I keep bouncing back and forth. One moment, I feel love and joy rolling off of me in waves that I just want to share with the world. The next, I don't feel real. It's like I'm a character in some story, and the book could close and I would cease to matter. (I know I sound manic depressive. Well, that's never been the diagnosis by the professionals thus far.)
Just when I feel irrelevant, though, I remember moments when people told me that I made their lives better. I know I'm blessed to have been told such a thing. Most people never know the good they do.
For example, I once ran into my friend Olga after several years apart. She told me, "What you said changed my life." I didn't know what she was talking about. "You told me, 'If someone is bored, it's their own fault. You choose how you react to the situation. If you decide to enjoy something, you will enjoy it." I remembered the context of the comment. We lived in Spain, and our class was discussing our proms for some reason. My senior prom was lame (in terms of decorations and music), so most people were sulking. A few of us decided we were going to have fun and dance anyway, and we had a fabulous time. We realized that happiness can be a choice. I had no idea, but my little anecdote changed the way Olga lived her life. A moment that I had thought inconsequential made her a more joyful person.
I recently received an e-mail from someone who was plagued by self-doubt, and I gave him advice. Now, I'm the one drowning in doubt, so I must give myself the same advice I gave him:
"Sometimes I cringe because my work isn't as good as that of some of my colleagues, or when they win awards and get publications I do not. There's always going to be someone better. I became a poet because I read (and fell in love with) Lorna Dee Cervantes' 'The Body as Braille.' Maybe, someday, someone will read my work and it will be what they need--it will become a part of them--the way 'The Body as Braille' has become a part of me. You never know what part of you, what gift, the world needs. As such, you must give your all."
The Bible says not to hide your light under a bushel. Enough of us hide our lights (even from ourselves) that it needed to be said, recorded in a holy text. Why? Let me quote a text I hung on the wall of my classroom in the Bronx:
Our Deepest Fear is That We Are Powerful Beyond Measure.
From A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?
[…] Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. […]
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
Work to set yourself free from fear, and I'll do the same. Maybe we will free each other. Maybe we will shine.