Michael Bungay-Stanier’s (of the amazing book Do More Great Work) Quest2015 Prompt:
Who are you willing to disappoint or offend or upset or abandon… for the sake of the Great Work that’s calling you for your best 2015?
Up until a few weeks ago, I would have answered this — my father. My poor father just never understood how his possible biomedical engineering major daughter ended up earning a degree in Creative Writing, and then an MFA in Creative Writing. I was always thwarting his view of who I would be, but at the end of his life, he was proud of me. My book was in the stack of books on the table beside his chair when he died. The most devastating thing my father could say to me (and say it he did at various times in my life) was, “I’m so disappointed in you.”
Disappointment is a bitter and noxious taste in the mouth.
But if I’m honest, the person I’m willing to disappoint, offend, and upset is myself. Because pushing out of my comfort zone will leave me vulnerable to failure. And really, I will periodically disappoint myself, offend my own taste in art, upset myself that my vision exceeds my skill level. I will be disappointed and upset, but I will not let those feelings deter me from pushing further outside my boundaries, push my work further into the world, find new ways to scaffold poetry (my own and others).
But I will not abandon myself. I will never abandon myself. When I was a teenager, my older sister said, “Just remember, the only person you bring to every party is yourself.” At the time, the wisdom of this phrase was lost on me. Now, having left behind countless relationships, communities, and friends, I understand it. I am the only constant in my own life (and if you knew me, you’d be laughing at the idea that I am ever a “constant.”)
So here I sit in the Anchorage airport at 3:55am waiting for the last plane that will take me home. I’ve learned so many things this week as I listened to people tell stories about my father, as I stood with my fingertips on the top of his casket under a high white sky, as I sorted and donated and pondered his possessions, as I learned more about who my brother and sister are and what makes its nest in their hearts.
But I am tired. Perhaps this is the best way to look forward into a new year, stripped to my very core essence. Too tired to overthink, too tired to “prepare a face to meet the face that you meet,” too tired to be anything other than open to what is happening right now. And I write. I write. The words like breadcrumbs down a trail I haven’t fully charted — a trail open to my own choosing.