Yesterday, fellow Quester Erin Coughlin Hollowell posted an update on her big project to her blog Being Poetry, including this quote from author Elizabeth Gilbert from her March 2014 TED talk:
“I will always be safe from the random hurricanes of outcome as long as I never forget where I rightfully live…. The only trick is that you’ve got to identify the best, worthiest thing that you love most, and then build your house right on top of it and don’t budge from it. And if you should someday, somehow get vaulted out of your home by either great failure or great success, then your job is to fight your way back to that home the only way that it has ever been done, by putting your head down and performing with diligence and devotion and respect and reverence whatever the task is that love is calling forth from you next. You just do that, and keep doing that again and again and again, and I can absolutely promise you, from long personal experience in every direction, I can assure you that it’s all going to be okay.”
I have not been able to get that quote out of my head. Especially that second sentence… “you’ve got to identify the best, worthiest thing that you love most…and don’t budge from it.”
That sentence has been haunting me. This is where the fear creeps in. The clinging to current ways of thinking. The unwillingness to let go. Because that sentence challenges me to pick one thing. And I don’t just love one thing. It would be like asking a mother to choose just one child. Is it Sammi or Tommy? Words or quilts?
And yes, I’ve talked about this before, more than once. It even became my most burning question, the beacon for this quest I’m on:
What if instead of having to choose, I could combine the things I love?
And I am, and I will continue to, but I realize that what I’m talking about in that question is not the what, it’s the how. Writing and sewing and photography are the mechanisms through which I bring that “what” into the world. But what’s the “what”?
So here is where I make my confession: I want to tell you that the “what” is using art to help us heal from trauma and build resilience to better survive future disasters, because to be honest, that is a serious obsession, and it’s the thing that I have based most of my path-work on for the last I can’t even count how many years. But it’s just not true.
Because I actually do know what the thing I love most in the whole world is, and it’s not what I just wrote. What I love most, what brings me the most personal joy, what shines light into this whole messed up, terrifying, angry world making it a brighter place is this:
Yes, books. Actual books. Simple concrete objects–about as far from the lofty ideas I feed myself and my readers as a girl can get. Words on paper, the sound of turning pages, the scent of ink and dust. It’s to bound pages stacked on shelves that I pledge my allegiance. They have been my foundation since my Aunt Carol taught me to read when I was three, in the face of a deep fear that, soon after, gave way to trauma and grief. And it is into their soft or sturdy covers that I still retreat today when things get to be too much.
And so, on that foundation, I will build my house. A house of story, a house of dreams, a house of magic, a house of spirit, a house that contains other worlds, the future, the map to our healing and survival. Some walls will be constructed with ink and paper, some with needle and thread, some with light and pixels, some with the sound of a voice or the touch of a hand.
But it is the books that ground me. Everything else flows from there.