Day 26: On Dreams. And Courage.

It surprises me, I have to say, how aware of it I feel sitting here by the pool in this most lovely courtyard in Key West. I am alone, you see, traveling alone, something that is not necessarily new to me. And still the solo nature of it all has heightened every sense I have. The wind, tropical but January-cool, carries the sound of the leaves all around that blow and wave and rub. Each is a different green, and the late morning sun shifts the colors moment to moment, the canopy above me a changing show of dance and light. The Hemingway cats, six-toed and fat, stretch and meow and saunter. And in a marvelous twist on all that is represented by this island’s hedonistic brand, in the distance I hear church bells ringing.

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Why is this? I wonder. What is it about spending (nearly) a week alone that turns up the volume?

I know, of course. I’m making good on a promise to live more courageously, to be more adventurous, to go more boldly. And while the story I repeat to myself is that it’s solo travel, the honest truth is I am here to realize a life-long dream of studying fiction writing with my favorite of favorite authors, Lee Smith at the renowned Key West Literary Seminar Writers’ Workshop.

(It took a shot of bourbon for me to apply for this coveted spot and another when I received word I was in.)

I take my first dive this afternoon. And for the next four days, I’ll push every writer comfort zone boundary I’ve developed–and more than one solo traveler fear. I’ll do so with this familiar mantra in my head:

You don’t serve the world by playing small.*

 

Live courageously. Be more adventurous. Go boldly.

Mantra, please serve me well!

 

*from one of my favorite writings/prayers/meditations by Marianne Williamson

30 Days of Joy

 

Stepping Into The Light

I knew the dress was a mistake.

On tap was a luncheon during which I needed to walk across a small stage, smile and accept an award in front of a filled ballroom. I was deeply honored to be among the women being recognized; on this day there was to be a beautiful, long parade of these super heroes, and I was thrilled to walk among them. (Thank you, Palmetto Center for Women.)

One would think I might have given wardrobe a bit of consideration before 8:20 that very morning. I did not. Instead, I found myself staring into the closet, coffee cup in hand, 10 minutes to go until I had to blast out the door for a 9:00 meeting.

Hum, I thought. What ever shall I wear?

Let’s just say the next 10 minutes were not pretty. There was a flurry of try-on before I settled on a wool dress, black tights and heels, and with one last look in the mirror thought: This feels a little snug.

I spent the morning pulling and tugging on that dress, hoping it would give just a little with wear, like a pair of blue jeans on the second day. It did not, and for the rest of the morning, and while sitting at the lovely luncheon, I worried about that dress.

Salad course complete, I made my way to the ladies room. A young woman who was working there, straightening up the counter, looked me over.

Love that dress, she said.

Thank you, I said, still tugging. I’m afraid it has gotten a little tight.

No honey, she said, emphatic. You gotta work that thing.

Isn’t that what it’s all about? I thought as I made my way back to the table, this time standing a little straighter, smiling a little more broadly. While delivered in a different vernacular, her words reminded me of the Marianne Williamson quote that encourages us to all step into our own glory:

“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, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. 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.

I thought of this as I listened to story after story of the women being honored. They are out there doing it in this world—entrepreneurs, artists, public servants, educators—woman who work tirelessly to change our community, and this world, for the better. Successful, yes. Powerful, many. But every single one, simply a human being who stepped out of fear and into the light.

Your playing small does not serve the world. 

A beautiful reminder for us all, every day.