At the Writers Track, at the Amahoro Africa Gathering this year, one of the exercises that we had to do was to complete a poem template entitled “I am…” It was a timed exercise, which basically meant that one’s normal cognitive processes – such as over analyzing – would be circumvented, and then hopefully whatever is hidden inside of you would now have the opportunity to come out of the shadows into the light.
Initially I panicked, with thoughts furiously rushing around in my head and emotions churning in my gut. I think at one point Idelette, one of the facilitators, reminded us to just put our pens to paper, to stop thinking about what to write, and just start writing.
And I did just that.
And when we had to share our poems with those sitting around our tables, panic grabbed my throat and physically silenced me. I had never had such a strong physical reaction to sharing my stuff in public. I passed my poem to a friend to read out loud because I literally could not speak. And as she read my poem, tears slowly rolled down my cheeks. I felt completely exposed, vulnerable.
And then Idelette asked us to share with the larger group. In my head I thought, “NO WAY. absolutely not. There is no way. I couldn’t even do it in my small group, so there’s absolutely no way I’ll do it in the larger group. But when another friend stood to share his poem, and could not continue because he was overcome by his emotions, I thought, “I want to get up and read mine for him. I want to overcome my fear for him.” And before I knew it, I was on my feet.
Even though my head was screaming, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!” my heart was saying, “You can do this.” So, with a shaky voice, I slowly began to read, all the while feeling Idelette’s encouraging smile cheering me on. This is what I read aloud:
I AM – by Nicole
I am… confused, afraid, fearful of not finding my voice, my way.
I want… to be free from the chains of this fear that seems to rob me of breath, of living.
I feel… overwhelmed, like there is something suffocating me, silencing me.
I wonder… if I’ll ever get over this cloying, breath-robbing fear to live.
I fear… that I will allow this fear to rule, to control me, to silence me.
I hope… to breathe freely, to take the courage to step out of the shadows into the light.
I try… to please those whom I love, admire, idolize; I try too hard to be what I think others want me to be.
I believe… that there is hope. It is a belief that breathes into me breath of life, that pushes against that which suffocates me.
I dream… of a day where breathing will be more natural than feeling smothered, of the day when I wake up, not with a panic attack, but with deep cleansing breathes.
I AM… afraid, but also desperately hopeful, one who will not be overcome, a fighter, one who loves deeply and one who is pursued by a God who will not let me drown, who has not let go of me.
This poem freed me in ways I never dreamed possible – it helped me find my voice. And, in bringing some of the deepest parts of me out into the light, I found myself embracing the “me” of the moment in a way that brought healing.
So now I would like to invite you to try it for yourself. Write your “I AM” poem, using the prompts on the left side of my poem (these were on the template given to us by Claire and Idelette). Sit down and give yourself 7 minutes to write your own poem.
And my prayer for you is that this exercise will be a healing one for you, that you too will allow that which is hidden deep inside of your find its way out of the shadows into the light, that you too will find your own voice and embrace who you are in that moment.