A theme keeps cropping up in my writing and in my life: Permission.
We all wait for permission to do things that matter to us, things that might bring us closer to the lives we want.
For years, I talked to people about my drinking, about my patterns and my concerns surrounding my patterns and I now realize that I was seeking permission to stop a cycle that was not good for me. I stopped waiting for that permission because I realized it was never going to come. Instead, I gave myself permission. I stopped. My life immediately grew clearer, brighter.
For years, I stayed on a path that was objectively safe and smart. I went to law school. I worked at a law firm. And then one day - it was the Friday after my honeymoon - I had the idea that I wanted to write a book, to become a writer. I took a taxi to my parents apartment and told them about this epiphany. They were stunned. Of course they were. They did not exactly grant me permission to go for it, but I walked away that day and on the short walk home, I thought to myself: I need to give MYSELF permission to do this.
And I did. In a foolishly confident manner, I quit on Monday and never looked back. I figured out how to write a book. I jumped headfirst into a life and career and worked extremely hard, knowing full well it might not come together.
And yet. Still. I sit here on many days waiting for permission. To do this thing. To write these words. To have this life. To be right here. I seek approval and affirmation and likes and thumbs up and comments and messages of encouragement and I forgive myself for my insecurities and my longings, but so much of this is nonsense, right? The only person who can grant the permission and approval I need and crave again and again and again is me.
I saw a beautiful movie on Saturday night called A Short History of Decay. Michael Maren (my lovely friend and fellow writer Dani Shapiro's very talented hubby) wrote it and directed it and the film is ultimately a nuanced ode to real life and family and "humble domestic detail." I sat there in that theater downtown and felt it, this story. I smiled and I laughed and my eyes filled with tears during a particularly poignant highway scene. But the real treat came after when Michael stood up and answered questions from the audience. He told us how after years of working for studios, he decided to take a tremendous risk and give himself permission to make the movie he wanted and needed to make. He was honest that it was a struggle to do it and make it happen and raise sufficient money, but he needed to see it through. And he did. His passion for the film was palpable and inspiring.
I sat there in the audience, nodding along, a writer and a mother and a thinker and a citizen of this world and Michael's story, on the screen and off, struck me, rattled me. I walked away thinking things. In life, we must give ourselves the permission that others cannot give us. We must dream and dance and wonder and write and go for it. There are practical constraints on all of this, I know. Financial and familial and more. But if we can find a way to embrace something we care about, or think we might care about, to do something we really want, to get rid of something we really don't want, I think we are invariably rewarded. I think life becomes better.
Oh, and tonight, I'm hosting a Happier Hour with co-editor (Anna Solomon) and four of the amazing authors (Jennifer Gilmore, Mary Beth Keane, Marie Myung-Ok Lee & Dani Shapiro) who contributed to the wonderful anthology Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today's Best Women Writers. We will gather in my living room and tell stories. This is another thing I think we must give ourselves permission to do. We need not be writers to tell our stories. Another iteration of the theme. Oh how I could ramble on, but there's a beautiful day out there to soak up.
Anyway, Permission. In life. In love. In writing. In the world. So much to think about, right?
Are you good at giving yourself permission to do things you want to do? Or to rid your life of things that aren't good for you?