Years ago I met a man a few weeks after my father died. He was unlike any man I had ever met before. This guy had edge and I went to him, dripping in lust. And I felt like he was my moon. Over time I found him to be critical, just like my father. And he laughed at me, just like my father. And he played musical instruments, just like my father.
And he wanted to keep me small, just like my father.
One early morning when I was up writing before the sun came up, the man I was dating came out for a glass of water and said, “why do you think anyone is interested in your stories?” The sentence is bad, enough, but the tone was sharp and had the scent of blood.
And this also reminded me of my father, who tore my pen pal letters to my cousin in half and threw them in the trash, because I wrote too much about myself. I couldn’t use the word “I”, and it was difficult for an 11 year old.
Though my mother was the writer, this over the shoulder scrutiny by my father taught me how to write. It was such a gift that felt like abuse at the time. My first letter to my cousin was about the crab apple tree outside our kitchen that finally bloomed after our family cat was buried under it.
I wrote about the Irish setter that gave birth next door, and how blind puppies find the nipple by scent.
My father taught me to get out of myself, to look at the world around me and to find the details and the magic there.
Recently, a writer emailed me to say her mother asked her to stop sending her stories she had written, and this writer is so newly minted by her blooming words. She just returned to writing after a long hiatus. And I had to take a deep breath, because this writer’s work is astonishing.
I mean she’s SO good.
And the same day she wrote to me, a friend called me and said he doesn’t understand why writers follow me on Facebook. He said, I mean it’s sick, like they are waiting for your stories to appear.
And I understand now that what we have is not a friendship, that this is someone who also wants to see me small.
And this is why I’m writing this – Don’t let anybody keep you small. Don’t live in the wake of someone else’s fear. It’s okay to be big, and it’s okay to shed boyfriends or friendships or professional relationships that are keeping you small.
And for fuck sake if your family is not supportive, stop telling them about your dreams.
And here’s the Goddamn Truth:
YOUR STORIES MATTER. To me, to the world and to you.
Write them. Publish them. Shout on a stage with the pages in your hand and tears streaming on them and ink running into your fingers.
If one person loves it or a hundred thousand love it, it doesn’t matter. You threw a life raft into the audience and someone is floating on your words now.
I will be here to remind you always: Embrace your Big. Don’t let ANYONE, and I mean ANYONE, keep you small. No matter how much they proclaim to love you.
Because love is not small.