Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Remembering What I Ache For

I woke up this morning, my face wet with tears, hearing the opening lines of “The Invitation” echoing from my dreams: “It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for.” I pressed my hand to the ache in my chest.

I know why this comes today. Last night I went to hear CBC radio’s Eleanor Wachtel interview Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran and Things I’ve Been Silent about. Azar was inspiring- in the true meaning of that word- an in-breath of Spirit that lifts and reminds us of what we thought we could never forget: that the fostering of imagination and ensuring the free expression of our creative impulses are as necessary as bread and air and water to the life of human beings.

Caught up in the flotsam and jetsam of daily life, the painful story of separation, the wearisome details of getting information to lawyers, of sorting what to leave behind and what to gather for the next leg of the journey, I have wandered far away from the truth Azar speaks of and embodies with grace and elegance.

Azar lives in Washington DC and is from Iran. She told us stories about about men and women in Iran being jailed and killed for reading books we in North America could find on any library shelf. And she spoke with embodied passion about the power of literature, of story, of art to create and chronicle meaning, to stir the imagination for finding solutions in an increasingly complicated world, to ensure true democracy by educating citizens in different ways of perceiving and thinking and imagining the world.

And I remembered why I have read and written all of my life. I remembered how much I ache to write. At one point Azar said, “We write to retrieve what is lost,” and I wanted to weep. When we write or paint or compose or dance (or do any other kind of creative work) we retrieve parts of ourselves we did not even know were lost- the stories and characters that have peopled our lives, the meaning that was waiting to be uncovered and co-created, meaning that sustains us and can sustain our people (and who are not our people?) Receiving others’ creative expressions we expand our own vision, stir our own imagination and open ourselves to a broader, deeper wisdom.

Totalitarian regimes know about the power of the imagination and creative work, which is why they respond with what Azar called “naked violence” in an effort to control and curtail both.

When I wrote a book about doing our creative work I titled it What We Ache For, because I know this to be the central ache in our lives: to participate in creation by allowing the imagination to move us, lift us and guide us in offering something to the world. Our lives offer us a wealth of experience- the raw material of daily life- that can be spun into the gold of the stories and images and songs and movements that guide us in co-creating a world birthed in the imagination of possibilities.

Loss, as Azar pointed out last night, presupposes possession. We cannot lose what we never had. And those who have lost what we take for granted- like the men and women in Iran risking their lives to read or write forbidden poetry and stories- help us remember, value and participate in what we have been given.

I ache to write: stories, books, poems. And I am grateful to remember that I must trust this longing, must set it at the centre of my life.


  1. Oriah,

    I totally agree. In Germany we have a saying "writing the ache down is like (silently) screaming it out". Of course in German it rhymes much better (aufschreiben = aufschreien). If I can't write it down, then it stays stuck somehow in my throat and my chest aches and hurts. I have ached for so long to be a writer, but then I put myself down "yeah, right, what are you going to write which hasn't yet been written. As if the world has just been waiting for you." But somehow my body shows me when I resist my deepest longing, it acts up. I really live when I write. The more I read your books the more courageous I become and maybe one day it is enough to actually save what I've written and publish it.
    Bless you for walking your talk and for doing what you do so wonderfully: writing, so beautifully, so honestly, so understanding, so humourously now and then and for teaching us, your readers, not to take ourselves so terribly serious.
    I pray for the people in Iran and all over the world that one day they can openly read and write and until this day may they be safe and protected by the Beloved to do it anyway in secret.

    Sending you a huge hug for being You and keeping you in my prayers. Thank you for your kind words to my last post.

    Even though it sucks right now and you probably never want to date again, I see you happily together with a man who is worthy of you, who loves all of you, who cherishes you and who feels blessed to be in your life, who laughs at you mischiviously when you boss him around and simply hugs you tight which makes you smile, with whom you can laugh and cry equally well, for whom you are enough.

    Blessings & Love & FairySmiles,
    Sabine :-)

  2. Some would say “I write as if I wanted to save somebody’s life, probably my own life”.
    Artists are always giving birth with devotion, which can be pretty painful. They were given the gift of perception, they feel, they feel it all, which is dangerous, which can cause all sorts of illness. For those love is a dangerous way.
    I frequently feel love as an accident waiting to happen.
    Your words inspire me, Oriah. I wish I could express myself better, I’m afraid of committing English mistakes.
    Blessings from a Brazilian admire.

  3. Your English is much better than my Portugese.

    Sabine- me, boss anyone around? Never! :-)

  4. This thought came to mind - could it also be said that as we become more of ourselves we retrieve parts of creativity we didn't even know were lost?

    Being who we are and creativity seem to empower and propel each other into greater depth and clarity.

    Also wanted to say the last paragraph contains a very powerful shift, a sense of having reconnected with You and ready to move forward again.

  5. And this is why once again I have picked up my pen. Creativity is as necessary to healing as rest. Thank you for reaffirming what I know in my spirit.

  6. Lorraine- lovely spiral isn't it- of being and creating ever-deepening.

  7. and we shall bear the good fortune of your setting this back into the center of your life, and then as you send your creative work out into the world...

  8. Thank you for your lovley inspirational words Oriah :) They help me feel like I'm not alone, and to put everything in to perspective.

    I've learnt so much about myself this year,and your words have helped me to get there. I've learnt thats its okay to say enough is enough and stand up for myself and what I want and need, I've learnt to fight for myself, and it feels so good to do it. Im in my teens and have recently made the decision to be home educated, school wasn't right for me, I was very stressed and felt completly trapped, but since I've started home education I have felt so much better, and have really felt myself. Since then I have traveled around New Zealand and Australia and am just enjoying everything I do a lot. Some people see the decision I made as a very strange one, but for me It was the best choice I've ever made, I still have bad days, but I'm able to cope now. I re-discovered my passion for learning that school seemed to take away from me....I feel free :)

    I hope you situation improves....stay strong. :)
    a favourite quote of mine...

    "Hold on to what is good, even if it is a handful of earth. And hold on to what you believe, even if it is a tree which stands by itself. Hold on to what you must do, even if it is a long way from here. Hold on to life, even when it is easier to let go. Hold on to my hand, even when I have gone away from you"

    Thank you so much for your amazing writing, I look foward to each weekly post,
    Wishing you well,

  9. you send your creative work out into the world, you may remind others of our own creativity, inspire us to bring forth our own writing or images or - almost anything, really - cakes, conversations, songs, prayers.....And who knows where these sacred things will take us all?

    (Laurelhh, I hope you are OK with me echoing your words, and continuing.)

  10. Dear Oriah,

    My own blog post this week is titled, "What do you ache for?" and is based on the first paragraph of "The Invitation." I wrote my post before seeing that your own post this week was about what YOU ache for. Talk about a coincidence...I love how the universe works.

    My post includes a poem I wrote called "An R.S.V.P. to The Invitation". If you are interested, you can find it at:

    Thank you for "The Invitation."

    Annie Beringer

  11. Oriah -- I had never actually read your blog before and came to find it to share my own blog post from this week. Ironically, both you and I wrote on the same topic--the ache.

    I wrote a poem in reply to The Invitation and if you are interested, it can be found at:

    Thank you for The Invitation!


  12. Oriah-

    I ache to be a motivational speaker and serve humanity.

    I ache that you woke up with tears on this particular morning, when today your book and familiarity of your words brought me to tears of gratitude and appreciation.

    The Invitation reached me very simply the other day and reading it has been wonderful!!

    Thank you for your honesty and willingness to share with the world what you ache for.

    I have always believed since I was 8 that I am to be a motivational speaker....I describe it as so real and close that I can taste it!!

    Sending you love!!

  13. Thanks you for this reminder of faithfulness to ourselves being the truth we present to others.

  14. Oriah,
    Compelled to share:

    Something inside is burning, glowing and flowing. It is driven and expanding. It must come forth, it is the devine. Ache?...yes. Pain?...perhaps. Motivating?...absolutely. These things we feel when we ache are really messages...knowing...a call to action. Suppression only delays the inevitable and oppression calls the resolute to attention, even at the risk of life. If we hold it in are we really living anyway? Living is the driving power behind the ache to create even in the midst of adversity.

    In your own words, "the fostering of imagination and ensuring the free expression of our creative impulses are as necessary as bread and air and water to the life of human beings."

    Creation whatever the life.


  15. Oriah,a little while ago I went to see a movie with my daughter, it was called Everything is Fine. The main part was played by Robert DeNero. I said to Vanessa please tell me this is not a sad movie, I really can't do any more sad today. She assured me that it was a comedy, but of course it was not and we discovered everything is not fine. I thought of you that day, because of you and the invitation, I learned how to take a full breath, I discovered how important it is to call it,to say its not fine, if it isn't. I learned from you that I did not have to pretend, I did not have to scream in silence,that it was ok to fail and say it was ok. Oriah I will pray evert day for your pain to ease and There is majic in every day, if we were only able to look for it.
    GodBless my Friend