And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. --Anais Nin
A day after reading these words, I found myself on a street corner of St. Marks Place in the East Village buying mauled paperback copies of Anias Nin's diary.
Volumes One and Two. Seven bucks a pop.
I've always looked to literary lionesses for guidance. Essayists, journalists, novelests, bloggers. Women who write to know themselves, and report their world in a way that feels universal and brave in a way that I traditionally am not.
Bravery comes in many forms. Put me in a room with tigers, and I'm the grittiest gal you know. I'm strong in times of crisis. If the ceiling is caving in either literally or metaphorically, I'm the first to roll up my sleeves.
Ask me to be vulnerable, however, and my first impulse is to close up like a morning glory at dusk. Tight inside my bud.
I've always seen vulnerability as something that looks good on other people.
Maybe that's why I've always been more apt to declare myself an avid reader than any amount of a writer. I do both with similar frequency, but the latter requires me to stand out in the open with my words.
The thing about opening, blossoming, after all, is that it requires us to unravel. To be exposed. Naked. And I was taught, like a nice and proper girl, to keep my shit together with a smile. Thank-you-very-much.
No exposure, no risk. No risk, no heartbreak. Seemed like a logical equation to me, but one that was paltry and missing a beat. I realized later that the tail of that equation is No heartbreak, no living. And frankly, what else is life for?
Anais Nin's challenge of 'taking the risk to blossom' smacked with a bravery that I knew I wanted more of. I imagined she would disclose how she did it, conducted her life naked and exposed, while simultaneously strong.
A path to proverbial freedom.
Perhaps I read too much into that quote, or expected too much of her insights to lead me. Perhaps I wanted to defer the responsibility of living into it myself. Regardless, I spent that summer lapping up her words with a highlighting pen.
What I found was a map of salacious affairs, bohemian living, unrepentant sexuality. She lived fiercely on her own terms in many admirable ways.
In many other ways, though, Ms. Nin was not free from her bud at all. An intricate web of secrecy, maintaining marriages to multiple men, the "Box of Lies" she created to keep her own indiscretions straight.
Paradox is part of being human I suppose. We all have contadictions. I expected a model of liberation-via-truth, and encountered a model of being messy, unapologetically flawed and complex.
Perhaps the punch line is that they're one in the same.
Recently, I've been taking a course created by my friend and wordsmith crush, Patia Braithwaite. It's called The Soulful Blogger, and it's challenge to us is to get naked in our writing.
Its been messy. And scary. The thing about writing (slash-living) naked, is that vulnerability cannot be performed. It has to be embodied and spoken through, directly. Like the literary lionesses I look to for guidance, The practice the freedom comes with sharing: our voices, our views, out in the open.
We can receive guidance, but no one else can give us the roadmap to our freedom, to our blossoming. We just have to disrobe, and stand out in the open. Imperfectly perfect. Human and flawed. In solidarity with ourselves.