This weekend I had the privilege of attending my first EMLA client retreat. Leading up to the flight on Friday morning I kept waiting to feel excited but couldn't move past jittery panic. Those head voices kept taunting, "This was a terrible idea. You don't belong there. You're a groupie and a hack. A HACK, I say!"
Of course every person I encountered was warm, accepting, funny, shining with intelligence and good grace and advice and creative energy. Still, it took me a while to quit acting like a groupie. At one point I got up the nerve to talk to one very gracious, articulate writer and the only thing I could think of to say was, "I really like your shoes."
Why is it so easy to be accepting of others and so hard to accept ourselves? Why are we so MEAN to ourselves?
The hotel bathroom had one of those free-standing mirrors that magnify your face by like 20 times. (And remind me later to punch whoever came up with that oh-so-flattering piece of ingenuity.) It finally dawned on me, glancing in that mirror and being horrified even though I knew it was a distorted reality, that I magnify my nonphysical shortcomings the same way, complete with bad lighting and a handy Big Book of Insults.
You know what? Nobody at the retreat was mean. Not one soul. They opened their arms wide and welcomed me, and something amazing happened. My little bubble of isolation and head voices couldn't withstand the awesomeness. I learned so much. I smiled and talked SO MUCH. I listened to people read from their work and yes, a little envy crept in but mostly I felt inspired and lifted, able to recognize room for growth in my own work and be excited about it without the customary negativity and self-doubt.
It was joy. I miss it already. After inheriting dozens of writerly siblings, you can’t help but come home and attack your work in progress with new vigor and clarity and…dare I say it? Confidence.