Whatever You Polish Will Shine

I’m working on a new opportunity that is exhilarating and terrifying.

I’m going to talk to a group of people.

Live. In person.

So you might be thinking…”Girl, whut? You talk to people all the damn time. What’s the big deal?”

I do. I talk to big groups about Wesleyan. I talk for a living. I tell stories on the internet. I read a story in front of all those people at BlogHer last year. I love the feel of a podium and a mic.

This talk feels different. I’ve been invited to Missouri State University as part of their Women in History Month programs. This year’s theme is “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.” I get to talk to some college students about the vital role of telling your own story.

SQUEEEEEE.

And YIKES!

I’ve been working on my ideas for weeks and weeks, but I ran into a big wall of fear every time I tried to get them down into images to go along with my talking points. Petrified. And guess who comes to live in my head when I say YES to some new challenge: my inner critic. That voice that croaks, “See? I told you you couldn’t do this. Your ideas are stupid. No one is going to listen to you. Why would they? What’s special about you? I’ve never heard such arrogance.”

Jasmine of Just Jasmine gave me some great words of encouragement yesterday when I confessed to the same old struggle with the same old shit:

That critic voice is a protective mechanism we develop to keep us from starting so we never fail and never have to face whatever is on the other side. Often, as I am sure you know, when we push pass that voice we find we are far more capable than we’ve ever imagined.

Ain’t that the truth? This fear, this critical dance is a habit. I sat my ass down in the chair tonight and pushed my way past the critic and roughed out my talk.

And I loved it. I got excited about it. I found just the right way of expressing my thoughts. I am looking forward to the interchange with new people in a new place. One big ball of YES, rolling on its own once I got it moving.

While I was searching for some free license images for the talk, I came upon this haunting picture of a Chopin statue:

Chopin

Chopin

While looking at Chopin’s nose, I thought, “Whatever we polish will shine.” Normally, a bronze statue left out in the weather will take on that beautifully thick green patina that we see on the rest of this statue. But so many hands have reached up to pat, caress or tweak Monsieur Chopin’s nose that the constant polishing keeps it shiny. After a while, the nose leaps out and becomes what we notice about the entire statue. Whatever we polish shines.

Whatever we keep touching on, that’s what stays in the forefront. I polish the fear when I let that critic voice run rampant. If my heart travels back to fear over and over again, that’s what shines. If I point it towards courage and YES, that’s what shines.

Here are two other memories of shiny statues that I encountered in adventures and both of them made me smile.

This little dog sits at his master’s knee in a bas relief bronze plaque on the Karluv Most (Charles’ Bridge) in Prague. For hundreds of years, passersby have been unable to resist giving the dog a little pat:

karluv most dog

See how he shines from all that attention!

Here’s a funny one from Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Journalist Victor Noir was killed as a  second in a duel by the great-nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte. Noir is memorialized in bronze, in such a realistic style that he seems to have fallen down (his toppled top hat often fills with flowers brought by tourists). Well, as you can see from the photo, certain…contours within the statue are remarkable. Over the decades, Noir’s crotch has risen in myth to a fertility symbol, so visitors to the cemetery give it a little polish for some extra luck in the baby-making department:

victor noir

(I gave it a polish myself…et voila, deux bebes! Tres simple!)

Jeez…How did this talk wander off into rubbing a French reporter’s crotch in a graveyard? I hope this doesn’t happen at Missouri State. Rein it in, rein it in….

So polishing. The power of polishing doesn’t come from force–it’s in repetition. It’s a gentle, consistent alchemy.  I’ve spent years inadvertently polishing the voice of the inner critic. Now I’m keeping my hands off of it and using them to gently pat the head of courage, who sits at my knee and looks lovingly at me, to remind me to give Yes a try.

 

17 thoughts on “Whatever You Polish Will Shine

    1. Baddest Mother Ever Post author

      Yahoo! Get out there and polish your courage. You deserve every giggle and gasp in this wonderful life.

      Reply
  1. Brett

    What an honor, Ashley! You have always encouraged me to speak the truth about my life. I couldn’t imagine anyone would be remotely interested in hearing about MY LIFE…?? After i had a year sobriety, i went back to the treatment center to tell my story. I had to fill ONE HOUR – WHA?? Anyhoo..it went well and helped me unload more garbage. To hear it out-loud takes the power of the demon away. You’ve had such an interesting life and have been given the gift of expressing it with your words. Nobody knows your story like you, and nobody can tell it any better than you. So proud of you for reaching for SOMETHING MORE in this life. I love you and have every belief that they will too.

    Reply
  2. Leanne

    You will be fantastic!!! I read this yesterday in some random email, but thought it was nice:

    Since both creating and not creating produce anxiety in a person who wants to create, you might as well embrace the fact that anxiety will accompany you on your journey as a creative person—whether or not you are getting on with your work. Just embracing that reality will release a lot of the ambient anxiety that you feel. Since anxiety accompanies both states—both creating and not creating—why not choose creating? 🙂
    from http://www.dailyom.com/cgi-bin/courses/courseoverview.cgi?cid=48

    Reply
    1. Baddest Mother Ever Post author

      Leanne, I’ve been thinking about this idea all morning! It’s so true. At least the anxiety of creating has something to show for it after I’m done!

      Reply
  3. Jaqui

    Have you heard about the new app that makes your phone buzz when you approach places where women made history? Apparently it was made by girls/young women ages 13-22. So far they have 100 notable women. The app and are still adding. It’s called Women on the Map and is hosted by Google’s Field Trip….don’t know if you might be interested in it for your talk.

    Reply

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