For Many Years My Voice Shook

I wrote a book for the Maxwell Institute.  It came out on November 1st.  In the last three weeks I have traveled and spoken at fifteen different events.  Up until November 1st, even when I practiced reading for my husband in our living room, my voice would shake so badly that the words would get caught up in my throat and finally stumble out in a bundle of nervousness.  I was quite serious in my consideration of hiring actors to read my work for me at the events I knew I was going to be speaking at.  I did not want to take up people’s time.  I did not want to be in the spotlight, I felt so much nervousness about what I wasn’t,  or at least the part of me that had spent a lifetime overdosing on what I thought humility meant.

On the opening night of the book, I stood in front of about 150 people and looked down aUtah Photographert the words on the page, unsure if my voice would shake and render me incapable, or if it would carry steady.  I believe by an act of pure grace, and genuine love from the people in these audiences, my voice, for literally the first time in my life, read the words I had written without a crack or waver.  Something kind and believing has carried them each night as I’ve read the pieces about my own life, which are intensely personal and nakedly honest.

It has been both an incredible experience , and a surprise when the compliment I most consistently receive after the events is that I seem so confident, so comfortable in my own skin, so at ease with myself.  And it is perhaps even more of a surprise when I can answer honestly and say that yes, I do actually feel totally comfortable and confident in being entirely honest and in being myself, even when there are so many ways I’d like to be better, know more, do more.  I only bring attention to this because for so long it was not true.  I functioned in the space where I understood perfection to both completely unattainable and so far off my radar that my humility drove the car and often it just chose to not drive at all, but sit in the driveway for fear of where we might go and whose way we might be in.  I turned away from bold and brave thoughts or moments to say those thoughts because I didn’t want to take up other people’s time with my own obvious imperfection.

In the writing of One Hundred Birds Taught Me To Fly over the past year, my understanding of my Heavenly Parents took new shape.  I spent almost the whole of my 31 years believing that God had something specific, very specific, that He was hoping I would somehow discern exactly, and then carry out in the way that He hoped, exactly.  It felt like a sort of guessing game that I was not very good at, and so, of course, turned to unproductive humility that ultimately left me often feeling like I was failing.  Failing at guessing God’s mind and will and executing as God would.  Writing that expectation out now feels both impossible and absurd, but the emotions accompanying that still fresh and real.

When a desire and sense to know a Heavenly Mother began to take shape in my life a few years ago, my assumptions of the Heavenly Father I had built up also started to change.  As I started to see parents instead of a stern ruler, I started to connect to a healthier vision both of what those parents might be to me, and perhaps more astonishing, what I might be to them.

When I think of  Heavenly Mother, I thought of the way I look at my own son and daughter.  I think of the countless nights my husband and I lay in bed after a long day with those wily children and tell stories about them until we are so proud our hearts have grown ten sizes.  We would never expect them, particularly in their limited knowledge, to somehow discern an exact thought or idea we wanted them to execute and we would never hold them to doing it precisely as we have in mind.  We love them enough to believe in their creativity.

Before I wrote the book and was just thinking about writing the book, I still lived in that space where I believed I needed to be and do something I was not capable of.  In part, I thought I somehow needed to be like the five accomplished, male authors who had written books before me.  I hadn’t really given myself the kindness of considering that who I was, and what I am currently capable of, was precisely the thing asked of me.

Utah Photographer

Last night at a reading someone did ask me how I was so confident, even in my uncertainty of answers, even in my youngness, in my apparent imperfection.  The thing I said was this:  I came to understand a different feeling from my Heavenly Parents through the writing of this book, not one of specific expectation and impossible standards, but a clear, strong sense that I was trusted to do my work as I best know how.  That what I had to say was good, and I was not only trusted, but encouraged and supported to say it in the ways I know how.

In my own life, this has been revolutionary.  Maybe it’s something that many or most of you already believe or know, but for me it was not.  It was this lack of knowledge that caused my voice to shake in insecurity beyond comprehension for so many years, and it was this license and trust in my own creativity, and then the holy partnering and approval I allowed myself to feel that allowed it to finally steady and fly.

 

Comments

  1. “not one of specific expectation and impossible standards, but a clear, strong sense that I was trusted to do my work as I best know how. That what I had to say was good, and I was not only trusted, but encouraged and supported to say it in the ways I know how.”

    This is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. I know this intellectually, but my intensely rigid and doctrinaire upbringing still keeps me from truly believing it, living it in my heart. I hope, like you, to figure out how to internalize this and feel myself “steady and ready to fly”. Thank you.

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    15 events in three weeks? I don’t consider myself introverted, but that schedule would slay me. It’s great that you were able to find the strength to get through that gauntlet. And I love the insight that came to you from thinking of heavenly parents rather than the stern ruler of the universe.

  3. Ashmae: I’ve personally found great strength in watching your courage blossom, both in writing the book and in the times I’ve seen you speak about it publicly. There’s beauty and power in that courage, and I admire it deeply.

    Pen Dragon: Your comment suggests that you haven’t read Ashmae’s book. Perhaps you should.

  4. Bravo!

  5. This is awesome.

  6. Love this perspective! Thank you, I needed this.

  7. Amy Allebest says:

    Ashmae, there’s probably no way you could have known while you were busy writing that your book would come out at such a dark time in our country and our world. It also happens to have been a difficult time for me personally, and your book has been a source of pure, divine light in my life. To know that you felt nervous and vulnerable as you let its power flow through you makes me even more grateful. Thank you!!

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