Mayhem Monday: A Tale of Betrayal

She was doubting me. Every word she didn’t say said it all! She didn’t think I was ready for this. I had come to her for advice and for a good word, but she didn’t think I could hang!  She’s part of the “in group”. They know her. They like her. So, I need her to vouch for me, to tell them I can be trusted, to tell them I can produce quality work. But she can’t do it. She won’t do it.  She all but said so with that extra breath and sigh between her words– with the reluctant “uh” and the rhetorical sidestep that she hoped I didn’t catch.

“I’d be happy to tell them you’re a nice person.”

Wow.

I thought I had proven myself. I thought I had performed well in her presence, but her voice oozes with a polite uncertainty.

So, I’m on my own. I’ll have to sell myself. I’ll have to persuade the “in crowd” without her endorsement. I’ll have to prove to them that I’m worthy and capable of being part of their group based entirely on my own merits. Can I do it without the support of someone with higher status and cred?

Hmmm, but then again what was I looking to her for? Did I place too much stock in her worth to begin with–and too little in mine?  I was sure that her stamp of approval was what I needed to get in–but is it?


What if her hesitation to endorse me was my own? Her uncertainty in my skills and abilities, her unwillingness to vouch for me… suppose they were all mine?  Could I be my own worst enemy?

Here I am thinking she will have my back–but who is she? She of all people knows what I’m capable of, yet she hesitates.

“You know if you go in there they are going to expect you to come with your ‘A’ game,” she says with that sideways glance.

“What? You don’t think I can bring the ‘A’ game?

“Well…”

As I look around to see if she will escort me through the doors of opportunity I realize she is doubting me… and she is me!

 

Yet, “if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed…nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20)

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Mayhem Monday: Strap on your Power Pumps and Kick Failure!

When I was in grad school I often felt like I was climbing up hill. Alone.

By that time I was married with two small children and commuting about 600 miles (round trip) every week. Yeah, it was crazy. A few days each week I would sit in an empty apartment surrounded by books and papers, searching out the mysteries of some scholarly work, attempting to interpret some scholarly idea or—harder still—endeavoring to produce something scholarly myself!

Most of the time I was just climbing up hill.

There were smart people all around me. The students in my program were self-assured and articulate. They spoke eloquently about books I hadn’t read yet and professionals in our field whose names  I was still learning.  I liked being around them, though.  My hope was that their intelligence would rub off! So I smiled and nodded as the conversations swirled.

Still climbing…

In the car rides to school–during the long stretches of country road where there were few other cars besides mine–I would sneak peaks at the article I had yet to finish reading for class.  On the return trips home, I would mentally calculate how many hours I would have between the kids, the hubby and the home duties to complete writing and reading tasks before the next return trip.

Often the hill was steep.

Then that glorious time came when classes were completed–only exams and dissertation remained! Ah, but don’t  be fooled by the “only” in that sentence. It was yet another mountain.  Just when I could see the summit coming into view, the unthinkable happened.  I failed one of my qualifying exams.   My momentum halted. I began sliding straight down that hill. I thought I was done.

But, there were people around me who wouldn’t let me quit.  Two in particular—my husband and my advisor.  They made me look at that failure as a place to begin rather than end.  I had been so focused on pushing up that hill and getting to the top that I had actually missed some things along the way. I needed to go back and take a closer look. I had to slow down and think about each step. The journey was not just about the destination, there were some points along the way that I could only appreciate if I moved slowly and pondered them a little longer. My failure pushed me to  the apex of another mountain and once I pushed past the fog of disappointment, I was able to see my journey with fresh eyes.

And so, in spite of the setback, I kept climbing.

What I love about this verse in Habakkuk is that it says He’ll give me strength to climb “my hills” which implies that He is interested in my personal situation.  It means He knows what I need for the particular journey that I am on.  So, even when I feel like I’m unfit for the task at hand, even when I feel like I’m all alone, or it seems that I’m the only one in the room who doesn’t have a clue, this verse says He’s giving me strength to walk on “my high hills”–He’s telling me to take ownership of that mountain! To claim it as my territory and walk on it with all the power and might that He’s given me!

You know what that’s like? It’s like putting on the power suit and pumps and stepping out with full confidence that regardless of whatever failures you suffered yesterday, today is a new day and today you’re walking on your hills,  You can do it  with confidence because He’s got your back!  He’s not going to let you quit. He knows this climb is rough, but there are some lessons along the way He wants you to learn so He’s made your feet like “deer’s feet”—deer step light and leap gracefully over boundaries. God says do likewise.  Strap on your high heels and take to the high hills–He’s got your back!

Happy Monday!

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Mayhem Monday: Advice to Writers–Keep Going!

Overwhelmingly insignificant. Those are the words that I wrote down. It was the only way I could think of to describe how a beginning writer feels when she’s trying to gain her footing on this overpopulated landscape where writers come a dime a dozen! What sets me apart? What makes me different? Special? Worthy of attention? These are the kinds of questions a writer asks each time she sits down to write. Perhaps these are the questions that others ask as they set out to make their mark in the world as well—singers, artists, athletes—all those whose gifts feel special to them and to their loved ones, but look so pale in comparison to the esteemed greats of society–those who have achieved the highest heights and honors in their class, whose garments we can only hope to graze with the tips of our fingers in a crowded street if we’re lucky.

It’s hard when you’re buried under a mountain of crumpled papers and unfinished manuscripts, and discouraging when the rejection slips come in faster than the book proposals that go out. It’s demoralizing to sit, shivering in the corner of crowded coffee shops, pleading with God for inspiration while trying to tune out the distracting chatter as the blank page of the computer screen is mocking you and the blinking cursor keeps time with the fleeting seconds you have left before your other responsibilities invade this small space in time.

How, exactly, does one move from the crowded streets of insignificance, obscurity and non-productivity onto the fast track of notoriety, achievement and fecundity? I’ve been listening to some authors’ success stories and the same answer emerges from each one—“keep going,” they say. Keep doing what you’re doing. Keep writing. Easier said than done, huh? But, the consensus is, there’s no magic pill, no easy answer and, unfortunately, no shortcut. There are always exceptions, of course, but for the vast majority, the path to success is an arduous process of putting one foot (or should I say word?) in front of the other and refusing to lose faith. That feeling of insignificance is simply the reality that you’re not the only one who can do this—that is, write stories, articles or books—but it should be countered with another reality: you are the only person who can be you. At the very least, there’s that. So, they say, the trick is to infuse your work with your self—something that is unique to you. Do you know what’s unique about you? (Take this personality test to find out: My Personality)

Rather than focusing on the successes of others, focus on being your best self. Focus on improving as a writer, an artist, an athlete, etc, not so that you can be more like someone else, but so that you can be a better version of yourself. With your own past and future successes in sight you will have less time to drool over the achievements of others and your own significance will loom larger in your eyes. After all, each of us has been given an assignment. Let’s not waste time wondering why someone else’s assignment looks more interesting than ours.

In the grand scheme of things we do matter and we can and will make our mark in this world. We just have to keep going!

Happy Monday

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Cover photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash