Write Like No One is Reading

baby elamLately I’ve been feeling like I’m standing at the edge of a cliff. Not just because of changes coming down the pike — growing children primarily among them — but so many things. I’m in a new season, or about to be. I recognize it, but I can’t tell you exactly what it is. I’m stuck. Stuuuuuccckkkk and I’m trying to jumpstart the cogs but have no idea how.

Fear is the word that keeps coming to mind. And the only way to get around fear is to just go through it.

About a year ago, at a summer conference in Atlanta, I kept hearing the word fearless. Or Be Not Afraid. Over and over at the conference I heard those words. And of course, I thought, “wha?” What did it mean? Was I afraid? What should I not fear? I had no idea, except that I kept thinking about it over and over.

Be Not Afraid.

And yet, I feared. Fear is a funny thing because so very quickly it can become a way a life (and I’ve thought that line in my head so many times it’s possible I’ve written that here before). You’re so in the habit of fearing, or worrying, that it’s just a part of the scene. And that’s where I’ve been — aware that it’s time to stop but so entrenched in living this way. And certain seasons certainly bring plenty of intensity — now that my kids are getting older I’m realizing just how intense life with babies can be.

And in the meantime, I’m too stuck to do anything but think about how I’m stuck. I think about all the changes going on and can’t figure out what to do about it. I think about the things I want to fearlessly write, and then I don’t, because stuuuuccckkk, and then I read a similar thought somewhere else. That is the WORST. Do you know how terrible it is to have a thought or feeling and be too afraid to share it and then be clicking around (because you do that instead of writing because it’s too scary to write) and then you see those same thoughts — very likely expressed way better than you ever could — and you just want to walk away from it all.

So hello, welcome to my world!

Now if you’re thinking I’m depressed, I appreciate the love. But I’m not. I’m actually doing great — and I want to share about that too. But it’s so scary, being on the edge of a cliff standing out there taking in the scene and not knowing where to go. Is now the time I start to share what it’s like to not have babies anymore? Do I talk about this new world of the youngest being four? Of how it feels to hold your brother’s brand new baby and be totally okay with the reality that you probably won’t have anymore babies — and that you are totally peaceful in this time and place? To be where you are and be content and grateful for where you are and what God has given you, and how very strange and new it is to be here?

And then all the thoughts on being 40 etc. I keep getting tripped up in my head because sometimes I think about what I want to write and I still think of myself (and my readers) as the group we all were when I started writing here so many years ago. I had a house full of little boys and I was different and my life was different. Now, I think in terms of writing here with those same kinds of stories, but that isn’t my life at all anymore.

And so…I stand. And watch. And try to figure out where I fit in and what I have to offer. That’s the bottom line. That’s me writing from the very deepest crevice of me. What do I have to offer? It’s changing, and change is…scary.

So it’s an exciting time but really strange. I’m not sure what any of it means except I’m tired of sitting back and letting it all pass me by. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing but I’m tired of being afraid. I’m tired of worrying about who reads this and what they think and does it resonate and do I sound crazy. And have I said all this before? I’m also tired of being afraid of that.

I am just ready to live Authentically and figure it out as I go. Because guess what? You can’t jump off a cliff with handrails. You just can’t. You have to heave yourself off the side and say “TO HECK WITH IT” and pray there is a safety next and not think about it so much. What should I do next? Where do we go from here?

I don’t know. But I’m moving forward and that’s the best I can do.

A few weeks ago I had one of the most intense weeks I’ve had in a very long time. If you had told me in advance that my line-up that week would include: death of a childhood friend, going to her wake, then going to jury duty then capping off the week with a three-hour trip to the dentist (with four-year-old daughter for company because you thought your tooth was a quick fix and turns out NO), well I would have been terrified. At any one of those things, never mind all of them put together.

But I survived. Because it was one day at a time. And it was grace in each moment. Not in advance. In advance I dwelt in a place of fear; in the moment I was just fine.

In advance, I got palpitations just thinking about any of those things. Jury duty had me terrified for months in advance. And then, the day came to sit in a courtroom and gaze up a judge and lawyers and a defendant and I was great. No problem. Because in that moment, I did what I needed to do. Free of fear. Full of courage.

You can do the thing you think you cannot do.

I was thinking, as I drove down to the courthouse the morning I was to report, that Be Not Afraid is not the same as Fearless. I kept saying to myself, “Be Fearless. BE FEARLESS.” Until I suddenly realized, that’s not realistic.

It’s not reality to sit back and will fear to be gone. Fear is sometimes our body’s way of saying “be careful. Look out.”

What I needed was not to be fearless. It was to Have Courage. To be brave in the face of my fear. To remind myself that Fear is not Bigger than God — have courage.

I’m chucking Fearless as my word. I’m embracing Courage. Because a false sense of Fearless has been holding me back. It’s been telling me that I need to wait until those scary feelings are gone — or it’s been telling me to sit and wait and analyze some more. Or think about how to overcome the feelings. That’s what it likes to do.

But the truth is sometimes you just move forward, through the hard thing. And that is courage. It’s doing the hard thing or the challenging thing because you know you’re going to be okay, even if you feel a little scared right now.

It’s a great season, it’s a scary season. It’s new — it’s not the status quo. I don’t know what it means, but I do know I’m tired of standing on the edge of a cliff. I’m ready to jump.

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Comments

  1. While we were at the park this afternoon, I thought about your upcoming trip and how you used to be afraid of flying. You’ve completely conquered that one! Victory!

    I need to work on what I think of as “anticipatory stress.” I ruin spring thinking about how hot summer will be. If I have dental work scheduled for Friday, the whole week’s a wash. This thinking ignores the fact that the grace arrives in the moment, just as you said.

    • Thanks Kel! Small victories. And yes, I am trying to learn to pinpoint the stress and keep it at bay as long as possible. Let’s not ruin The Now!

  2. Not to blow your mind or anything but, you can still get pregnant in your 40s. I did. Twice. I had my youngest when I was 46. So I’m feeling what your expressing, but now I’m 54. Your change is coming – but it might be 10 years from now!

    • Oh indeed! Part of what’s got me thinking about it is several of my friends who are pregnant or just had a baby (in their early 40s). My neighbor growing up had her last baby at 47. 🙂

  3. Have been reading you for awhile now and yes please keep writing! I think you of a mentor mom and want to hear about how life changes when the kids get older! I remember you writing about “running” awhile back (I lose track) and you ran into another mom runner and she commented on how “young” your kids were… even when you felt like they were finally “older”. I’m like – wow! Some day! Some day I will get there! I really appreciate your honesty and fun on your blog and on the Gist (when my rural internet is fast enough to buffer it…..:) Plus I have at least 3 girlfriends who now have allllll boys so they need to hear from you too! 🙂

  4. Catherine says:

    I read your blog regularly! I understand exactly how you feel. I also have 5 boys and a girl, and my youngest is now 4. I am happy with my big kids but find it hard to believe that I don’t have a baby!

  5. I’ve been reading your blog since we each had a pile of little kids, and, guess what? My oldest is turning 17 and my youngest just turned 7. I started out having more kids than you, and now we both have 6! I lost 4 more after my youngest, so yeah, probably no more littles. So weird. So great! So…strange. A little sad. Hard to think about, because I have three teenagers, and one almost teen! And a 7 and an almost 9.

    So, yeah, new times, new fears, new ways to trust God. Keep writing!

  6. Your writing resonates like no other’s! I hope you think of that when you go to write and aren’t sure what to say. Clearly there are a group of people who love what you have to say and feel less alone in their feelings when you say it. It was perfect timing with this piece, as it often is when I read your writing. I also feel very stuck, in my writing, in my life. My youngest started kindergarten this year and my oldest started middle school. At 44, with four beautiful children, I still think about more. You actually very kindly answered an e-mail of mine about this topic last year. I would be beyond thankful if you did write about the end of having babies, because while I glimpse the peace of knowing your family is complete, I struggle with it every day. Thank you for so honestly and graciously sharing your thoughts and feelings on so many topics. You have truly used your gift for great purpose!

  7. Your writing just gets better and better – stay fearless, and my favorite thing about you – Genuine! 40’s are the best!!!

  8. Thanks for writing this today. I’ve been realizing lately that my baby days are probably over, and the thought of moving into a new season is sad and bewildering and hard. But I feel guilty for feeling this way because I am so ridiculously blessed. You’re making me feel a little better.

  9. Summer Swenson says:

    Love you so much!!!

  10. I am a mom of younger ones who reads your blog and even though I’m not in the exact same stage, I still treasure your writing. And can I just say, I especially love when you’re just real about it and don’t apologize! Last winter, I was in throes of a very difficult first trimester and I went back and read your posts from when you were at that point with Henry. I just needed to read the account of someone who had been there and lived to tell the tale. This year, we made our foray into having a child in school all day for the first time and oh my goodness, I am still adjusting to that change. I cannot imagine having my oldest be almost done with high school! I love reading!

    • Thanks so much Katie. It really is nice to hear that younger moms appreciate what I’m saying — it’s tricky sometimes wondering exactly who the reading audience is! Thanks for taking the time to share this.

  11. I also think sometimes I look at that phrase, “Be not afraid” in the wrong way. I think it should read, “Be. Not Afraid”. As in, “Live. Breathe. Be. Don’t let the fear stop you from being”. To focus on the *being* part, rather than the fear- even if it’s a focus on trying to *not* be afraid.

    I don’t know.

  12. I can very much relate! My youngest is 4 and it is truly a whole new season with no diapers, no strollers, etc. I recently read a great book on jut this topic and it has some wonderful, supportive approaches to finding yor way in this new phase: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00JZ6QM3O/ref=redir_mdp_mobile

  13. Adrian G says:

    Thanks, I especially appreciate the part about courage as opposed to fearless. For what it’s worth, I’ve liked the idea of ‘season’ as a helpful word for dealing with change but I also wonder whether it can draw us to look too far beyond the present day and moment as we have these within our grasp and influence, but not tomorrow. And, of course, suffice for the day is it’s own worries. I think I’m really in need of really Story of a Soul again or something similar. Thanks once again.

  14. I think of the expression (?) “We contain multitudes.” I can’t google it, but it leapt into my mind reading this … I’m 43 and will turn 44 before Halloween. I’m home with 3 boys under 3.5 just north of Boston. And yet … I’m still the girl raised in Syracuse, NY. The young woman at 23 who chucked everything and moved to NC with an unsuitable cad. I GREW-UP in Raleigh and made the best friends of my life there … I thought I would die there! And then everything changed the year I was 34 and … Last night I said to my husband, “I have everything I ever dreamed of. I just didn’t dream big enough.” My previous incarnations? All there. Inside. Raising our boys. Loving my beloved. Grateful for this life. xoxo

    • LOVE this. We contain multitudes. It expresses so well these new seasons where we’re sort of watching ourselves start something totally different but are still the person we were. And not at all. Thanks for so much to consider here.

  15. Valerie says:

    I have been checking in on your blog from time to time for about three or four years now. I have five kiddos under age 9, with another on the way this fall. I love to read your honest, raw writing, and to see the beauty of motherhood pour through your writing. Yes, as mothers, we are certainly blessed by such beautiful gifts of life, but it is hard living through the day to day most of the time. Your faith and love for your family are so encouraging to me! Keep on writing, and I pray that the next stage in life for you will be a great one!