I like to tuck tiny words into the pockets of my soul. You never know when you’re going to need them.
To writers and non-writers alike, there’s a practice I’ve been doing off and on since the time I could write that has served me well. When you’re reading, if there’s a line or a poem in a book that speaks to you, jot it down in a journal (include the source). If I’m lying in bed and too tired to hunt down my journal or a pen, I set a reminder on my phone with the page number and brief description for the next day. Your journal can be a spiral notebook or whatever you wish. I’ve come to favour five-sectioned spiral notebooks for their ability to section off writing projects. They cost a fraction of what fancy notebooks do, have substantially more room, and provide a better writing surface. Use the words, phrases, song lyrics, lines or poems that you collect as inspiration in life, in your work, and most definitely, in the case of the writer, in what you create.
In reading local author Jeff Sutherland’s memoir Still Life, I came across two beautiful words by Dr. Maya Angelou. Love Liberates. Love liberates. Dr. Sutherland’s memoir relays his story of receiving a diagnosis of ALS (a disease that attacks the motor neurons of voluntary muscles) while in his forties as a flourishing family physician, followed by the subsequent loss of his eldest son in a freak water accident. When Dr. Sutherland lost his son, he also lost his son’s girlfriend who had become like family. The young couple had been kayaking in behind the family’s home on a serene, sunny day. Just months before the accident, his son’s girlfriend had the words ‘love liberates’ tattooed on her arm and so did her mother. Love liberates. What did it mean?
Certain lines trigger my writer senses and I knew this was one of them I had to explore further. A quick google search revealed a video of Dr. Maya Angelou talking about how love liberates, using story as only she can. You can watch the amazing video here.
“I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love because that liberates. Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold – that’s ego. Love liberates. It doesn’t bind. Love says, ‘I love you. I love you if you’re in China. I love you if you’re across town. I love you if you’re in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear. But that’s not possible now, so I love you. Go.’”
~Dr. Maya Angelou
Dr. Angelou’s poem applies to loved ones who have moved on, as in the case of Dr. Sutherland’s son and his son’s girlfriend, and it applies to those whose love we might take for granted in our daily lives. Our husbands. Our wives. Our parents. Our children. Upon hearing her words, I immediately thought of my husband. I instantly knew what ‘love liberates’ meant. I remembered how in 2014, when we had two little kids and I told him I wanted to travel to India for ten days on my own for the World Down Syndrome Congress, he said go. And how when that same Congress came to Scotland four years later, and we now had three babies, and I proposed another ten days away, he said again, to go.
In both cases, he knew he couldn’t be with me, but he sent me anyway. He would have liked to have his arms around me. We like to be near each other. We spent forty-five days travelling the world as a family. We are close. He told me, I love you, go.
Before we had kids, almost fifteen years ago, I wanted to go on a trip abroad with friends. He supported my leaving, though he would have rather I stuck around so he could hear my voice in his ear. We had been dating four months. We talked nonstop during our dog walks those months. “Go,” he said. But my exam schedule conflicted with my friends’ travel date, and so, dejected, I resigned myself to staying. When I told him the news, my husband smiled and pulled me close, “Good, now I get to go with you.” And he did. I didn’t know I could do something like that, just plan a trip and up and leave. We travelled to Cuba, the first of many adventures to come.
I want to write a book, I want to speak in schools, I want to travel the world, I want to go back to school to do my Master’s, I want to train for an Ironman. “I love you. Go.” he says every time. Love does not hold. Love does not bind. Love liberates.
And my life is infinitely richer with him – and the words to express what he means to me – in it. Pull your loved ones close, and when they ask of you to love them, let them go.