My Words: Pleasing me

Throughout the course of my writing life, I’ve met so many people who are paralyzed by the act of putting words down on paper or etching them onto a screen.

Much has paralyzed me during my decades of living. I have been frozen at times in the face of everything from driving to trusting to learning new technology.

But writing has always set me free. It has helped me find paths through the chaos of life, to connect with people and with myself. If life is a jigsaw puzzle, writing has been the gift that sorts the pieces by color, by shape, by their connection to the images around them.

So it has been strange that I have not needed to write these last few months.

As you know if you are reading this, I left the world of journalism after three decades earlier this year. I walked away from weekly columns, from sitting down with fascinating people and learning about them, only to recreate their stories in written form.

I thought I would miss it deeply. I created my blog, Okaloosa Stories, so that I would have an outlet to continue to write. It didn’t matter that the audience would be smaller, perhaps almost nonexistent. I believed I would need to write the way I need to eat, exercise and sleep.

I was wrong. We so often are.

In these last six months, I have learned that I have more than one big talent, more than one path to joy and satisfaction. As I go about my daily life now, I write in my head – sifting and sorting the words to delight an audience of one – myself.

I wander down the same word paths. I sort the relationships of my life into paragraphs and essays. I savor the word pictures that are everywhere and the connections I feel toward the world around me.

I just haven’t been writing any of it down. I haven’t needed to. And that, like so much else about my life right now, is a gift.

Perhaps like many women, I spent most of my early years focusing out on the world around me, trying to please, trying to compete, trying to attract attention and establish myself. Trying to prove something to someone always. Too often, I felt I was not enough, or I was too much. I had to work harder, try harder and discover again and again that while I’d checked one box successfully, there were pages and pages to go.

After spending six months with my grown children during the pandemic, I left the newspaper where I had thought I would retire, and never looked back. I found another newspaper, loved what I did there and, when it no longer felt right for me, left that and haven’t looked back.

I no longer felt the need to please or impress or prove anything. I returned to simple work that I enjoyed – lifeguarding at our beautiful Bernie pool – and embraced the challenge of teaching children and adults to swim. It has been pure joy, not always easy but always satisfying.

My body is being used, my mind is being used, my heart is full.

If I’m not sitting by the edge of a pool, watching and listening to people swim, I’m in it teaching children and adults to understand their relationship with the water, how to lie on it peacefully, how to enter it safely, how to move through it.

When I’m not doing that, I’m helping with other tasks to make the Emerald Coast Fitness Foundation, which runs three publicly accessible pools in Okaloosa County, stronger and more successful.

In every direction, I find something – a lesson, a friend, a thought, a task to master, a quiet moment. Like one of those old-fashioned sprinklers, I spin on the front lawn of my life, smiling and catching water droplets in my hands and on my face.

I will write as it fits into the kaleidoscope of my busy days. It is still a part of me. It is no longer the whole of me. And that is as it should be.

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