This is is a piece I wrote in a recent writing class. The brief was to write an encouraging letter to a young writer.
I have been wondering how I could reply to your last letter. I have waited so long to receive it, though I knew one day it would come.
Strangely, since I read it, I have been taken up with thoughts of swans.
I agree that, as a child, like the Ugly Duckling, you were different to those around you. Even in your own family, you felt as if you didn’t belong. You struggled so hard to fit in and be accepted. I watched you spend yourself trying to please everyone, trying to fulfil the expectations of others.
The light I saw in your eyes had almost gone out.
But now, the dreams you had as a girl, that were set aside amid the frantic pace of your life have come tapping on the window of your soul once more.
I hear in your words the longing for something more, something you can barely name. You speak of lives you might have lived. But you say the alarm is set for 6, there is no time for dreams.
Yet I hear the longing in every word you write.
You say you are writing again, a journal, words full of longing and despair, words you say you will show no one. Words you wish you could share with the world.
Listen to that voice, Jane. The longing inside you is beginning to speak.
This longing will not let you go because the world needs YOUR voice. We need your love, your pain, your loneliness, your belonging, your joy, your sorrow, the light in your eyes, the tears streaming down your face. We need to read about how you became a swan. For swan you are, Jane, ready at last to take your place in the world.
It won’t be easy, Jane. There is that old fear of rejection, the sense that others have done it better, written words more eloquent than yours could ever be. But I have learned in my 70 years on earth, that the Grace that placed the longing in your heart will fulfil that longing if you let it. You need only consent to come out of hiding, to allow your light to shine to remind us of our own.
Without your voice, the song is incomplete, the poem unfinished, the longing in so many of us unexpressed and unresolved. Your longing, expressed as you, will heal us all.
My dearest Jane, give yourself to the Grace that waits to hold you. You will find yourself, as Rilke said, like the swan, at home at last in the water, “unmoving and marvellously calm, pleased to be carried”.