Super Soul Sunday

What is your calling?

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Sue Monk Kidd, author of numerous books including the New York Times best seller (for two years) The Secret Life of Bees, was a recent guest on Oprah Winfrey’s show, Super Soul Sunday.  The description of the show indicated that the author would be talking about her true calling as a writer.  That got my attention, because I’m trying my darnedest to be a writer.  Correction: I am a writer, I’m just not an author yet.

Perhaps you’re asking, “Do I have to have a calling?”

No, you don’t.  I can only speak for myself when I say that I’ve known that I’ve had a calling for most of my adult life.  I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I had one.  I always seemed to be searching for the right project/job on which to spend my time.  As an employee, and as a volunteer, I did my work superbly, always trying to be the best version of myself – and for the most part, I was.

But something was missing.  I always felt that I hadn’t latched on to what I was called to do.  I can describe how that felt by using Sue Monk Kidd’s experience when she switched from being a nurse to being a full-time writer.  For her own reasons, Sue Monk Kidd felt “out of alignment” and she didn’t feel she was “in a place of belonging” as a nurse.  She also described the time before she answered her calling as having “homesickness for (her) your home.”  Then she made the decision to be a writer and this is how she felt, “there is no place as alive as when you’re on the edge of becoming” what you were meant to be.


Household garage sale to raise funds for the Alzheimer's Association.
Household garage sale to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Association.

And she added that it takes lots of courage to get there – to activate the calling that you know is yours.  Several years ago I found my niche – working with the elderly.  For six and a half years, I worked in the senior housing industry.  For five years after that, I volunteered as an Alzheimer’s Association caregiver support group facilitator, and another five years as a Certified Long-term Care Ombudsman for the State of Washington.  Good stuff, and it felt right, and it was.  But I had yet to use that wealth of experience in what I would define as my calling.

Confession: I’m a fairly decent writer.

Now hold on there, Irene, shouldn’t a calling be something at which you excel, some sort of skill that you’ve honed to perfection?  In my case, the answer is no.  Sue Monk Kidd validates what I mean.  She said there are three things you need to be a writer: 1) have something to say; 2) have the ability to say it; and 3) have the courage to say it at all.

Ergo, I am qualified.

I believe in what I'm doing.
I believe in what I’m doing.

I am one and a half years into writing my first novel.  It focuses on the lives of a group of adults who have Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia and the loved ones who are their caregivers.  Woo hoo!  All the work I’ve done in the past ten-plus years can be used in my calling!  I excelled at all of those tasks, and some day I will excel at getting my manuscript published.

Some agent and some publisher out there wants to sign what I have to offer, and I believe that my degree of writing ability won’t get in the way of them doing so.

Have no fear all you agents and publishers who might have just read that last sentence.  I am doing my best and I’m working hard at my craft.  I’m not of the opinion that just because I feel I’ve found my calling I can just haphazardly go about my writing, not working as diligently as I have in the past.

I’m taking this calling seriously because the subject matter is a serious and personal one to me.

My advice to you the reader?  Do what you know you’re supposed to be doing, and do it well.  Whether you label that as a calling or a job matters less than if you believe in what you’re doing and are committed to it.

Entering the arena of vulnerability.

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It’s not the critic who counts; it’s not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles; or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

re-enactment of a gladiator fight in the arena...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The credit goes to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly and who errs and fails, and is sometimes victorious.  But when he fails, at least he does so daring greatly.

The above is an abbreviated quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech, Citizenship in a Republic a/k/a The Man in the Arena, delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, on April 23, 1910.

Brené Brown, PhD, paraphrased the above when appearing on Oprah Winfrey’s show, Super Soul Sunday.  I admit – I’m addicted to the types of shows that challenge the way I think, and/or that validate the way I think.  This particular show that aired on OWN March 17, 2013, floored me.  I needed it because I’m in the arena right now while in the midst of writing my first novel.

  • What if I don’t get representation by an agent?
  • What if I secure an agent, but the agency can’t sell it to a publisher?
  • What if my novel gets published, but it gets panned by book critics everywhere?

I guess if that happens I will need to be glad that I had the confidence to try; to dare to think that I could get published in the very competitive world of writing.  The following is what Brené Brown said to herself – and perhaps to others – after she was severely criticized after delivering a speech at a conference a few years ago:

If you’re not in the arena getting your butt kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.

I like her spunk because with that statement she’s basically telling her critics to suck it if they don’t care for her work – because at least she put herself out there; she showed up; she tried.  Ms. Brown says that there is no innovation and creativity without failure.  We all must take the risk to fail when we’re doing something that we know without a shadow of a doubt we were meant to be doing.

How ridiculous of me to be so concerned about what might happen, when I’ve yet to even finish my manuscript.  I believe in what I’m doing.  I’m proud of my motivation/mission statement for writing my book.  Oh my God  – I’m writing a book!  I don’t know if it will get published but that’s a concern for which I don’t have time right now.  I am only half way through writing the manuscript so I guess I’ll just have to keep showing up at my computer and get the darn thing done!

What about you?  What brings you to the arena in which you are now standing?  Or what prevents you from entering the arena?  In the very same second that you decide to enter the arena, it’s okay to be both brave and scared.

Maybe your arena is changing your career path; or getting into – or out of – a relationship.  Perhaps your arena is standing up for what you believe in and daring to express those beliefs.

You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability.  Don’t wallow in regrets – walk into the arena without fearing failure or success.