When Biggest was about 2 or so, he got frustrated by my “multi-tasking” during breakfast and reached across the table, over the paper I was grading, and put his little hands on either side of my face. “Pay attention to me,” he said while he pulled my face towards his. He didn’t stop until his forehead was against mine, staring into my eyes to ensure I really was paying attention to him.
Sometimes, our world requires us to pay attention.
And sometimes, we’d really rather be distracted by anything but that which is reaching out and grabbing our attention.
A month ago I was in the throes of organizing our house for the pet and house sitter, getting my work inbox emptied, and doing all the laundry in order for my family to be gone on a two week vacation. (Apparently, the more stressful the situation, the more lists I make and the more frenetic my actions get.)
One morning I was up to my eyeballs in all those preparations when I happened to log into Twitter while waiting for the dryer to finish. I was midway through a slow scroll when my Twitter world grabbed my attention. The news that my former literary agent was accused of fraud had just broke. For me, what really broke was my heart all over again. (I shared some of my story here.)
The news forced me to recognize just how much my relationship with Danielle M. Smith has overshadowed my life and writing since I met her. When things were good, being her friend and then her client made me feel like I really had something to offer the world that had merit – stories that needed to be shared. And when things were not good, being her friend and client made me feel like I was “crazy”, that I was incapable of knowing what was the truth, that I was stupid for waiting for her input, waiting for her critique, waiting for so many promised things that never arrived or existed in the first place. Ultimately, in the four years that Danielle M. Smith has been part of my world, I’ve come to a full-stop as a writer. It’s like Danielle took my voice with her when I fired her.
What was once a wonderful experience became something that cast a long shadow that obscured my sun.
The day we left on our vacation, Biggest pulled me into a tight hug. And in my ear he said, “Mom, just be present in this.”
His words had much the same effect as his words across the dining room table all those years ago…I chose to set aside what was distracting me – what was so unfathomable that I still can’t understand her motivation – and focus on really enjoying my family and our time together.
And what a gift Biggest’s words were to me. Sure, there were moments when I was quickly typing my email to Claire Kirch, or sending virtual hugs to my former agency mates, but for the most part I was able to be present with the most important people in my world while we were in an amazing corner of the world.
I have stood in the shadow of my own depression and anxiety for years. I have stood in the shadow of Danielle’s manipulation for four years. I have stood in the shadow of crippling doubt for too long. I have stood in the shadow of my silenced voice for way too long.
“The more you use your voice, the easier it becomes to find it.”
I am a writer. I am a storyteller, a wordsmither, an author. I write truths and lies and dreams and nightmares. It is a part of who I am.
And today, I choose to no longer stand in the shadows of those people and parts of myself that have the power to hold me back.
Instead, I choose to be standing in the comforting shadow of those who believe in me, who make me better, who make me whole.
Thank you Biggest for reminding me to be present. To stop looking over my shoulder for the monsters of the darkness and instead look for the bright sunshine of this moment. You are one of the best shadow-casters I know.