The many solicitations in the mail box remind me that I am rapidly approaching a milestone birthday, one where things change. I need change, I know, but like most things in my life, it’s not that simple.
I have three draft posts open and have for quite some time now.
One is an ode to ambition, both an acknowledgement how being ambitious sets us apart from the mass and how nothing gets done without ambition. The ways we justify & rationalize our ambitions, working to sanitize them so they seem normal & godly, make commitment to inner calling difficult.
The second is on compassion, on the power of love to help us engage and empower those who are struggling to grow and change. As a woman — as a mom — I know how much I need people to lavish my own love upon, to be present for in ways as simple as feeding them and as complex as helping them find and face their own inner voice.
The third is on breakage, on the need to shatter bits of our lives to break through to new possibilities. What do we need to smash and what do we need to hold close? What bits can’t we break, no matter how much we want to, so we need to learn to live with them? As the target patient in my family, I was both the scapegoat and the healer, revealing what others would rather keep hidden, revealing where healing was needed. The obligation to both break through and to be the one who mends breaks, facilitating growth, always left me split and scared.
My history is playing small, using guerrilla strategies to make motions towards change.
There is, however, a good case to be made that at some point, I need to just let fly, opening my big mouth, my big brain, my big spirit and my big heart to speak loudly and see what that release attracts, in the world and in my life.
This is not a case I have been able to make easily, as my ambitions are feminine, my concern has been for those I loved, and I have been as conservative as I have been queer, valuing structures and social norms. I have resisted calling to the point of self destruction, as I have noted before.
A few days ago, though, my mother in the sky gave me a sign that my voice has power. Someone found this blog and read like fury, going deep and chewing through an enormous number of these dense posts. It was a surprise to see that day in my stats because I am used to being just a voice in the wilderness, speaking without being heard.
I also found a bit of feedback from three years ago, stuck somehow as a draft that I had never seen at the time.
You are an incredible writer. And I don’t say this lightly, I’m a journalism grad from Texas Tech. Any books? Where else can I find you? Big fan!
So now, at this time, the question comes to me, simply and powerfully: Do I have the energy for one more rebirth, this time as a very public persona?
I know why I haven’t gone big before, why even after exposing myself and my writing, I didn’t work the room, doing the social connection bit, preferring to have said my piece and let others find me if they were ready and willing to do the work. I never work for an audience, never search for affirmation & acclaim, and in fact don’t trust that kind of feedback when I get it, assuming that there was a kind of shallow, surface connection which was more about others projecting what they need onto me rather than deeply engaging.
Working the crowd just feels to me like missing the point. Maybe, though, those feelings miss the point: if you don’t put yourself out there, don’t let people get to know you, how can they ever engage more deeply?
One of the hardest things for me is my utter lack of a social support system, people who affirm my ambition, who enter my world with compassion, and who support my breaking through. (That’s a recall, in case you didn’t notice.) Instead of engaging public life, taking the knocks and challenges that come with it, I live as a hermit, missing the bruises but also missing the divine surprises that are out there for me.
Yet, a milestone approaches. Change or, well, whatever.
I have trouble when I invoke a voice to write encouraging polemics. One I wrote as a bad example was read to the crowd during an orgasm workshop, sending me into a long and extreme laughing jag. Recently a therapist asked who had sent me the polemic, not grasping that I was always stuck writing them for myself, which makes them almost more sad than empowering.
Still, I seem to need some kind of transcendent encouraging.
I have read your 1997 poem Look At Me/Don’t Look At Me. I know what you fear. From being targeted by your mother to being “too much for the room — too queer, too intense, too intellectual, too visceral, whatever” you have learned to play small, to stay invisible, to own your own voice by not having to satisfy the crowd.
What I want to tell you, though, is that over the decades you have cleaned and cleared your presence. Even though you vividly remember your missteps and blunders, they don’t define you. What defines you is your crystalline vision and your powerful voice, gracious and transcendent even when it illuminates what others want to keep hidden.
You have lived a deep life, discovering by exploring. Now is the time, though, to be the crone you were meant to be, the grand-mère who returns her gifts to those who are still seeking, those who can incorporate bits of your hard-earned wisdom into their own expression.
Be seen. Speak up. Shine. Now is the time, no matter how it inspires fear in others who would rather see you play small. Go on with a bang, not a whimper. The world needs more Callan, especially a Callan who can convince others to bring their smarts, their wit and their spirit out to be more beautifully themselves.
Change comes, if you want it to or not. The only way to make it better is to be bold and take ownership, breaking the rules to make new ways to be. When people see you, some will see you shine, but only if you own that brilliance rather than just flashing brightly and then falling back into the tiny darkness.
Show yourself and you will be seen. That will let people see you and your heart. And if they see a bit of what I know is there, well, I know they will be moved.
You are lovely, even if you don’t always see that when you look in the mirror. You are loveable not just in spite of who you are but because of who you are. Some people will see that and be able to respond. Let them find you. Let them love you.
Shine. It’s your time.
Or, at least, that’s what I would say to someone like me.
One thought on “Plundaga”
Callan, you have said this to someone very like you, and a great deal more over the years.
It’s been nearly twenty years since I first came across your writing. Then I was trying to work out whether or not to transition. I did – because I discovered that, even though I don’t pass, I’d much rather be mistaken for a man than mistaken for a woman. You told me it would be hard and lonely, and it was. I was the sole carer for my mother, who suffered from dementia.
Since then, I’ve been mostly unemployed and still live in the small village in Northern Ireland where I was born. I’m 63 now, feeling my age, and have often wondered who would be there to care for me when my time comes.
When my mother died six years ago, I joined a local writing group, and since then I have got a little work editing, proofreading, and ghostwriting, though not enough to make a living yet. But I have made a few good friends, and publish a small on-line local Arts magazine at corncrakemagazine.com
I am also now (for what it’s worth) Fermanagh’s champion slam poet. (BTW, if you’re not already a fan of Andrea Gibson, look them up on YouTube).
So this is just to say Thank You, and to send you a poem of mine that I should have sent four years ago, inspired by your post Into Abundance.
Inspired by these blog posts: