everything to share what you have."
Because what she is really saying is this: "What is your other option?"
And I know the answer to this one.
I think I'm living it right now. And from where I stand, I'm wondering if feeling a bit naked is really so bad after all. I'm thinking this stifling cover-up is way worse.
I'm thinking that not risking is the risk.
And maybe this is the way. Being keenly aware of our bare spots, we give what we have anyway. And in the crazy risking, we shrink rightly into Him ... into and under the One who covers all.
So, here's to starting again. Here's to putting words on paper. Here's to remembering how to undress, and how to put on God. Taking off the fear, the pride, the whatever ... and dressing in the only other way I know.
Wrapped tight in truth and grace,
and hoping that's all you see.
Wondering, friends. What is your gift to give away? And is it worth the risk?