When I was in my mid-twenties, I was part of a women’s group that met once a month in the evenings to discuss readings about politics, the environment, religion, women’s health, and our emotional lives. It was not the first women’s group I was ever in, nor was it the last, but it was very special because of its diversity– with women from 21 to 61, from different backgrounds, regions, religions, races, and classes.
I was one of the younger women, and I admired and appreciated the wisdom of the ones who had had long marriages, and jobs, and children, and skills for living. One of these women was Beverly.
Beverly’s birthday was coming, and for reasons I can’t quite remember now, I didn’t have time to get her a present, so I wrote her a card and mailed it.
A couple weeks went by, and the next meeting was at Beverly’s house.
After we had gathered our cups of tea and glasses of wine and plates of snacks, we sat in a circle in Beverly’s lovely living room, surrounded by art and pictures of her lawyer husband and beautiful children. I was feeling young, and poor, and underemployed. And then Beverly suddenly jumped up and said, “Wait! Before we begin, I want to read you Cassie’s poem!”
What, I thought to myself, is she talking about? What poem?
And she proceeded to take the birthday card I had sent her off the mantle and read it out loud.
What she read were the words that became the poem, “Wishes.”
the wind across your porch
the rose and its cycles
your husband’s patience
your children’s laughter
how flowers prosper
a turtle in your yard
lizards on white wood
letters from friends
books you get lost in
how leaves come and go
the opposite of pain
wind from the North in summer
wind from the South in winter
wind from the West most days
wind from the East when we need rain
butterflies in daylight
moths at moon
I had not meant it as a poem.
But lovely Beverly saw it as a poem.
And so it became one: later that evening, I copied the words from the card onto a scrap of paper so I could take them home and type them up and make them a poem.
This is how we co-create.
We allow people to see in us what we cannot yet see.
And we rise to their vision.
I encourage you to take this story and apply it to your own personal narrative to see what lessons in “enoughness” and gratitude might be waiting for you. Here are three suggestions:
- Look back through what you’ve already written—seminar papers, articles, abstracts, chapters, journal entries—and see what might be already “good enough” to submit for publication.
- Ask a friend to share with you one thing she admires about your work. Let yourself journal about this quality and see if you can integrate her vision into your self-image.
- Plan a Skype session with some friends, colleagues, mentors, or grad school buddies. Let yourself connect with others instead of always trying to handle everything on your own.
Cassie Premo Steele, Ph.D., designed her class for women academics, The Feminar, as a way to give support and accountability to women scholars who struggle with questions of privilege and oppression, reason and emotion, sabotage and empowerment. She is the author of 13 books and blogs regularly at the Huffington Post.