Worth It

blog photo #15 advice for saleThe best things in life are free…

This is one of those sayings that we have heard many times, and we just accept it as truth. And the Beatles helped convinced us, didn’t they?

I, however, live in the “everything has a cost” camp, which at a glance, appears to be where all the cynical kids play. I am here to argue that we are indeed the hopeful campers. Everything that matters in life has cost me something. That’s in part why it matters to me. To prove my point, I’ll illuminate my top three.

My relationship with God is the most important thing in my life. I know that we Christians like to say it costs us nothing, and I agree that God’s grace is a free gift. But I’m talking about the choice, every day, to put my spiritual life at the forefront. To really examine what God/dess would have me do, and align my behaviors accordingly. It’s painful, friends. And costly. There are plenty of times I would prefer to shout at someone in anger or (this one is the biggie for me) keep score and seek revenge. Choosing not to engage in those behaviors is a challenge for people like me.

My children come just after God, and anyone with kids will tell you that parenthood isn’t free from struggle and sacrifice. Need I go on?

And my number three is the development of my nonprofit organization and my writing life–because they are intertwined. I’ve been writing since I could spell “writing,” and it is my saving grace. I can say this without fear of sacrilege because for me, the Divine is born in me through my words. When I set out to be a writer,  as you can imagine, I got nods and smiles and pats on the head. While some of my peers earned business degrees and went on to celebrate with gargantuan salaries,  and others followed a different bliss, maybe one similar to mine in teaching or social services (which I did for a while, too), I was fighting to find MY bliss and live MY truth, as I felt the Universe had asked me to do. I’m not suggesting that my friends aren’t living authentic lives; I’m saying that the predictable schedules and income and the safety those things offer are the things I had to give up to BE a writer–to step into my truest self and honor who I was created to become. I had to risk not making rent. I had to skip the summer trips to the beach. At one time I was working FIVE part-time jobs! I had to piece together a living that would keep us fed and also feed my soul. I had to eschew romance and instead choose the quiet solitude wherein I could hear the voice of God/dess whispering to me. My children paid for it too, which was at times painful to watch–its images full of triggers for guilt, questions, and self-doubt (the mommy’s Holy Trinity).

These are things I value most. And they were not free. I love my relationship with God. It is a highly personal one, and it is my compass in all earthly matters. My children are my heart. They have brought me greater joy than any other experience in life. And my time at the keyboard or notebook is filled with moments during which I am most fully alive. The price tag for all three was crazy high. But totally worth it.

What are your top three, and how much are you willing to pay for them?

The High Cost of Authenticity

I was chatting with a friend today about how scary it is to be  putting myself out there like I am with my writing. All my secrets are exposed. No more mystery or wonder for new people meeting me. They can just come here and learn about my fears and mistakes, and visit all my skeletons. Men who might want to date me can find my weaknesses, employers can decide if I am worthy for their upstanding company, and so on.

Her response? You must keep being honest. Your posts are engaging exactly BECAUSE you are naked. People need you, and you need to know that you can do this.

I knew when God whispered in my ear a few years ago that I had to start coaching others to live more creatively and to tell their stories, that He also meant I was going to have to tell my stories. Not just the ones with the happy endings, either. I knew it would cost me. But I know better than to say no to the big guy.

So I started thinking that really, everything has a cost. Every choice we make, is, in essence, a letting-go-of all the other options. Every time we get out of bed in the morning, we let go of the safety of staying curled up in our warm blanket. Every time we get in our cars, we let go of the option of staying home, or of taking the train. Every time we make love to someone new, we let go of the security of hiding our bodies and our souls from that person just a little while longer. It’s that small, and it’s that big.

*inhales*

Telling you my stories means I have to let go of the desire for you to only know my pretty parts. You know, the parts where I am educated, published, happily single and the mother of three beautiful and successful children who adore me? You might discover that I have, in fact, said unspeakably cruel things to each of my children at one time or another–things I can never take back, things they can never unhear. You might discover that I am up to my eyeballs in student loan debt and barely make a living wage and wonder why in the hell I took out all those loans just to be a teacher and starving writer. You might learn that my first book, non-fiction, barely sold enough copies for me to buy groceries for a few months. And…you might discover that as much as I love my independence and my alone time, there are nights when I cry myself to sleep wondering if I will die alone and turn into Alinda soup before anyone finds me.

*exhales*

There you have it. Now you can officially be unimpressed with me. And that has to be okay. Because I can’t preach to you to live your truth if I can’t live mine.

The bottom line for me is always this: I can choose to shut it down, to never risk myself. I can choose to build walls to keep out the hurt, the disappointment, the judgment. But that shutdown means I don’t get to experience joy, wonder, curiosity, love, or sexual pleasure, and those walls also keep out the people and things I so desperately seek to hold close to me. Nothing is free in this life. My dad was right about that.  We just have to decide what we want more than safety, and then go get that thing, even if we must do it completely naked.

In truth and love,

Alinda