Someone changed me. Forever. In a way so profound I feel as though my DNA has been altered or a chromosome has mutated. I know how to handle hurt. I can kick disappointment in the ass. I know what to do with passive-aggressive behavior aimed like a gun at me while the aimer wants me to guess if it’s loaded. It’s always loaded. I’ve learned how to disarm those manipulators. I’ve overcome my fear of abandonment. I know how to grieve and move on with comforting memories held in my heart. I can set boundaries and keep toxic people out of my life.
But it appears as though I have never learned how to accept a sincere compliment, a compliment praising something that is at the core of who I am, My Writing. When someone says, “I like your hair, earrings, glasses, fruit salad or purse,” I can easily reply, "Thank you," and move on with my life. But when someone who has no agenda, who only knows me through my writing, who doesn't love me, who is a teacher and an accomplished poet gives me, in all sincerity, a compliment beyond anything I've ever heard before, it's hard to absorb. My first reaction was to say “Yeah, right," and giggle nervously. Then this person says, “I’m not kidding. You are the best writer who has come through this course in the eleven years that I’ve been teaching it.” When I first arrived at this retreat in Scotland in 2009, I had felt way out of my league, just as I did on my first retreat with Women Writing for a Change. The creativity and the honesty were almost overwhelming, but at the same time inspired me to reach higher. So maybe because I'm sitting outside the Argyll Hotel on Iona and because the sun is shining for the first time in ten days, I start to glow. After a brief stint of denial while telling myself it only sounded important because it was said in an English accent, I'm back to glowing.
So what has really happened here? What's happened here is the bar has been raised. It doesn’t matter if what this person said is even close to being true. What matters is that it was said in truth and I feel a pressure to live up to that belief in me. Not because I don’t want to disappoint another, but in order to not disappoint myself. And do what I truly know I am capable of as a writer. Dammit. This means I need to turn the TV off, quit being distracted by shiny objects, stop talking about writing and write. Just write.
Rebekah for Poplar Grove Muse