“When you are born, your work is placed in your heart.”
I recently came across this quote by the brilliant Lebanese-America poet and writer, Kahlil Gibran, author of one of the most beloved inspirational books of all time, “The Prophet.” As soon as I heard it, I had one of those spiritual, transformative moments where you know the truth of something down into the very center of your soul. The poet could have been talking about me.
I have known that I wanted to be a writer since I was 5 years old. I learned to read at an early age. My older sister was two years ahead of me and when she learned to read, I sat with her while she did her reading homework and learned, too. By the time I started school myself, the traditional Alice and Jerry Readers were a piece of cake for me. I had already moved on to The Bobbsey Twins Series by the age of 6, and by 9 or 10 I was devouring Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. However, it was when I was 5 years old that my mother shared what was to me the revelation of a lifetime, one that would determine the course of my life.
Sitting with a story book on the floor as my mother sat in her favorite chair knitting, I asked her where books came from. She explained that someone came up with an idea for a story and then wrote it down. Someone else added pictures, put it all together, and you had a book. Her answer hit me like a spiritual awakening! I could almost see white light all around me and a chorus of angels singing Hallelujeh! Why, my little head was always filled with stories! I told them to my dolls, and together we went on great adventures together, at least in my vivid imagination. Once I had my writing skills up to par with my reading skills … why, I could write my own books! At that moment, the work that was placed in my heart when I was born opened like a cherished present on Christmas morning.
Of course, as the years went by, the rest of the world did their very best to persuade me that being a writer was just a flight of fancy. All of the usual reasons why it wasn’t possible were laid before me: “You can’t make a living as a writer; you’ll starve; only a few lucky people get published; you have to know someone in the business; writing isn’t a real job.” Then, of course, as we are also talking about cultural norms about women in the 50’s and 60’s, we have to add: “You’ll just get married and have kids like everyone else, and then you’ll forget all about it. Get a job as a secretary until you get married and save for your wedding instead of hiding up in your room writing!”
My hopes dashed, I let my parents, well-meaning though they were, live my life for me. I got a job in the city, worked as a secretary, got married, had kids … but I never stopped writing. I wrote when the kids napped. I wrote in the middle of the night. I got up before anyone else did and wrote. I sent out submission after submission and got enough rejection letters to wallpaper my kitchen. Still, I wrote. I went to the library and got out every book about writing that I could find. After 5 or 6 years of rejection from the publishing world, my husband handed me one as well. Now a divorced mother of two small children, going back out into the workforce took precedence over my writing. I still found time to write, though, even if it was only for myself. I was able to find a few jobs where I could use the writing skills I had learned on my own, like writing press releases, writing copy for business-to-business marketing tools, and newsletters for non-profits, along with the usual administrative assistant duties. It was still writing, and it was helping to sharpen my writing even if I didn’t know it. It wasn’t until 1992, when the last kid left the nest and I walked away from it all, moving out-of-state to a quiet little village to finally write full-time, that my life-long knowing turned into a reality.
The point of this story is to say that all of us, whether we know it or not, have our work hiding in our hearts like that last present hiding way behind the Christmas tree, the one we didn’t see because of all the glitz and glitter of the bigger presents in the front. Even if we think we don’t know what our work is, what we are meant to do that makes the life we are living an authentic life worth living, it is still there. Every once in a while we will get a little nudge in a certain direction, or something will catch our attention and not let it go. We’ll see something, hear something, feel something, and our inner knowing will tell us that it rings true. Whatever that is, follow it, wherever it leads. As Wayne Dyer used to say: “It doesn’t matter if it’s raising horses in Montana or selling ice cream in Alaska!” Whatever it is, when you know the truth of it in the center of your soul, you have found what was placed in your heart at your birth.
This week’s writing assignment on the Home Page will ask us to go to that place where things ring true and write about those moments of knowing, those glimpses of the truth, that live there. As always have fun and keep writing!
Peace and blessings.