Do What Moves You
"It's what comes in the wake of this experience—the connections with other souls and the opportunities to touch lives and the responsibility to share your work with those who need you—that's what fulfills you." My writing is something I've been thinking about a lot lately. Like a seesaw on a playground, I teeter between feelings of inadequacy and belief in my abilities, never quite able to reach a perfect balance. So when I read this blog post and the quote above by Tim Lawrence, shared on Facebook by a good friend and fellow Lyme Disease warrior, I was nearly moved to tears. When I was first diagnosed with Lyme, I continued to pursue my dream of publishing my book because it was a lifelong goal, I needed to give myself a future when my future seemed uncertain, and because I wanted to leave something of myself behind. My friends and family helped to make that happen, and I'm still so moved by that generosity and support.
But dreams have a funny way of expanding. Once you reach one goal, you turn to the next. So it was with getting better. So it is with my writing.
When I finished writing The Last Letter--the fictionalized account of my experiences with Lyme Disease--I started dreaming bigger. I wanted to find a literary agent, I wanted to get a traditional publishing deal, I wanted to share my story--this story--and reach more people. All I've ever wanted to do was help people, inspire people--offer people the same hope and support that's been offered to me without condition, and I optimistically (and somewhat naively) thought this was my chance to do that.
But then the relapse came. As my health tumbled back into decline, I felt my self-worth plummet. I felt helpless, useless. What purpose did I have now that I couldn't work, when for a few months I'd even lost my ability to read and write?
Where were my dreams supposed to lead me now?
When the fog began to pass, I did the only thing I knew how to do: I wrote. I wrote about the pain of feeling left behind, I wrote about the guilt of being sick in a world that idolizes health, I wrote about an unrelenting fear of being abandoned, forgotten, passed over for someone who could walk more than a few steps without being overcome by fatigue. I wrote about survival and living and needing to do something other than existing.
And then, in those dark hours, I wrote my way back to hope.
The Last Letter was the book I needed to write last year, when I thought this illness was behind me but I still needed to heal emotionally from its scars. In November, a few months after I relapsed and began treatment again, I began writing the book that I've always wanted to read. Once again, writing was helping me create a future for myself, giving meaning to my life when the days blurred one into the next.
Once again, writing was helping to heal a broken spirit.
But I've had to figure out what I want that future to look like. These past few months, the rejections for The Last Letter have piled in from literary agents. It's disheartening at worst, another life lesson at best. Because I've had to take a good, hard look at myself again--I've had to build back my own self-worth that took hit after hit from this illness, I've had to figure out what to hold onto and what to let go, I've had to distinguish between the part of my dreams that have changed and the part that has remained the same.
What I've found is renewal of a sense of purpose, a return to what I love, and I'm learning to let that guide me in all that I am and everything I do.
I want to write books and tell stories and share pieces of my soul. I want my words to be read; I want these words to mean something. This has always been my one true dream for my art, no matter how that happens, no matter what that looks like in the end.
This is what I'm understanding now. I may never have the career I once longed for--the career I still envy in others--and that's OK. I think I've always known this, and while it doesn't mean I'll give up trying, it does mean that I can move forward and spend my (still-limited) energy on aligning my goals with this purpose, with more of what I love. Because as long as I can share these stories, as long as I can move people with my words, as long as I can change one life for the better...
I'll have succeeded.