Gifts

The following piece first appeared in 2008, in the column I wrote back then, called ‘Coaching Moments’. In my last blog theme, I had a sidebar widget showing some of my own favourite posts and ‘Birdsong’ was one of them. What I like about ‘Birdsong’ is how it still transports me back to that morning, to the overwhelming feeling of peace, joy and clarity I was left with.

Every time I read it, it reminds me of the difference between writing with a clear purpose, for a defined audience, and blogging.

I blog for connection with like-minded folk, for fun and friendship and to capture and curate some of the moments that matter to me, but back then, my writing was sharper, more focused; I wrote for coaches and specifically for those who were aiming to get certified. As a certified coach who’d struggled to get certified, despite living and breathing the concepts integral to coaching, I wanted to help others do what I’d managed to do. Ego was never involved; I never needed an excuse to write, and really just wanted to inspire, to support and to connect. Doing that in a monthly newsletter over which I had no technical or design control and which had no comments, comment numbers or public replies, meant I could simply focus on writing.

All but one of my editors actually liked my work and were supportive and easy to work with, but here, on my blog, I get what I call blank cheque-itis. Too many choices of what to write and for whom; too much design and technical freedom; not enough information about what folk want, need or like to read here. Just doing whatever I want makes me feel like I’m slipping uncomfortably into the realms of ego. But a blog that helps no-one, inspires no-one, supports no-one makes me feel equally uncomfortable. I have regular visitors here who are better bloggers, better writers, better coaches, better photographers and more together people than I am. So why do I blog?

Not being able to answer that question easily, confidently, when faced with sneering, nosey, scoffing cynics – yes, there are people whose reasons for reading my blog are questionable – is one of the many complex reasons I’m a deciduous blogger and often lapse into periods of cyberhibernation.

But what always brings me back to my blog is clarity around one thing: all I’ve really offered over the years, in my column, my blog, my coaching and my life is one message, something I captured years ago in a post about harnessing the power of authenticity:

“Be brave enough to explore the depths, to find a way out and shine a light for others to find theirs. Don’t be scared to live, to hold out your heart in both hands like a trembling bird and say “Here I am, love me as I am or leave me.” Be more afraid to die with your song still in you, to cheat your loved ones, your readers and the world of the greatest gift you have to give. You.”

A friend who visits my blog regularly and who knows why I obsess about themes, CSS, functionality and creating a welcoming feel to the site, recently commented in an email about my new blog theme; what she said, with joking sternness, gave me a heartwarming shove in the right direction… “Give us all a gift and write something instead of worrying too much about the wrapping paper!”

Birdsong

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself. To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving. ~ Kahlil Gibran

I woke very early today, too early to start clattering and clanging in the kitchen so I grabbed a book, a pen and spiral bound notebook and wandered out into the garden, heading for the table,  sipping the glass of blueberry juice I’d poured for myself.

I laid my books on the table, the blue and white tablecloth dew-damp under my sleepy arms, and I sat there thinking ‘These birds are really loud!’ Cheeping, cooing, chirruping, whistling, trilling, tweeting, chattering…I slowly started to single out each songbird’s soaring celebration of a new morning.

The sun, burning off the last few patches of mist, cast shafts of light through the laurels, turning web-hung droplets to twinkling crystals whenever the fresh morning breeze rustled the branches, dark green against a clear blue sky.

I breathed in the fragrance of moist earth and caught the scent of the mock orange blossom by our back door. Feeling more alive than I had for months, I thought about writing some morning pages, hoping to explore and dispel the shadows that have been settling round me.

I opened the notebook, half heartedly fiddling with my pen as I sat listening to the birds.  Soon I would hear the sound of distant traffic; the humming of an aeroplane across the sky; the faint clattering of cereal bowls and spoons; the sound of kettles and radio alarms carried on the breeze. I put down the pen and leaned back in my seat, unwilling to leave the moment even to capture it.

A big fat bee came buzzing around the bushes by my feet and made me smile! I hadn’t seen one for months. So many tales of the bees disappearing; with them would go the soundtrack to my childhood garden memories of damp grass and daisy chains, dandelions and buttercups.

Suddenly, a flash of red and a choot choot choot –  a robin, on the fence behind the berberis bush. He stopped, looked at me, bobbed his head three times  and flew off.

And I knew, knew then as I know now, with a certainty that leaves no room for fear or doubt: I was meant to write this piece. I was meant to write. I was meant to wake up early, to love that bee, to be that robin, to share with you the beating of my “winged heart” on a grateful spring morning.

And you were meant to read this. For without the life and the breath and the experience you bring to these words, they would only be pixels on a screen. Like the bee, you touch the lives of strangers, you’re woven through the fabric of a million memories, you create moments that leave the world a better place. You and I – like the robin – have a message to bring, a song to sing in the eternal dawn chorus.

Today, as you choose to wrap your heart around the moments that make up a life, how will you share your precious gift with the world? You were born with talents, you’ve worked hard to build skills, to create connections – but they’re just the channel.  You are the gift.

4 thoughts on “Gifts

  1. Janice, I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book ‘Big Magic’ at the moment, and she says something very relevant to this. First off, she says you should never try to write (or create anything) specifically to help others – you should do it primarily because it makes you happy and because you want to, and that if you do this then it often ends up helping others a lot more than it would if you set out to. You could think of it as a kind of enlightened selfishness, rather than egotism.

    To quote from the book: “Your own reasons to create are reason enough. Merely by pursuing what you love, you may inadvertently end up helping us plenty……Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart. The rest of it will take care of itself.”

    I do think she’s right, and that what she says is very much in line with your value of authenticity. I know that if I create anything with other’s reactions in mind, whether that’s to help, to entertain, to impress, or whatever, it never really works. All any of us can do is to express ourselves as authentically as possible, and say what we want to say without worrying about how it’s received, and if it resonates with someone somewhere then that’s the icing on the cake (and it usually does). Which is pretty much what you’re saying here. anyway.

    And the cynics, the critics, the trolls? – well a lot of people find it easier to pull other people apart than to create anything themselves (and you rarely find these people doing much creating). None of us should ever feel we have to justify ourselves to this kind of person.

    And it’s often the case, anyway, that we’re unsure of our own particular talents and only see that there are ‘better’ bloggers/writers/etc than us. I often feel this way myself and wonder why I do it. But unless we’re a Tolstoy or a Rembrandt, there will always be people better than us, and imagine what it would be like if no-one did anything unless they were the absolute best at it. There wouldn’t be a whole lot going on 🙂

    I think you might enjoy Big Magic – lots of interesting observations in it (and good stories).

    Gilly recently posted…52 trees – week sixteenMy Profile

  2. Hi Gilly,
    It probably won’t surprise you that I already have Big Magic, have recently sent someone the quote about “a revolution in your heart” and that there are a few posts on Gilbert deep in my archives!

    I’m trusting my instincts with the blog right now – just happy to be online and writing anything after such a long break; I’m stretching my legs, warming up, shaking off stiffness and scanning the horizon. As a result, the draft folder is full of a weird assortment of offerings whose only link is my instinct to share them. It’s taken me a long time to get to this place where I can accept, without sadness, that above the comments boxes, my blog has become an album of moments, a mix tape, a memory scrapbook, without the clear focus to support that my column had and which brought out the best in my writing. Supporting others is in my DNA.

    But I’m content to blog for now, to dabble and meander, chat and moodle; I know that’s what I’m meant to be doing. I truly believe that blogging resonates with many of us because we’ve realised we’re all just keeping each other company on the journey home to ourselves. We’re not just travellers… we’re the destination and the journey.

  3. Hi Janice – I’ve been meaning to get here for a while – now I have a little time … so here I am.

    Like you I blog for the connections, the friendships, the knowledge I gain … and the soul food I find along the way.

    We mostly don’t get rejection or criticism on the blog, we can decide which blogs we want to relate to and which blogging friends we enjoy visiting and hearing from. In this positive approach … we all benefit – we all know we have faults and need to improve … but we can see that ourselves, without having ‘people’ drum it into us …

    So your friend’s comment about ‘giving us a gift’ without the wrapping paper rings true – just look forward to more from you …

    Being up early and realising what we’re meant to do … to find and follow our passion is that essential in life – and if we blog we do have that opportunity, which can lead to other things … and give of ourselves to others what they can make of us … there’s always something relevant, and pertinent … and loving around.

    Cheers Janice – good to see the post of gifts – you do have plenty for me to dwell on and to ponder … all the best for the week ahead – Hilary
    Hilary recently posted…West Country Tour … Whistling Ghost, ‘Obby ‘Horse, South West Coastal Path at Minehead … part 19 …My Profile

  4. Thanks, Hilary. Always good to see you! Your latest posts are so fascinating, I agree with your readers who urge you to write tourist guides. It’s like going on wee holidays! One of the things I remember most about Devon was scary hairpin bends.

    I so agree with you that we should just do what we love on our blogs and in our writing. One of the quotes that resonated with me most when I was reading Big Magic, and again when I read Gilly’s comment above was:

    Your own reasons to create are reason enough. Merely by pursuing what you love, you may inadvertently end up helping us plenty. … Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.

    The rest will take care of itself.

    Happy New Year!

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