I am sitting in the seats of the auditorium beside my best friend and her husband, and I am crying. The source of my tears is Steven Pressfield, the author of the book, the tome, the sacred vessel that has changed my life, The War of Art.
I am crying because he has touched upon a nerve I had long thought dead and buried, dormant and decayed to the point of no recognition.
But, I was wrong.
Here I sit , crying silently into my hands, weeping as though a child who’d lost her mittens or favourite cat or stuffed toy. I am hoping to keep this from my friend but, as always, she seeks me out and is there to help me up and succour me.
At the point where I coved my face with my hands I felt her walk past me and, not knowing what she was going to do, just sat here and waited.
“Hi, um, I have a friend here who has gone through just what you’ve been talking about.” I hear her say into the microphone.
Startled, I look up at her and immediately know just what she is going to do and, when it happens, I am ready. I take my turn at the microphone and, after hugging her tightly, I turn towards my teacher and say my name.
“Hi, I’m Loretta Stephens, (just like that, I am Loretta Stephens, I have no idea why but, I’ve always just said it that way.)
“Hi,” Steven says. “How are you?”
“I’m doing okay,” I say drying up my last sniffle.
“I’m here to tell you that I know exactly what you’ve been talking about. I’ve spent my whole life doing just what you’ve said, putting myself last and squashing what my calling is to put others first. My whole life I’ve spent doing that. And it’s a little heartbreaking to realize that that’s what they were doing, my family, putting me last and in effect telling me that I wasn’t worthy-of doing what I was doing, of doing the thing that made me happy-every time I felt like I had some space to finally do what it was that I really wanted to do I always felt that, here they come to interrupt me, to stifle me and bring me out of whatever it was that I was doing for me so that I can do for them, instead. They always let me know that whatever I was doing was not as important as whatever it was that they wanted from me at that moment.
It’s gotten so that I’ve squashed my calling so far deep that it’s become like an adventure-a quest just for me to find it again! Sometimes I feel like I’m in an Indiana Jones movie or a Lara Croft film, going on an expedition just to find my calling again and brig it back to me.”
“What do you think it’s doing?” Steven asks.
“I dunno,” I shrug dismissively, “Playing cards, hanging around somewhere…waiting for me to find it, I guess.”
“But, it’s still there?”
“…Yes,…I think so…” I say growing more and more sure with each new word. “I can feel it…with everything I have I know I still feel it…ike it’s always been there, you know? I think this whole time I was waiting, too, to finally have the map I needed to find it, them.”
“Yeah,” I laugh, “There’s more than one, there are many, in fact, I love to do a lot of things.”
“Do you mind if I ask what they are?”
“No, it’s art. I love to create, anything…sometimes they work but other times they don’t and…I’m okay with that.”
“Did you hear yourself?”
“…I did…” I smile.
“That’s part of the process, too.” he says.
“I know, your book taught me that. It took me so long, to know that. After countless bouts of encouragement from my friends and building up of my confidence-which I still struggle with-I feel I finally know this.
But, I’m still working on putting it into practice.” I laugh.
“It takes time,” he laughs with me.
“It breaks my heart everyday to know that I could have had a different life than I have now, I could have been living the dream, the life I’ve always wanted, the life I should have had if not for them-if they would’ve only put me first and let it be known to me that I was worth putting first.”
“I know it’s been a long time but, you’re here now. Be thankful that you’ve discovered this now. Some people go their whole lives and never get to where you are.”
The audience applauds around me bringing me somewhat out of my bubble-like reverie with Steven. I am only slightly shocked to see people around me as if they only just arrived out of the ether, spectres and hallucinations of time and space come to jar my memory and dissolve my resolve.
“Give yourself some credit, it sounds to me as though you’ve come far.”
My best friend is the first to start the second round of clapping.
When the cacophony dies down I ask the question that has haunted me for years and what has truly brought me up to the mic stand.
“I’m older now, can I still have an artistic career at this age?”
Without even asking how old I am he simply says, “Yes. of course you can.”
The applauses rings even louder, drowning out the other queries have, the speculations the misgiving, the doubts. I am left with all the answers I am going to get and maybe, all I am ever going to need.
“May I ask what it is that you do? What kind of artist are you?”
After years of denial and shame, and lack of confidence I stand up to the mic and I say as strongly as I can, “I’m a writer and a photographer…,among other things.”
“That’s great.” he says with a genuine smile. “Thank you so much for sharing.”
“Yes, thank you.” Say Oprah.
I nod my head and silently , and gratefully head back to my seat, refreshed and anew, as if washed in a new bath of clearest, purest water the eyes have ever had the good fortune to look upon.
I feel like nothing can stop me now, only myself. I feel like I now have a handle on my past and more importantly, on my future. I feel like I can actually see clearly now, for the path is right there in front of me…I feel like… I just may have a future…in whatever it is that I do.
I feel like this is what freedom feels like.
*This blog is about so much more than just writing. It’s about my quest to find myself and my true creative nature, my centre. My journey has only just begun, even this late in the game, I may just still have some time…