What did this little girl figure out in her few short years that I haven’t yet in my long life?
They had no idea how afraid I was.
I could hear their voices down below, encouraging, cheerful—and their laughter. For them, this was all fun and games, but I was terrified. I wondered why I had agreed to do this. Why did I think I was up to the task? But I was stuck now. It was too late to turn back, yet I was uncertain of the way forward. I was in such a narrow spot and couldn’t see the top from my vantage. My heart was pounding and I regretted keeping on the flannel-lined hoodie. The heat crept up my neck like mercury in a thermometer. Then I heard his voice beside me.
“Do you want to quit?”
In my mind I screamed “Yes!” But I couldn’t bring myself to say so out loud.
“Come on, you can do it!” I heard them saying. Their confidence shocked me.
“You can do this.” He added to their assurance with his own quiet push. “All you have to do is…”
Of course, “all I have to do”—easy for him to say. Everything is easy for him! I’m the one who struggles. I’m the one who lacks confidence. Now here I am, on the brink of something, wavering and uncertain.
It’s so typical of me.
To linger in that liminal space is always dangerous. While you waver you give yourself time to rehash all the reasons why you should quit. You recount all the things that are against you and all your weaknesses that make this present challenge impossible.
How many writers, or artists, start their great masterpiece with great excitement only to hit a wall and convince themselves that they aren’t talented enough to complete it? How many projects have you started, then quit because it got too hard? And when you get to that point, how easy is it to get distracted by the success of others? “It’s no use, we think to ourselves. Why did I ever think I could do this? How did I get here anyway?”
“Do you want to quit?”
But, there’s a crowd of people waiting for your book, your article, your story, your song, your poem, your gift—you can’t quit now!
“You can do this” says the quiet voice right next to you. That soft, encouraging voice that you love. “You’re stronger than you think and you’re closer to the end than you realize.”
No, it’s not easy, but you’ve come too far to turn back—you might as well muster the strength to push forward.
I finally decided to push past my fear.
And when I did, something amazing happened. I pulled myself over the ledge! It had been just above me all along. The cheers of my supporters erupted all around and I had to fight back a little tear–I made it! It wasn’t just a physical challenge. It was a mental challenge, symbolic of every mental battle I’ve ever fought.
Perhaps you need to hear this as much as I do: the success that you think is out of reach, is not. You just have to be brave enough to go for it. Your insecurities may be drowning out the assurances of loved ones, but you can decide to push past the fear. Move first and the mind will follow. Stop doubting and start believing that you ARE strong enough! It is at the point of your greatest despair when you will find that you are the closest to a turning point—if not the very summit that you’ve been seeking! Just. keep. climbing.
Marrying an even-tempered man had its advantages, but sometimes it made her crazy! Although they rarely argued, Janet often felt like she was going through her emotional experiences all alone–with someone who wasn’t affected by them. Mark saw change as mere, matter-of-fact occurrences unworthy of comment or discussion. What, then, should Janet do with her comments and expressions? So often she wanted to express herself, but found that when she did the people in her house—not just her husband, but her children too—looked at her with puzzled, annoyed or amused expressions and shook their heads. As if to say, “here goes crazy mom again,” overreacting as usual.
Nevermind that so many changes in her life were happening so fast and she didn’t like them, but Mark seemed unphased. No matter how she tried, she couldn’t get him to join her in the amazement.
“Look at these pictures from 20 years ago!” She would exclaim. “Look how young everyone was!”
“Oh my gosh, can you believe our daughter’s going to college already!”
Barely a blip on the radar.
“Wow, it seems like just yesterday we brought our baby home from the hospital, now look he’s almost taller than me!”
Janet’s a writer. Mark’s a scientist. For Janet, these important life changes are intertwined with her creative work and an important part of how she processes everything that is going on around her. So, when she writes something she’s especially proud of, she naturally wants to share it with her family. Of course, her family is politely supportive, but, when you’re the creative and emotional one who sees the world in metaphor and they’re the logical, matter-of-fact types who see everything in black and white, once the creative piece you’re sharing extends beyond a couple of sentences, a glassy look comes into their eyes and there’s a sound of birds chirping in the distance. The chirping stops, abruptly, when she gets to the last sentence, and, of course, everyone smiles politely and says “that was very good,” and she’s appeased, but empty, because she and they know what’s true.
It’s a lonely life.
You’re emotional. You feel things deeply. You “read” the world and people like a book and think about life and seasons in ways that others don’t. When you try to talk about those things, people look at you and listen, but they don’t really see you or hear. When conversations begin and you join in, they stop, or shift, or shut down, because you bring an entirely new perspective that no one thought of, or considered. They move on and leave you with your thoughts, unengaged.
It’s just our lot as creative thinkers.
But, maybe there are others who are like us who can appreciate the significance of the change happening all around, who will “oh my gosh” and “wow” and “amen” along side us while digging into the deeper meanings of those experiences and help us process them. It is not strange that we should need this, even if those around us do not. It is not strange that we should desire to discuss and write about and display our emotions in response to the world we experience, even if spouses do not. But, what we need is a space to do so that is free from the disparaging gaze of those who don’t understand, because the disapproving eye has so much power over the soul. Their disinterest makes us second-guess ourselves and their wrinkled brow squelches our light.
We will inevitably live and/or work with those who function outside of our mental space. But, perhaps it will stretch us in some way, make us work harder, think more…it will certainly give us something to write about.
Yet, in order to do our work, we must sneak away…for the sake of our souls, we must find a safe space, maybe even a secret place…and, if we can, a like-minded group. Forget about the people in your house! They might love you, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for your writing life. Find a writer’s group—even one online! But you mustn’t let go of your pen.
Shhh, even if we have to keep it secret, whatever we do, we’ll keep writing!
Today is FIRST MONDAY, so I’m supposed to have something inspirational, sensational and professional to share with you…
Well, it’s fall, so, my sensational offering is my new favorite tea–Harney & Son’s pumpkin spice! Y’all, it’s a hint of sweet and oh so nice! It’s caffeine free so it’s a perfect wind down drink at the end of a busy day. You’re going to love it. I promise.
As for the inspirational and professional…
Well, today’s a little different. I kind of need some inspiration (and perhaps professional) input from you!
In a recent post on social media I said that I could write a book entitled “All the Things” because, honestly, most days I feel like I’m drowning! Can you relate? As I’ve tried to identify the source of my stress, more than one person has asked, “what can you cut out?” What can you take off of your plate so that you’re not so strung out? And you know what?
Even that question stresses me!
So, what’s going on? Is the source of my overwhelm the busyness, or is it (also) something else? I began to psychoanalyze myself, because of course, I’m trained to do that sort of thing (kidding). I started writing in my journal–I really believe that journaling is the next best thing to therapy–and an interesting truth emerged. I discovered that the reason I’m stressed, regardless of the number of appointments on my calendar or tasks on my to-do list is that it’s not so much the number of things that I’m required to do as it is the number of people I’m attempting to please. Whether or not I attend the meeting or event, my mind is always thinking about the next thing that I must do to meet someone’s expectation–or how I might have fallen short in doing so.
Yikes! That means that my stress is much deeper than my to-do list and my issues may need more than my private journal to be resolved.
Nonetheless, could this also bring me to the possible starting point for a new book–“All the Things”? I don’t know. It was something I threw out in a hasty, anxiety-filled moment. What would a book with such a title be about anyway? “All” the things is certainly too broad. What things, exactly, would come under such a title? What are “all the things” that readers wonder about? Struggle with? Want to explore the answers to? If you have some ideas, I’d love to hear them.
In the meantime, I think I’ll have some Pumpkin Spice tea and try to relax!
Happy Monday & Happy Fall!