January was a lost month. The reentry into reality has been somewhat rocky, so I’m re-resolving and trying to get onto that tall, tall horse that keeps wanting to buck me off. Changing your habits can be terribly tiring and discouraging. This last week, I had a crisis of self, where I forgot all of me – my abilities, my talents, my passions – and saw myself as just a frozen pile of material things, unable to do or go or be anything worthwhile. But something wrapped my wounds.
Facebook is a mysterious thing, in that it gives us access to people we don’t even know and sometimes tells us just what we need to hear. A few months ago, I got the chance to attend a spoken word event called the Poetry Revival. I was so moved and intrigued by the experience that I wrote a piece about it, which I posted here on the blog. Poetry about poetry still makes me shake my head, but how else can you express what happens when poetry gets inside? Prose isn’t built for that.
I decided to send my poem through Facebook to the three individuals who performed that night: Anis Mojgani, Buddy Wakefield, and Derrick Brown. I have this deep need to thank people for the experiences and art they create, but I am so terrible at conversation that I literally can never think of a thing to say when they’re right in front of me. I express myself best and fullest through the written word, and thus I write fan letters and poems and messages to people I admire because I feel I can actually communicate what they have done for me.
Regardless, I sent the poem to Anis months ago after editing it, but I never got around to sending the poem to the other two guys. The task just was pushed to the bottom of my to-do list. Partially, I was feeling embarrassed by the poem itself. It was, to be fair, terrible after my edits. I had edited it self-consciously instead of editing it poem-consciously. I could feel the grating of the words as I tried to make them fit and fit better. So I left it.
Until this week. I needed to finish something, cross something off my to-do list to redeem the smallest piece of my self-worth – because you know the surest way to find yourself is to DO THINGS on your to-do list– so I saw “send poem to two other guys” on the bottom of my list. So I did. I took the original draft of the poem, made a few small edits, and then found the two guys, Buddy and Derrick, on Facebook. Messages sent. Cross that off.
Unexpectedly, I received Facebook notification in my email. A message from Derrick. It said:
“this is beautiful!”
Three words. That’s all. I took in each word as if it was a lozenge quieting this raging cough of frustration and doubt. “this,” meaning the piece, right in front of him, in his hands. “is” – continues to be, at this present moment. “beautiful!”, the word I love the most followed by an exclamation point. Meant to be shouted.
That’s all I needed. I needed more than a “thank you for your time,” more than a “I’m glad we inspired you.” I needed affirmation, however slight, and it came. Maybe he didn’t mean it – maybe it was a flippant kindness. But it was the kindness I craved. I needed a fellow artist who I admire for his work in writing, performing, and publishing to tell me that my words are beautiful. It took him three seconds to type. And it gave me the boost I needed to use my words again.
Never ever underestimate the power of encouragement. Of using your words to tell someone else what good and beauty you see in him or her. Because it might be the most important thing. It might be the only thing they need.
Yes, we as Christians need to get our self-worth from Christ, but he is so cloudy and fuzzy and wispy like cold smoke. Sometimes we need warm skin or warm words from another living this life with us. We need others to be the words of wisdom, of love and truth in our lives. And we, after we are filled, need to be those words to others. It’s our gift, our calling, our pleasure to both give and receive in turn.