“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” -Theodore Roosevelt
There are a hundred mistakes I make (in a day). A million stumbles and tantrums and ridiculous decisions. I am so far from perfect and so deep in my own shame most days to even see straight. And I am constantly reaching out to those I feel I have harmed with my streaks of humanity, to apologize and make amends. I deeply value the art of self-reflection, humility, and grace.
And here's the thing.
There are also some things I cannot and will not apologize for. Ever.
Now, I am fully aware of the fact that these parts of who I am and what I do might make others feel uncomfortable (with themselves), but as an artist that's all part of the tapestry.
I am not sorry:
1. For being too vulnerable and open.
2. For writing poetically and from my soul.
3. For photographing my children and sharing those beautiful images with the world.
4. For being successful.
5. For the body and skin I live in.
6. For loving greatly and being loved divinely.
7. For being brave.
Lately I have heard things like, "Michelle is too deep!" "Michelle's too unconventional!" "Michelle needs to be more American and put clothes on her daughter." (what. in. the. hell?!) There is even a website Max Wanger recently spoke about on Field Trip where the entire content is hating on artists. If you say something nice, it gets deleted. No love allowed. Woah.
But here's the thing with all of that yucky stuff. I EMBRACE IT. While I understand for some it might feel like the end of the world, and seeing it certainly stings for a second, for me it is a sign I am on the right path. A trail-marker. Gratitude. A badge of honor.
I am daring greatly. I am putting myself out there, into the arena. You, haters, are evidence. Thank you.
My word of the year this year is, "Queen." There is no way I am going to let empty, cowardly criticism steal my crown. No. Way.
These rivers, these women, these stories, these moments, these poems, these images, these connections, these messages of HOPE and LOVE and LIGHT... people can hate all they want, but these things, these beautiful tangible, miraculous things, aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
If you are on the receiving end of hate, or being hit by bricks of criticism, here are some links and videos to help keep your star ablaze:
Name your favorite artist, or author, or person-you-look-up-to-who-can-do-no-wrong. Do you have them in your head? That person who photographs, paints, dances, writes, teaches so incredibly that it feels heaven itself is orchestrating each move? Your favorite of all favorites. Got them? Well, guess what? I promise you, they, too, have a league of critics and haters slamming them (publicly and not). I will never forget the first time I heard someone say they didn't like Maya Angelou's poems or books. They then went on to tear her apart. I was stunned. How was that even possible? But that's the thing: You cannot be the light, without casting a shadow. The brighter the light, the bigger the shadow. It's just the way it goes.
So now look at it a new way: if you are experiencing hate, you are in good company. You now have one more awesome thing in common with your hero.
My point is: Keep. Going.