Last week, I had the honor of co-facilitating an evening workshop at church, of creating an experiential journey of movement and writing with a beautiful and wise soul who is also a talented and deeply intuitive dancer and choreographer.
All day, leading up to the workshop, torrential rains soaked the area. I tried not to preoccupy myself with thoughts that the chilly damp and dark weeping skies would deter anyone from coming out — that between the weather and Eagles fever (the Super Bowl champions would be celebrating their win with a parade the next day) we were destined for a small turnout. I didn’t want to think that our thoughtful crafting and weaving of poetry, gesture and written reflection would go woefully unappreciated.
That night, six of us gathered in the church sanctuary, including Jeanine, my co-facilitator, and I. A small group, and as it turns out a perfect group. Despite my worry earlier in the day, I’d gotten myself to a place where I believed — as it often is with such offerings — that whoever was meant to show up would. And as we all took our seats, settling in to acknowledge each other’s presence, I was struck only by the beauty of our circle, the richness that was bound to nurture us all in the hours to come.
The truth is it didn’t matter if there had been only one participant or the four among us. I’d already decided that getting to know Jeanine through the invitation to create such a program was blessing enough. But then, as she led us through her movement meditations and I read the poems I’d selected to guide each writing prompt, I began yielding to a familiar fullness, sweet and stirring.
Of course, I appreciate any opportunity to share my love of poetry with others, to unearth old favorites and discover new gems that lift up the tangled, tender mystery of our lives. To offer the poem as mirror, as medicine, as a doorway to self-inquiry that can be cathartic and celebratory, enlightening and, yes, even discomfiting in its silver-tongued reveal.
I have also long been fascinated by the body as a keeper of emotions, a map of the unexpressed and unacknowledged, profiles in sculpture and dissembling lines, craving the surprise of sorrow, the angry sting.
Being immersed in the synergy of both, witnessing how each offering was received, was a true gift. I was reminded how every time I’ve been part of such an experience, most of them solo opportunities, I feel the tug to more. Though I have offered only a handful of writing workshops in the last few years, the chance to guide a group through a journey of self-reflection — after the stress and angst of preparing for a spotlight I don’t typically relish — has been immensely fulfilling.
But it wasn’t until I was sitting at home after last week’s session, grateful and energized, that I recalled how certain friends in years past would insist they saw me leading workshops. I would always dismiss their comments, appreciating their enthusiasm but assuring them my path lay elsewhere. In more recent years, others have suggested I would make a great teacher. Again, I have deflected.
Yet it wasn’t that long ago that I flirted with becoming a poetry therapist when I learned this was an actual vocation, discovered there was a thriving community of individuals using the written word to promote growth and healing. I even downloaded an application for a training program, and when I first envisioned traveling to Africa to work with children, I imagined this would be my offering — an experience of healing through language.
But there was the commitment of time and resources and inevitably, as often happens, the distraction of everyday life. I abandoned the idea.
It’s resurfaced as I carry the gratifying fullness of last week’s workshop but I’m not quite sure it’s a path I’m meant to pursue. Still, the nudges to something, the expansiveness that’s softened me feel significant. And I am paying attention.
I am sitting with my curiosity, holding it with other pieces that have flashed their appeal as I ponder my life’s direction. I used to believe in a singular purpose, that there was one path, one master plan waiting to steer my footsteps. But with my roving interests and feverish pull to so much in this brimming world, I do not expect to find contentment in one pursuit.
I have stopped asking that erstwhile plague of a question: What is it I want to do with my life? Most of what I’ve been drawn to in recent years — hospice, poetry therapy, trauma-informed yoga therapy, volunteering with kids and even my existing work as a wedding officiant — points instead to who I want to be.
And who I want to be in this world is a bearer of love, of healing, of light. With every passing year, what matters more to me is being of service, giving back from the fullness — and the brokenness — of my heart, from the gift that is my life.
That may mean eventually committing to one glorious, beckoning path. Or it may be that I land here and there, guided by instinct, by passion, by the unexpected connections that can propel us into spaces that breathe the body home.
So I will keep taking note, keep lingering, open and searching, in the places that hum and prod, knowing that in the end what will most matter to me is how I loved and made an offering of my gifts.
Aspiring & inspiring as always, my beautiful friend! 🙏🏽💞😘
I never thought of the question being “who” I want to be, rather than “what” I want to do with my life. I really love that reframing!!
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Truth spoken. Amen and Blessed Be.
Truly beautiful. I think so many of us struggle with this very thing… how nice to see you write about it in a soft, gentle, accepting way. Love your ability to listen to signs and encourage us all to do the same.
Thank you so very much. I’m so glad this reached you in a way that felt gentle and encouraging as you listen to your life.
Very inspiring. I can fully relate. I have so many passions that I’m never sure if I’m fully following the “right” path. I think you are absolutely correct in saying it is not so much about the right path but becoming the right person that matters more.
Thank you so much! Sometimes I think it can be so easy to overcomplicate things trying to find our purpose or the “right” path. If it’s bringing you joy, that sounds like a path that’s meant to be. Here’s to our being and becoming!
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This post really spoke to me, Naila. I’ve spent the better part of the past year contemplating how to make what I do more completely reflective of who I am. At first I thought I was trapped in lazy procrastination, but now I realize it’s waiting patiently in the stillness of the chrysalis until I emerge, transformed. Like you, I know that what matters most to me now if giving back–making my life a gift to others. I look forward to sharing that path with you. Oh, and by the way, you would be a great poetry therapist. In fact, you already are.