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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Tag: Emily Freeman

Your Strong No

Ben Goshow

This is a godforsaken place, and I've now spent four hours here. I'm speaking of the waiting room at the place where we get our car serviced. It smells of stale coffee, and the television is on blare. I've asked them to put on my snow tires, and you would think I had asked them to make snow. I need nothing cosmic. Just put on my snow tires.

The consolation is my laptop, my iPad and my iPhone, which I need to generate internet juice, and this will make me sound like a sorry 21st-century sack, who can't survive five minutes without connectivity. But I assure you that what I can't survive is this colossal waste of time. My self-importance gnaws, grows greedy and impatient. There will never be enough time for the all-powerful I and her feats.

Dear LORD, deliver me from this greed for more time, this inability to say no, which is why I must have more time for the overindulged yeses. It's on this day that I NEED the words I read from Emily Freeman in A Million Little Ways.

A million little ways

“People may love you, respect you, look up to you, want to be with you, but they will not say no for you. They will let you work and volunteer as long as you are willing. They will let you lead and be strong and move ahead if you want to. Don’t get mad at them for letting you continue to say yes. Only know your boundaries. If you don’t, might I encourage you to find them out? Because yes can be brave, but it can also be bossy. It can become an addiction. Before you realize it, all your yeses are to obligation and duty. And because of those obligated yeses, you are forced to look passion and intention and desire in the eye and say, ‘No, I don’t have time for you. Weight the cost your yes will have on your spirit, your soul and your body. You may have to search for your brave yes, but you will have to fight for your strong no.

I had been praying for discernment for a particular yes I've been weighing. I'm thinking I have it.

NO to the self-importance that drives the YES.

No to the greed for more time.

No to the anger and irritability that everyone refuses to say what I must: NO.


You - the writer, the artist, the poeima of God

Ben Goshow

Are you an artist? Emily Freeman says, yes. You are the poeima of God, the Christ-in-you making the glory of poetry. Freeman's book, A Million Little Ways, is worth reading. "Being an artist has something to do with being brave enough to move toward what makes you come alive," she says. And this resonates with me, especially for the road I've been traveling the last couple of years.

Bravery. Fear. Artistry. Life. If you've been reading here for any length of time, you'll remember that I started out to find my pulse. (Cheesy, but that's what I named my first blog.)  I set out with the suspicion that I wasn't living fully alive, that I was letting life lead me by its bustle. And I took to a keyboard, giving myself the permission to move bravely toward my stories. They took me somewhere.

"Taking the time to write in our lives give us the time of our lives. As we describe our environments, we begin to savor them. Even the most rushed and pell-mell life begins to take on the patina of being cherished," writes Julia Cameron in another book I recommend called The Right to Write. "Writing claims our world. It makes it directly and specifically our own. . . We should write because writing yields us a body of work, a felt path through the world we live in."

Cameron has great writing advice, especially for a writer as pretentious as me. "Most of us are really willing only to write well, and this is why the act of writing strains us. We are asking it to do two jobs at once: to communicate to people and to simultaneously impress them. It is any wonder that our prose buckles under the strain of doing this double task?"

She offers a lot of great writing exercises to move beyond the strain of perfection. And just for fun, I'm going to post the free-writing I did this morning, if only to encourage you, if you're an artist (and you are), to make something today, which doesn't have to impress. To do it only because it enlivens you and makes you brave.

(The paragraph below has been edited for spelling. I also removed two sentences: one about sex, one about another person. That seemed necessary.)

* * * * *

It would be fun to write more poetry. There’s something so whimsical and creative about the process. Something about breaking rules. Something about the invention of it all that sounds fun. The arranging and the re-arranging, the puzzling out the pieces of an idea but allowing yourself to be a bit illogical or surprising in terms of syntax. And look at that, I still needed to use the phrase “in terms of” because does that make me sound smart and academic? I’ve got to get over this in my writing. I’m preaching it to myself now. Judge not lest you be judged. And judged you will be as soon as you put words to a page. The heat cannot and will not come. It will refuse your coercion. It is wild and untamed and demands that you let go a little bit, give a little slack in your writing, let loose on the rein of your words and allow them to gallop away from you a bit. Father, I need your help in all of this. And maybe I wouldn’t write good poetry after all, maybe I would let it become so stilted, so artificial, maybe I’d clutch at those words and stifle their air, and squeeze them to death, demanding they conform to the rhythms of my perfection. Perfection, oh when can I be done a little with that? But travel writing? Oh maybe that’s something I would like to do, too. Arrive in a new place and demand that I stay awake and pay it some attention. It’s almost as if I can’t pay attention without a word in my hand. It’s not a camera that I need, just a bag full of words to return to the ancient and sacred act of naming. Name and call to life what is, call it into fuller life, call yourself into communion with that thing or with that person. And Hagar names God? How can this be that we get to name God? And that he names us, through our parents, calls our name when we least expect? There are lots of projects topping up the list of anxieties and responsibilities. But on this morning, with the fire reaching upwards, stretching its morning arms, I am writing and coming alive and allowing myself the words. I wanted to say torrent but that wouldn’t be quite true. It’s not a torrent this morning but it is a steady stream, moving forward. Not rushing, because that’s not true. But maybe swelling? Writing is like rain, it fills the stream, and the stream swells and then moves faster. Soon it will torrent, and I will be carried with it. And right about now I say to myself this is a silly exercise. Look at all the wasted words. The words that I won’t know to recycle or the words that will take too much energy to recycle. It's like this with my life now. So economical. So frugal. I can’t let any occasion be wasted. Can’t diddle away an hour or ten minutes. Can’t release myself from the stringent expectations, the constricting expectations about time and about perfection. Why is life always about minutes, what about moments? Changing the vocabulary, the metric. Life is about moments. Good moments. And Lord, this day has minutes, and they won’t ever last as long as I would like. But moments. There is a guilty pleasure about moments, the suspicion or the thrill that they could last a bit longer than I would expect. I give myself to moments today.