“The toughest part about showing up is the sit down part. It seems that the moment you declare your intention to engage in real spiritual practice, the world and ll the people in it start coming up with new and sometimes quite novel things you should do instead.” Janet Conner, Writing Down Your Soul.
It took me a long time to come to my own writing. I’ve written my entire life, but for a long time, I only wrote academic stuff. I’m not knocking scholarly work. I still do it, I like doing it, and I think it's important, but it's not what I think of as my soul work, as my real writing.
For a long time, there were stories inside me calling out to be told, but I wasn’t writing them. I told myself I’d start doing my real writing once I got my Ph.D. Then I decided I was too busy teaching, applying for grants, speaking at conferences, and jumping through the hoops to get that coveted tenure-track academic job that kept eluding me. Then I was working too hard to hold my failing marriage together, I was too tired all the time. I was too depressed and confused. One thing after the other came up to prevent me from getting to my soul work.
Then, quite suddenly, my whole life changed. Within the space of a few months, everything I’d been working for, everything that I thought I’d been building, everything I’d created a life around, imploded at the same time. I learned that the funding for my research grant wouldn’t be renewed. I didn’t have a job and couldn’t find one. My husband and I divorced. I ran out of money. I got sick. I needed surgery, but I had no health insurance. With no place to go, I packed up everything I owned—which wasn’t much--and moved into the back bedroom of my parents’ house in the small farming town I'd grown up in.
I will never forget the first night I sat in that room, fighting my physical pain as well as I could, struggling not to sink any further into depression than I already was, and feeling like the worst failure on the planet. I kept wondering what the heck I could possibly do to keep myself going. I opened a notebook and wrote the question over and over again. What can I do? What can I do? What can I do?
And the answer came to me, clear and unmistakable: What I could do was write. While I looked for a job, I could write. While I tried to heal from my divorce and get treatment for my illness, I could write. While I searched for a way out of the sinkhole that was my life, I could write. There was much I could not do, but I could write. Nothing could stop me from that.
From that moment, I became a writer.
Many years have passed since that night. Today, I’m a tenured professor, happily married, healthy, and living in a comfortable home. And what do I teach? Writing, of course! (Among other things). I can’t conceive of my life without writing now. If I stopped writing, I wouldn’t know who I was.
Janet Conner writes that if you decide something is more important than your soul work, you may find the universe deciding for you—“And if the universe needs to get your attention, the universe will get your attention.”
I don’t know if I believe in messages from the Universe, but I know what happened in my own life, and it at least felt like a message. It felt very much as if something somewhere were saying, "Enough, already! Put your pen to the page, sister. Writing is the work you were born to do." I wonder how long it would have taken me to figure that out on my own?
Causes Jill Jepson Supports
Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...