I am fortunate enough to know a number of incredible writers. I have two shelves in my office devoted to books that friends have written, and every time launch day comes along, I make sure to congratulate them, because launch day is truly the birth of something they’ve been creating for the months and years prior.
Today is one of those days. I’ve linked to my friend Erika’s blog posts before. She’s smart and sensitive and just a beautiful writer. We’ve got different styles of writing and speaking (for example, I’ve never used the word “shimmering” to describe myself or anyone else, but now maybe I should) and because of that, I find that sometimes I need to take a bit of a break to sit on her words for a bit before moving on to the next chapter. Got a writer like that?
She’s also the kind of person, who, after sitting with her and sharing a meal, I feel like I’ve just had a therapy session, but in the best way, and if I could have had someone videotape our interaction so I could process it later, that would probably be really helpful and maybe I need to look at cat GIFs for a moment so I’m not thinking too much about my own self for the next eight minutes. Got a friend like that?
Erika’s words are below along with a link to her new book, Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul.
One of my favorite pieces she’s written (From Country Air to Crackhouses) makes an appearance in Chapter 15, so if you snag the book, let me know how you like it.
“In July of 2000, when my husband and I got married, I was the ripe old age of nineteen and he was a seasoned twenty-four. Six months later I found out there was a baby in my belly, not on purpose. Then shortly after, another baby got in my belly not on purpose; then even less shortly after another baby got in my belly not on purpose.
When our last boy was born in the left leg of my husband’s pajama pants (I should probably mention I was wearing them) while we rode the elevator up to the labor and delivery floor of Yale-New Haven Hospital, I had just birthed my third baby in three years. I’ll go ahead and do the math for you. I was twenty-three years young with a three-year-old wrapped around my thighs, a sixteen-month-old in one arm, a newborn in the other, and a godforsaken look of “Help!” writ across my face.
It was about this time that, as mentioned in the previous chapter, our marriage dove headlong into mess, we lost our income for too long to hang onto our home, and we experienced religious restlessness and a whole heap of other life challenges. Those early years redefined my own terms for what it meant to be drowning in the lifeblood leaking from every pore on my body. My internal equipment just wasn’t mature and qualified enough for my external reality, a reality that was demanding more of me than I could bear.
What happened to me is what some psychologists call an identity crisis, a term coined in the early 1950s by Erik Erikson to refer to a state of confusion and unhappiness over one’s sense of self. If anyone had thought to ask me “Who are you?” in my good and lucid moments—which were few and far between —- I could’ve answered with just about nothing.
I don’t know if you’ve ever felt the pain of not knowing who you are or if you feel that pain right now, but what can easily happen in that place of ache is that you start looking at other people, extracting the qualities you like about them, and injecting those qualities into your person as a substitute for what you don’t understand about yourself.
In my naivete, I saw the people around me as more inherently gifted than I was, so I decided that self-fulfillment meant adopting their God-given gifts as my own. I looked at this person’s way of socializing and that person’s version of hospitality and another person’s artistic expression and began mimicking their nuances. Before I knew any better, I had squeezed my shape into several different ill-fitting molds at once, while cramming my own personhood into a tiny, overlooked corner in the nether regions of my body.
What I didn’t realize at the time was how devastated my spirit would become under the influence of everyone else’s borrowed qualities. Other people’s gifts and character traits are designed to enhance, enrich, and complement our own, but never act as a substitute for them.”
(Excerpt from Erika Morrison’s book, Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul)
The cardinals make it look so easy. They arise from the earth, do their beautiful, exclusive thing and die having fulfilled their fate. None of nature seems to struggle to know who they are or what to do with themselves.
But humanity is the exception to nature’s rule because we’re individualized within our breed.
So we struggle and seek and bald our knees asking variations of discovery-type questions (Who am I? Why am I here?) and if we’re semi-smart and moderately equipped we pay attention just enough to wake up piecemeal over years to the knowledge of our vital, indigenous selves.
And yet . . . even for all our wrestling and wondering, there are certain, abundant factors stacked against our waking up. We feel and fight the low ceiling of man made definitions, systems and institutions; we fight status quo, culture conformity, herd mentalities and more often than not,
“The original shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out of all our other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.” ~Frederick Buechner
So, let me ask you. Do you know something–anything–of your true, original, shimmering self?
I don’t mean: Coffee Drinker, Jesus Lover, Crossfitter, Writer, Wife, Mama. Those are your interests and investments. I do mean: Who are you undressed and naked of the things that tell you who you are?
Without being formulaic and without offering one-size-fits-all “how-to” steps, Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul is support material for your soul odyssey; a kind of field guide designed to come alongside the moment of your unfurling.
If you’re interested, you can order wherever books and ebooks are sold.
Or, if you’d like to read the first three chapters and just see if Bandersnatch is something for such a time as the hour you’re in, click HERE.
All my love,