I’m in the process of trying to publish a book. It’s a wild and wooly process. Actually, that metaphor doesn’t fit. Right now, it feels like I’m Cinderella, but I didn’t get to go to the Palace — that glittering Palace of writers with “platforms” who get published. Little by little, I’ll make my way, and my Fairy Godmother, to me, will take the form of Father, Son, Holy Spirit, friends, other writers, artists, family helping me, my mind and body blessedly being able to do what they need to do.
I’m reading about how to build a writing platform, and the first piece of advice was to find what you’re an expert in and start celebrating it. So, here we are! I present you with my areas of expertise. Glad to help.
I am an expert in trying new things. I am an expert in examining what’s going wrong in my life and changing my thinking around it, so that, in turn, my circumstances miraculously change. I’m an expert at doubting whether anything I’ve ever “achieved,” which has been little according to some standards, has only been given to me, and that I’ve only done anything good because I’ve been given countless resources and tools to do so. I’m an expert at comparing myself to others and finding my faults. I’m an expert at recognizing that doing so is a life of misery that I want to escape. I’m an expert at obsessing with how I look. I’m an expert at being the only fill-in-the-blank in the room. I’m an expert at being aware that I am often not the only fill-in-the blank in the room, and that as a result, I may not be living my best life. I’m an expert at longing for the undefined. The title of my next book will be The Raves I Never Went to, the Desert Rat I Never Was. I’m an expert at panicking, overreacting, being entitled, being rude, sarcastic and pushing people away as a result, seeking help, making gratitude lists, being ecstatically joyful and serene, then repeating the cycle. I’m an expert on being a vulnerable woman with a vulnerable sexuality that I don’t understand, loving men whose sexualities I don’t understand and who are part of a culture whose sexuality often frightens, angers, entices me. I’m an expert at knowing that my body and my voice are the core of my being, that voice and movement, when you enter their flow, can change your life, that these feel like my complete essence, and I am an expert at pondering how to reconcile this belief with a healthy, youthful, aging, strong, mortal, uncertain body and with the fact that Jesus builds my spirit. I’m an expert at recognizing low self-esteem, especially in myself, and feeling ashamed of it. I’m an expert at looking, again, for ways to think differently. I’m an expert at creating weird voices and associations that hardly anyone understands. I’m an expert at putting myself in places in which I’m not comfortable. I’m an expert at looking outside of myself, yearning for something different. This yearning has been my triumph, my motivation, as well as my cross to bear and my shame. I’m an expert at striving for self-abandonment, at walking that line between being too trusting and just trusting enough in my God who works miracles. I want to be an expert in noticing that there’s something more than what I can see right now. I’m an expert at longing for and recalling the experiences that show that I’ve escaped myself – even for a bit – my low self-esteem, my privilege, my awkwardness, my self-hatred – and that I’ve entered the stream of humanity. Often, this happens when my life, to me, takes on the quality of a cinematic story, and I see it with that beauty. I’m an expert on warm desert night air. I’m an expert on wishing I had gone to more raves. I’m an expert at looking in from the outside on anything b-boy ish: grafitt, hip-hop, breakdancing, cyphering. I’m an expert at freeing my mind with improvisational dance, song, and theater. I’m an expert at approaching seemingly hostile students who want nothing to do with me and trying to get them to relate to me. I’m an expert at trying (unsuccessfully, but trying) to crack the code of how other people think. Often, the ones in whom I’m most interested are young, from the city, poor, with violent pasts or presents. They speak English, but sometimes, I can hardly understand what they’re saying. I want to. I’m an expert at standing on the periphery and trying, clumsily, to step inside. I’m an expert at feeling most alive after I help serve hot meals to people in tents who live in alleys, and wondering why this feeling of aliveness after I do so is like nothing else. I’m an expert at feeling guilty, pulled in too many directions, too fragmented, not specialized enough, too dilettantish. I’m an expert at feeling as if I am disappointing people. I’m an expert at wanting to be liked. I want to be an expert in realizing that this desire leads to a dead end.
P.S. My book is called Fire Escape, and it’s about my time as a wildland firefighter. You can read an excerpt here. And, if you can think of any online publications that seek advice from any of my areas of “expertise,” please let me know!