(This week, my memoir coach Kathleen Hamilton returns for her second of three guest appearances on my blog.)
“Do I have your permission to ask you a tough question?” she asked me.
I leaned in toward my coach. After all, tough questions are what I pay her for.
“What’s the one experience you’ve always wanted that you haven’t allowed yourself?” she asked me.
Shite. The thing was, I kinda had a list. The other thing was, I kinda wanted to keep it to myself.
We all have things we’ve always wanted to do but haven’t allowed ourselves. I’ve been receiving a lot of emails lately – one woman in particular wrote to me and said, “I’ve always wanted to go on retreat.”
I remember about a year ago I said something similar to a new acquaintance: “My dream is to go to Italy,” I told her. I said this wistfully, my heart full of longing, as if I were hoping for round trip tickets to the land of Narnia. I remember she stared at me.
“Italy,” she said. “That’s easily achieved.” Her words hit me like a blast of cold water.
As the truth does.
Now I could tell you a gazillion good reasons why I hadn’t given myself the experience of going to Italy. Reasons why I wasn’t living that dream. But as my favourite memoirist Anne Lammot says, “Bore me fucking later.”
Does that sound harsh? Like a jolt of cold water? I hope so. Because guess what I learned from that experience? Your real and wonderful life is waiting for you on the other side of that thing you’ve always wanted for yourself but haven’t allowed yourself to do.
You’ve always wanted to write a book.
You’ve always wanted to travel to _________.
You’ve always wanted to go on retreat.
All kinds of yumminess you haven’t even imagined are waiting for you on the other side of the experience you haven’t allowed yourself to have.
Everything good is on the other side of that thing you want.
So I say this with love. Let’s not argue for your limitations.
A few months after my shocking realization that Italy isn’t Narnia and that maybe I didn’t need to deny myself the experience of going there, I signed up to go on a luxury retreat to Cinque Terre. (The opportunity literally popped into my inbox one day.)
I admit I signed up scared, my heart hammering at the considerable size of the investment. Each time I paid my 3 installments I felt a thrum of fear and heard my inner critics yelling, “Too much, too much, too much!”
I didn’t let my fears make my choice, though. I listened to the calm, curious part of me that knew the Italy retreat was the next right step for me and that the retreat leader was my next teacher.
I went on that Italy retreat, and while I hiked the breathtaking cliffs of Cinque Terre, I felt my soul expand as if she’d been cramped in a cupboard and could now stretch.
Since saying yes to what I’d always wanted, beautiful new friendships and career opportunities opened to me. Or maybe I opened to them.
So let me ask you the tough question:
What have you always wanted that you haven’t allowed yourself to do?
Perhaps you’ve ignored it, or denied yourself, or told yourself “maybe someday” because of responsibilities, or arguments with your inner critics (yes, you have several), or maybe you have a habit of overthinking things.
I invite you to sit with this question and perhaps do some journalling. Trust the answers that come. And trust that you wouldn’t have the desire if you weren’t meant to have the experience. Do you want to write a book? Come on a luxury retreat? Learn to tango? Let yourself do it. I implore you. And if I may be so bold as to say, “Not later. Now.”
Trust that all good things are waiting for you on the other side of the thing you’ve always wanted. Get curious about what you’ll find when you get there.
Truth and Beauty (especially yours),
P.S. Heather and I are going on a writing retreat to a private luxury beach house in PEI from May 24-28. Want to join us? Yes, it’s next weekend. Yes, your inner muse loves you when you’re spontaneous. If you want to come, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll talk details. Only one space is available. Is it yours?
Besides being Heather’s memoir coach, Kathleen Hamilton is an accomplished author, actor, director and award-winning poet, screenwriter and playwright. She is the editor of Deep Water Pearls: A Collection of Women’s Memoir.
Kathleen is the creator of Deeper Truth Memoir programs where she mentors women to write their own book in a 9-month write-your-first-draft program and a year-long, publisher-ready program.
Kathleen also works with private clients and leads intimate writing retreats in Europe and Canada. Her clients become empowered, win awards and get published. Contact her at www.kathleenhamiltonmemoir.com.