I am currently reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Committed. It is wonderful; full of fascinating facts and musings on marriage, written with Gilbert’s soft, well-researched intelligence and wit. In the book, Gilbert describes how it was difficult to write this new book because this time around, she was writing to an audience of millions, all expecting another mega hit after the super-stardom achieved by Eat, Pray, Love. Gilbert wrote an entire draft of Committed with this vast crowd in mind, and then placed it in a drawer and began the book again. The second attempt was written ”for exactly twenty-seven readers,” all women (pXV). It was only in writing to this intimate group of friends and relatives that she could find her authentic voice and share her story with intention and meaning.
This writing tale of Gilbert’s made me smile as it is similar to the way I find my writing voice, though let’s be clear: my audience is infinitely smaller than hers! I find that when I write to the Crowd on the Internet I trip over my words and get trapped in conundrums, missing my main point. What I do instead is write as though I were speaking to one of my best friends who lives a few states away. Our phone conversations vacillate between the deep end and the hilariously small points of day to day life. There is much laughter and a comforting sense of being known when we talk. When I write a post, I ask myself what it is I am trying to get across (“the point”) and then I write as if I were explaining this point to her. When I do this, the words flow, and writing is truly a pleasurable process.
This all brought me to thinking about the expectations we have for living our lives. One would hope that each of us lives by the calling of our own heart. But it isn’t always the case. Many times, we find ourselves making decisions and choices that we deem acceptable to the masses. We live according to expectations set forth by our families, our co-workers, by those in our social station, or by a fictionalized audience we create for ourselves. Many times, these expectations may not actually exist but we think they are so. We let them hold power over us and rule our lives. We find ourselves making decisions from the outside in and our “self” gets lost in the mix. We are trying to please everyone else with our actions and hoping that we might feel good in the end, which is a risky gamble.
We each have a moral compass and we each have a heart capable of handling so much. When we live according to what feels right we cannot help but feel good. We are being true and operating from love.
Even knowing all this, we can occasionally slip up. It is important every now and again to take pause and consider whose expectations we are considering as we measure the movement of our lives. We must ask, Are my choices motivated by what I think my own “crowd of millions” wants from me? Am I taking a “majority vote” for how I live my life?
Or, Am I moving through life freely, living by what is true in my own heart?