Sometimes it feels
like I pass my days
lost in my head
and a cup of tea.
I am changing the world.
I posted this poem on Facebook on April 1, 2015. It was the first time I had shared a poem publicly and I was terrified. I remember sitting at a counter at the Steeping Room in Austin, Texas. Tea and my laptop sat in front of me, the brief text of this poem stared at me from a small box on the screen. All I needed to do was click the blue “Share” button, but I wasn’t sure I could do it. Heart raced; hand trembled; face flushed. I tried to will my finger to move. Is this even a poem? Would my words mean anything to anyone? I closed the computer and my eyes and took a couple of deep breaths. Then, with one swift movement, I opened my eyes and the computer, clicked the button, and slammed the lid of the laptop back down.
My friend Phillip Estes and I had challenged each other to write and share a poem a day for the month of April. I followed a similar ritual each day for the rest of the month until one day, towards the end of the month, I noticed that the fear was laced with a bit of excitement. I had begun to enjoy the engagement I was having with people about the poems and I loved that a few of my friends had started writing and sharing poems themselves. By the end of the month, the excitement grew beyond the fear, and I was already looking forward to the next year's poetry month.
I remembered my experience as I watched this video of my friend Shelly Tygielski’s talk at the recent Wisdom 2.0 conference. Shelly is a mindfulness teacher and a movement builder. She tells a similar story about the first time she invited her friends to join her to meditate together on a beach in South Florida and the doubts that could have stopped her from reaching out in that way. Her talk reminded me that contemplative practice is only part of an equation creating a meaningful life. The other half is putting inspiration into action as she did both in building a mindfulness community in 2015 and in launching Pandemic of Love, a mutual aid organization, in 2020.
The secret to life, in Shelly’s words is to show up. “Show up for yourself and others. Show up physically to create sacred spaces. Show up consistently. Show up even when other people don’t show up. Show up in a way that makes every single person feel held and heard. Show up in a way that makes you feel held by others.”
A couple of days ago, my sister and I rode in a taxi to the theater district in New York City. As we reached Times Square, my sister turned to me and asked, “Do you ever think about all of the people and how each one is the center of their own universe, with different things that matter to them, people they care about, worries, and hopes?”
Sometimes it's easy for me to compare myself to other people and feel like what I'm doing isn't as important as what other people are. By getting out of my own way and following sparks of inspiration (even when it feels like a stretch), I realize that I can show up for myself and as myself in ways that do change the world, even if only in one little part of the garden.
Whatever matters to you, I wish you the inspiration and courage you need to cast some love into the part of the world you reach. As Shelly says, "The ripple is guaranteed."