We hear the word legacy and we think of what we leave behind when we die.
Our unencumbered reality may well be this:
We leave things behind every day. With each breath. Our skin flakes and lands on windowsills, our hair clogs the drain, that time we smiled at a stranger is now as much a memory as that last summer fling.
What if we really, truly treated our lives and our creative selves as legacies?
All of the people I admire- musicians, writers, friends, and family members- live their life just this way. Bowie and Prince still dance in our mind’s halcyon eye. I warm myself by their light when I put on a favorite album, or have coffee with an old friend.
I want what they have.
One of my favorite words in the English language is grace. It has several definitions, one of the archaic definitions being: mercy, or pardon. The word implies charity of character, courtesy, giving thanks.
As a mother, I’ve known since my oldest was born nearly sixteen years ago, that if I could leave anything with my children, it would be how to walk in the world with grace. I want them to go out into the world brave and kind, to never forget how to experience awe.
As a writer, I want my readers to find grace in my stories. I want my voice to be a reflection of not only my truth, but their truth as well. I want them to know when they pick up one of my stories, essays, or poems that they will feel that they’ve been treated with trust and courtesy, with thanksgiving for their time and their particular space in the world.
Sometimes I think I always want too much.
But that is me treating myself the way I would never treat someone I love or admire. I would never tell a friend, “You should just go back to bed. Your dreams are insipid and you’re sniveling all over your favorite t-shirt again.”
I hereby pardon myself and you, dear reader.
I give us permission to not believe everything we think.
To roll our shoulders back, take a deep breath, and stop being afraid :
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. ~Marianne Williamson
What is left behind leaves its indelible mark on us, always. There are nights we spin away from sleep, plagued by the echoes of past mistakes and words we can’t take back. We’re humans- we see ghosts- reflections of our own souls and the reflection of ourselves in the people we’ve hurt- everywhere we turn. Those ghosts aren’t there to torment us, but to remind us of the lessons we’ve learned.
I see star dust everywhere. Constellations of souls who pay tribute to this valuable life and their own creative force. I know their legacy well. I told you, I warm myself by their light.
And sometimes, I know their secret.
I kiss my son’s forehead, talk with my daughters about their futures, or write one true thing. And I know.
Grace, like anything in this life, is a choice. Often, it’s the hardest choice there is. Because we have to acknowledge our own power and honor it.
(Image via By ESO – http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso0828/ Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Mike Peel using CommonsHelper. (Original text: http://www.eso.org/public/outreach/press-rel/pr-2008/images/phot-28-08-normal.jpg), CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6896534)