women of a certain age are like sunflowers; they know how to turn their faces to the sun.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Capturing Lightning in a Jar

This morning when I came down into my studio, there was a bug flitting around the room. He (or she. I didn't ask. It didn't tell.) kept flying towards the open windows, searching for a way out of his dilemma. But the screens kept thwarting his attempts towards freedom.

After a while, I got close enough to trap the bug in my hands and let him back into the great outdoors, where he gratefully flew the coop. (Would that Baby Boy was that easy to let go of...)
And I remembered sweet summer evening twilights spent catching fireflies in mayonaisse jars and adorning ourselves with clover chains (Do kids even know to do this anymore? Or am I dating myself?)

Mom would always make us release the lightning bugs at the end of the evening, her voice prevailing over our protestations. "But M-O-M!" (How do you indicate a whine? Does this do it for you?) "It's MY lightning bug. See? I put grass in the jar and made a nest. Can't I keep it?"

Mom knew we didn't really own that bug. She knew that if you hold onto things too tightly, they die. You have to let things go, if you want them to thrive.


Ownership has been much on my mind this past week.

As you may remember I am a writer, eagerly awaiting the publication of my first book this fall. All of you who publish blogs are writers too, whether you get paid for it or not.

Sometimes our words feel like our "babies." Like babies, they are held within until they are fully formed and ready to meet the world. As if they were children, we fuss over them, making sure our verbs tell the truth, our adjectives don't hurt anyone, our sentences don't go out without their pronouns on, and our paragraphs remember how to find their way home at the end of the day.

Last week, some of my babies moved in with someone else.

Several paragraphs of my writing found its way into someone else's work. Turns out the act was unintentional and completely inadvertant. The responsible party has been just that: responsible. She apologized, begged forgiveness, and felt generally pretty upset about the entire incident. As did I.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the weekend. Somewhere along the road, I let go.

Let go of the hurt; let go of the anger; let go of my ego; let go of the fear that I was being taken advantage of; let go of the very words themselves.

I have been blessed with a great gift. I don't presume to think the talent is mine. As I told Amy this week, I sit and God provides the words. And he (she) hasn't failed me yet.

From the beginning, when I journaled as a way to further therapy and lift myself out of the depths of clinical depression, through my years with the "Writing as Ministry" program at Earlham School of Religion, and on into my current project, the objective of this whole endeavor has been to help and to heal. Not fame; not fortune (10% of all profit goes to the fight against child hunger.) Ministry. Education. Outreach. Hope for a better way to live our lives and for our readers to live theirs.

The words are not mine. They never were. They were given to me by grace, to keep safely for a while, before releasing to the world. Ultimately, the words will be what God means them to be. If they touch someone, it is irrelevant whether they have my name on them. Their purpose is fulfilled; their potential realized.

Sometimes, you have to let things go, if you want them to thrive.


Donna Lee said...

Thank you Susan. Sometimes you say things that resonate within me and I am thankful for that. As I move through my life, and become more and more aware of the interconnectedness of all of us I work hard to let go of things that ultimately are not important. It's that old question "will this matter in 5 hours, 5 days, 5 weeks,etc?".
PS Kids still catch lightning bugs and try to keep them in jars and make flower chains, at least mine did.

Opal said...

What a beautiful post. I've been trying hard to learn this lesson and you've put it in such a way that I think I can better grasp the perspective to take the bull by the horns to let go of my own issues. Maybe this time I can finally let some things go and let them thrive. Thank you, Susan. :-)

margene said...

You do have a way with words. They may be God's but you put them into good order and right form. Always a joy to read you here and look forward to the book, too.

Anonymous said...

by the time I came along, Mom just let me kill the bugs as I saw fit.
I had a tennis racket that would literally glow fluorescent green after an hour or so in the back yard...

-your Mom's "baby boy"