This morning, I am watching our goat Wilma cuddle up with our 150 pound Great Pyrenees. She has been a little under the weather of late (anemia, I think), and so cuddling with a big mass of fur and warmth probably feels awesome.
As I waited for my oatmeal to cook this morning, I watched her doze off and lay her head on the big guy’s back. It was such a simple, tender gesture that it brought tears to my eyes.
One impulse I have to fight often is to go and grab these babies and bring them into our house to give them warmth and ease. I cannot do that – it wouldn’t be wise for the humans, but it also wouldn’t be wise for them. They need to acclimate. They need to be where their thick fur makes sense. Here, they would be too warm, too messy, too much.
So I watch them find ease and warmth as is best for them, and I am warmed by their sweetness.
As an editor and writing coach, I fight some of the same impulses. I want to protect my clients, to bring them into the safety of only kind words and cheers of encouragement. And they want that, too. They want to be told that their work is brilliant, that they will surely be famous, that they will be able to quit their day jobs and live on a Caribbean island for the rest of their days.
Hell, I want that, too (except I’d pick a mountain cabin instead of the island).
But the truth is that I have to resist that urge to provide too much safety. The writing world is a hard place – people say harsh things, reviews are not always kind, publishers don’t always want our work.
My role, then, as a coach and editor is not to wrap writers up in word blankets and sooth them. No, my work is to prepare them to be strong, to help them make their work the best it can be, to guide them as they fulfill their visions for their projects.
Many days, I would prefer the satin-lined blankets of sweet positivity. But then, well, no one hires me to be the perfect mother. They hire me to help them, and sometimes, help is not always nice or easy.
My clients, know I love you and your work. I push you because not only is it what I am hired to do but also because it’s better for you. I want you to be your best, and I want you to be ready when other people do not necessarily want to see the best in you.
These beautiful farm animals give me so much comfort. I turn to them when I get hard news, when I need to pray for friends, when life is just a bit too heavy. They remind me that I can take comfort where it’s offered – from my husband, from my friends, from my family.
But they also keep me mindful that not everyone’s role in my life is to make me feel better or ease my path. Sometimes, the best helpers I’ve ever had are people who make my life a bit more difficult right now so that, later, when the really hard part comes, I’m ready.
Has there been a time in your life when someone pushed you to be better, even when it hurt? What did you learn from that experience?