“The original, shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out of all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.”
~~~ Frederick Buechner
What is your original self? Our culture, our families, and the entire process of America’s educational system train us not to listen to our original selves.
Instead we listen to the you need to support yourself voice and the that’s crazy voice. All these messages (and so many more) bombarding us until we reach a moment when we’ve forgotten altogether what we dreamed we do with this fleeting precious life.
Jealousy is a good guide to finding your original self. Not jealousy over things like having more money or a smaller nose or trimmer figure, but the kind of jealousy that cuts down into the meat. When I find myself narrowing my eyes at someone because they’ve won a fellowship that I didn’t even borrow applying for, I know I’m onto something. I might be wishing that I had won the fellowship, but more likely I’m wishing that I’d had the confidence to apply for it, that I believed in my own skills enough, that I’d allocated the time to my art.
Sometimes it’s just a little tug in the gut that tells me I’m on the right path. The way my heart races a bit when I get near a bookstore. How my ears perk up when someone starts talking about a poet I don’t know.
Today I read two poems thrilled me, both from the February issue of Poetry: “Upon Reading That Eric Dolphy Transcribed Even the Calls of Certain Species of Birds” by John Murillo and “The Wolves” by Paisley Rekdal. Both poems contained emotional honesty expressed in unusual and resonate language. Just exactly the kind of poems that I aspire to write. I could feel both of them in my body. Thunk, thunk, like two arrows deep into my chest.
There, struck through by those two fine poems, my original self pinned to the world. Same self that at thirteen used to hide away in her bedroom with a thesaurus and a notebook. Same self that nineteen was smoking cigarettes on the rooftop while reading Rilke. Same self that took the big jump to apply to grad school for her MFA when she was 40, even though there were some who said she was “too old.”
Oh hello, original, shimmering self. Nice to see you again. Maybe you’d like to stick around for awhile.