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Showing Up and our Messy Voices

By Jennie LaFortune

I stand in my mom’s kitchen and squeeze the jar of honey, waiting for it to drip out of the bear in skinny messy lines, coating the yogurt. It’s the end of July and it’s sweet and golden with an occasional pulse of heaviness.

My mom just asked a question with love in a clumsy way. It was a tiny pin prick and my air slowly emptied, oblivious to the onlooker and obvious to me. I knew time was limited before all the air left and I’d be left flat deflated, so I answered with haphazard honesty then swiftly hopped in the car to drive down the hill back home while gulping in the hot, sticky air.

One day I’ll write about it, I thought. That’s some good content right there. I may have even mouthed it–so familiar and perceptible the sentiment.

I began to think as my car chugged through the 105 degree air-oven that the writing blocks excused as healthy times of fallow, or I’m not writing about that yet rationale is really getting old. It’s been said a lot because it’s true, but writing and life are connected. The same, really, in a lot of ways. I’m no fool and I’m knee-deep in doing “the work” as they say, and I know that my polished reservation to dive into the grit of some of my particular life stories has 99.5% chance of being the same issue of why they don’t get my voice and my honestly on paper as well: not fully showing up and owning them.

They need some life. Some oxygen. A voice of ownership. A this is my story and I don’t care who knows it type of hutzpah. I know what happens when I talk and tell those stories to my people, and I know what happens when I messily write and process just for me…a goodness and understanding that allows me to feel aligned. But that’s where a lot of it stops. There are beautiful scraps of those stories woven into short pieces here and there, but often prideful insecurity diverts to something universal, or lighter, or instructional that turns to your general run-of-the-mill reflection and not the guts of the thing itself. I believe to stand inside your story and put it in words and sentences and paragraphs with whole-hearted abandon is a recipe for breath, space, and peace in your life . It feels raw and like you might as well be running through a field butt-naked, but I believe in doing both even though I haven’t fully done either at 100% capacity. A friend told me today that she thinks acting counter-intuitively to some of our reservations is really a lifeline to freedom. To let go of our false sense of control – releasing our white-knuckled grip on the edge of what we think is a cliff and then realizing the ground was 12 inches below our feet all along.

It’s perception and a little shame, and a dash of hustling for our worthiness that gets me, us, them to push the abort button on really good, really messy stories, but gosh I love when people are true and honest and messy. And one of my favorite writers and people who does this is Anne Lamott. She says, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” There’s a certain grounding that is coming with age and it shows up in my admiration of those who are careful storytellers but also truthtellers. Those who model being unafraid of the grey areas and being liked by everyone while still being open and generous with love and acceptance. I see that as spiritual development and it’s something just peeking out of the bud for me at this stage of life while I am looking on and up to them to have my own sticky words and find more voice.

About Jennie LaFortune

(Prose Board) is from Salt Lake. Figuring life out one book, beach, road trip, museum, and front porch conversation at a time. Perpetually on the search for the best dark chocolate, finest pen, and greenest field. When she's not teaching high school, she loves to spend time with friends and family, the shore of any ocean, holding her friends' babies, or taking long neighborhood walks.

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