The Scary Work of Rewriting Yourself
This week, two years ago, I wrote The Day I Learned I Could No Longer Jump ( or learning to fly). It was my first story piece published in a publication (Generations). The story is one of the greatest leaps personal and writing leaps I ever took.
Any writer who tells you they’re not worried about how their work will be perceived is lying.
I’ll be honest– I want you to like my work. Scratch that — I want you to love my work.
I want you to read each post twice and share it three times.
I want you to think about me as you’re buttering your morning bagel or waiting for the elevator doors to open.
I want to make you laugh and cry. Give you chills and rock your soul and make you turn over the wonder and magic and mystery of your own life.
But in order to accomplish those things I need to be honest, authentic, and share my story. I need to tell you things I haven’t told Cindy. That’s our agreement. Tell death do us part. And that’s why, sometimes, writing is incredibly hard.
I still think about my twelve weeks at the St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center in the winter of 2015. About learning to live with ataxia. About how I learned I could no longer jump. About how quickly years of the personal definitions of me being a man strong and athletic fell to the cold linoleum floor on a gray December afternoon when an unassuming physical therapist asked me to jump.
What I tried to capture in The Day I Learned I Could No Longer Jump was the raw embarrassment and shame and sadness I felt in those rehab sessions.
What I didn’t tell you in that story was how scared I was.
The fall and winter of 2013 was the most terrifying stretch in my life. It wasn’t the thought of dying, which did hang heavy in those days, it was a fear of redefining myself. My brain was damaged and the doctors didn’t know why. But the scariest part was digesting the news that parts of me could only now be found in photo albums and in flickering reels of memory.
Take your parents or grandparents. Great people I’m sure. But they’re set in their ways. They struggle with change. They’ve got their favorite chair, their eternal pair of slippers. They’ve been buying the same toothpaste for 30 years. They’re comfortable. They resist to change. And it drives you crazy but they’re too advanced to redefine themselves. So you smile and accept it.
I knew that my season of physical rehabilitation was crucial. I knew I had to let go of who I was — an athlete, coach and begin the painful and confusing task of rewriting myself as a writer with a degenerative brain — before it was too late.
Rewriting yourself is not easy. It’s scary. Of course, you’re not a kid but you fear judgement and criticism the way you did in high school. And sometimes redefining yourself becomes dangerous work. Drugs, alcohol and other destructive habits become your new definitions.
I’ve learned that if you rewriting yourself positively and purposefully–you can tap new potentials.
When you write your new definitions you find new ways to be strong and empowered and your life is suddenly swirling with exciting possibilities. You discover new energies. New angles. You begin to realize your potential.
Aside from William Faulker– any writer will claim that editing while writing is a literary sin. You write and write and write then edit. They are separate adventures.
But this is life. You can’t write, enjoy a cup of coffee, take a breath then edit your past. We must write and edit at the same time. You must rewrite yourself as you go. And it’s unnatural. It’s hard. It’s really fucking hard.
But it might just be the most important thing you ever do.
Checkout the recent post: Cartwheels and Writing
If Haley were awake, I would tell her cartwheels and writing will not always be this easy. Things will get hard. Your body will reject you. Your mind will reject you. Your stories will be marked with plot holes. And like fathers, characters die and don’t come back.
I would then tell her despite the loss and pain you must not stop doing the things you love: Cartwheels. Writing.
People need enthusiasm and love and stories.
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