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The Secret To Overcoming Self-Doubt
A friendly reminder
As I inch closer to publishing my book, fear has been creeping up on me. It’s hot, and it’s mean and it’s thick.
“Your book is probably not any good. Why would anyone want to read something written by you? Can you even call yourself a writer? Why should you have the audacity to do this at all?”
Luckily, yesterday my photographer friend, Itzel Garrido (check out her amazing work!), reminded me of a secret solution to my poisonous thoughts. I first learned it two years ago, when I sat for a peyote ceremony in an open valley in Oaxaca. I had kind of forgotten about it, until she brought it up. And I hope it resonates with you also.
During the peyote ceremony, when the drug was at its strongest, I could feel the energy of my ancestors. When I met my female ancestors, I felt so much of their pain. I got the sense that in their lives, they had wanted to do so many things. Perhaps they had wanted to be educated, or to say what they really thought. But for whatever reason, they had been stuck. Instead, they had to raise children without electricity through the harsh Irish winters, trade eggs for sugar, and lurk in the shadow of their religiously fanatical husbands, who they could never stand up to. They had been forced to abandon their dreams. Or they had not caught a breath to be able to dream in the first place. I felt that viscerally. Obviously, tears were streaming down my face at that point. It felt like my chest had been cut open. I struggled to breathe.
Yet as the ceremony went on, another set of thoughts came to me. I got the sense that my great-grandmothers were aware of my privilege today. I have education, the ability to travel and be independent, birth control, the option to learn new languages and to connect with people from foreign countries. Whereas my ancestors held their tongues, I can write whatever I want and post it on the internet (meta, lol). When I realized this, I felt my ancestors’ sassy response that made me laugh. Then came a finger wag:
“Don’t mess this up.”
It filled me with an immense amount of duty. I came away from the ceremony and realized: I must be creative today because I can. I am here to do this for all the people, women especially, in my lineage who did not have a voice. As Julia Cameron, writer and creative extraordinaire, has said, “One of the things that we don't acknowledge is the amount of care that was taken to create each one of us.” Those of us alive today are not just accidents. We are the pinnacle. We are the sharpest point, the tip of the spear. And we gain immense strength as creative people when we remember who we have come from.
Maya Angelou took this idea to a whole other level. In her incredible speech to Spellman College, she shared,
“When you walk into an office, you don't go alone. Bring your people with you. Bring everybody who has loved you with you. Say Grandma, come on, let's go. Great-grandpa, you've been dead all this time. Come on, let's go. I have to go in here and have an interview…And when you walk in, people don't know what it is about you. They can't take their eyes off you…They say, I don't know, but she has charisma. No, what you have is all those people around you. So think of that anytime you have anything to do, bring everybody with you that you can remember who has loved you. And then you have that sense of having been paid for.”
When I face moments of creative self-doubt, I think about my ancestors (Grammy, Granny Doherty, Mimi, all the greats and the great-great-greats) who have loved me, who would have been proud to know me. I feel like I could barrel over with the strength of their energy. I want to bring them with me everywhere I go.
I draft this newsletter.
I put the finishing touches on my book as it goes to print.
Because I can.