On Being a Force of Nature

2b1922424987c5002c17296a22b71afbI first spoke to Julie Daley and learned about her new course, Becoming a Force of Nature, back in September. A mutual Facebook friend made the introduction, suggesting that Julie might want to interview me for her course. I said yes, because I say yes to these things when they come. I also had no real idea what this would mean, and still don’t–only that she recorded our conversation last night, about creativity and our deepest nature and my story of becoming, and will share this with the participants in her course–people in twenty different countries, people who, like me, maybe like you, want to “be who we are and bring that wholly into the world.”

I was nervous about the call and kept returning to those three words: Force of Nature. I’ve been called a few things over the years, and this is one of them. (Firecracker, Walking Exclamation Point, and Jewish Leprechaun are some others that have stayed with me.)

And I kept wondering, what is that? Aren’t we all forces of nature? I noticed the impulse, habitual really, to back away from it, as if somehow the ordinaryness of my life excluded something so audacious sounding. Six months after we talked for the first time, Julie and I found a time for the interview, and we both had to laugh last night when we started out with some technical difficulties on Skype. But we were clearly meant to talk, and at least for me, it was worth the wait.

About an hour earlier, sitting at the kitchen table with Mani and wolfing down pizza before our call, I was thinking out loud about the “force of nature” question. And Mani said something so insightful. She pointed out that a huge crashing wave needs the whole ocean, a tornado  touches down over a wide open prairie. Forces of nature need huge spaces in order to occur. Why not own it? she asked me.,

When I think of my life and surroundings as small and enclosed, my own inner sense of potential–for destruction, I suppose, but equally to create, to take up room without apology in the world–I need to return to this sense of expansiveness both within and around me. Naming the impulse to sequester creativity to the margins of “real life,” something I have to run away from everything in order to access, helped me prepare for talking with Julie.

When we finally began, Julie asked if I had any questions before she hit “record.” I told her my only questions were about what questions was going to ask me. “I guess we’ll just wing it,” I told her. Trusting that I’d have something to say meant trusting my own experience, which was pretty much the topic of our interview.

I spent many years battening down the hatches against my own force of nature. It was too-big feeling, too scary, and I knew without knowing–this could be a good definition of intuition–that once unleashed, I’d have to face the consequences. Something that gestates and builds for that long gains a lot of power. I believe it’s true, that we ignore or deny rules our lives–and I was afraid. I was afraid of what would happen if I fully shared who really was in there. If I came out into the big not-knowing of really knowing.

When I told the truth about my life, just as Muriel Rukeyser wrote in her poem, Kathe Kollwitz, the world did split open. And with it, I opened, spilled out completely, revealing prairies and ocean of the wide open spaces I needed in order to find my way to settled. I find myself in these stanzas, from the same poem:

Woman as gates, saying:
“The process is after all like music,
like the development of a piece of music.
The fugues come back and again and again
A theme may seem to have been put aside,
but it keeps returning–
the same things modulated,
somewhat changed in form.
Usually richer.
And it is very good that this is so.”

A woman pouring her opposites.
“After all there are happy things in life too.
Why do you show only the dark side?”
“I could not answer this. But I know–
in the beginning my impulse to know
the working life
had little to do with
pity of sympathy.
I simply felt
that the life of the workers was beautiful.”

She said, “I am groping in the dark.”

She said, “When the door opens, of sensuality,
then you will understand it too. The struggle begins.
Never again to be free of it,
often you will it to be your enemy.
you will almost suffocate,
such joy it brings.”

A fugue, pouring out opposites, groping in the dark, sensuality and struggle, suffocation and joy–all of these are the bone and marrow of being a force of nature. Until you show your dark side, the light too will be confined. Life is ordinary, yes. And this is your field, your grounds for expansion. It is not a rarity but a birthright. And to inhabit that kind of space means to inhabit your life and listen to yourself truthfully, to treat those who love and care for you with the respect they deserve, which is to say honesty. Without that, the lie will eat you alive, and you will move through the days a pretender, an actor, a shell containing so much truth.

Fear is a stealth murderess. She will talk you out of what you know to be true, offer up a thousand reasons why it’s crazy talk, why you should give it up, move on, keep it to yourself, don’t rock the boat, protect his or her heart, wrap yourself up in work and groceries and the good you have and really, you should be grateful for your life and stop wanting more.

There is something to this, for sure–be grateful. Stop wanting more if wanting more plummets you down a rabbit hole of lack or self-condemnation. But if can feel that force of nature stirring, gathering strength, moving within you like a tempest in a teacup, a bird of prey in a prison cell, for the love of life itself, feel it.

I think the fear is that if we feel something, we will have to take action. We will have to do something. And eventually, this may be true. But if you create space just for the feeling, open a valve to the knowing, the world splitting open may not be the end of the world. It might be the beginning you long for, the end of longing. The fugue of repetition and recognition and changing form and discovering form, form that fits your sense of self, matches the inside with the outside, and allows you to offer your gifts to the world.

We all play small, run from the storms. Avoid them and they will come anyway. But practice–whether this means sitting still or running hard or cleaning your room or sitting down to have the conversation you’re terrified to initiate–and you may find that the splitting open allows you to pour yourself into your life, share yourself more fully with the people who deserve to know you. This has everything to do with integrity, with reparation, with deep self-acceptance, and with faith.

It’s simple, if not easy. Go easy. Take your time. See what happens. And listen: you’ll know when you know, and if that knowing emerges from a place of truth, life will meet you there and carry you through the days that follow. May the force be with you. May you be the force.

Image by Jessica Neuwerth

4 thoughts on “On Being a Force of Nature

  1. Maija says:

    Some days another’s words shed such light and bring such clarity. Today it is your words for me. Thank you for this. The splitting open continues.



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