Now, I sit down to write one single blog post and I find myself frozen and fearful. I know what I want to say but I'm not sure if I still have that ability to write. To express myself effortlessly. Surely I haven't thrown away the key in the midst of my (sometimes frantic) internal house cleaning?
The fear blocks my way. What if I can't write any more? Writing has always been a way for me to figure out what I am feeling. From the time I was a little girl, I kept journals and diaries. Piles of them are still in a tote in my storage room. Even in recent years, from time to time, I will pull out a notebook and write a letter that I may or may not ever send or give, or just pour out my thoughts in a written prayer to a God who I know is there but who probably can't hear my small, strangled voice. Who knows? Maybe He can make some sense out of my horrible handwriting.
I just read today that living Fearlessly really isn't a goal to reach for. The goal is to learn to live with your fears, invite them along on the trip, know that they are bound to show up alongside courage and creativity, but don't allow them to make the decisions or drive the car on this road trip of life. Reading that gave me the courage to sit down here and try to write out something that I've been thinking about.
I've been trying for years to find my way back to the girl I used to be. The one who could write a blog post every day, no sweat. The girl who was blithely happy and easy to be around. The girl who always stepped outside and saw sunshine in the sky, even when it was cloudy. The girl who, in retrospect, seems perfect to me and larger than life.
Around the time I turned 30, that girl started to disappear. Not all of a sudden, it was more subtle and quiet than that. There wasn't any kicking or screaming, it was more of a slow melting into a pool of despair and sadness. I'd spent my 20's getting married, having babies, working part time, and most of all, being FINE. Always fine. Emotionally, I was strong. I could handle it all. How do you do it? people would ask. I don't know, I'd say. I just do.
I wanted to please everyone around me, so I was a good wife, a good mother, a good bookkeeper. If something I felt made someone else uncomfortable or unhappy, then guess what? I could change. I didn't need to have needs. Being heard is overrated and listening to your own inner guidance even more unnecessary. Just do the next thing. Feed the baby. Smile. Make dinner. Smile. Fold the laundry. Smile. Stuff the negative feelings. Smile. You're FINE. Don't be weak. Don't cause drama. Smile.
But the crack had started to give way to a gaping hole and my emotional duct tape and hot glue wasn't holding anymore. All that emotion I'd been holding back? It showed up in the form of despair and grey skies and detachment and personality change and chronic mind racing. I felt desperate to figure out where that happy girl had gone. And who had she dropped off in her place? I felt like I didn't even know myself. Who is this imposter who took over my life and my relationships and my emotions? And how do I get rid of her?
One of the truths of life is that the way out is often through, not up or down or around. So I trudged on. Holding on to hope that eventually I would circle back around to where that girl was waiting and she'd say "Oh, there you are! I've been looking for you! So glad to so you. Here, let me take over now" and everything would be FINE again. I'd be happy. I would see sunshine even when it was cloudy.
But that never happened. And I grew more and more frustrated in my journey of getting back to who I had been. This was the ideal that I was chasing.
Here's the thing about life. You don't go back. You can't walk through the wilderness and come out the same. You can't face your fears and look them in the eye and expect to be the same person after that encounter. You can't reach the end of yourself and not find someone bigger than you waiting to help you. You can't learn to face your emotions instead of running from them and then expect not to feel anything but happiness. You can't go through such difficult times that nurture qualities in you like grace and empathy and forgiveness and expect to go back to the land of judgment and having it all together and "what the heck is wrong with that person"?
This is the light that dawned for me and what I want to tell you all. You can't go back, but you can accept that you can't go back. You can't go back, but you can look back on your journey and see the good in it. You can see ways that you have grown. Strengths that have come from the difficulty. And you can see the GOOD in that.
There is such a freedom in realizing that life is a journey of learning. You don't travel the same path twice. There are twists and turns and new experiences and challenges around every corner. Sometimes the path is smooth and the day is clear and sunny, and other times the path is rocky and steep and full of dangers and scary monsters. But the only choice is to keep on walking. Otherwise, you die.
I needed to give up on the idea of "getting back to how I used to feel" and know that maybe I've lost some of that blithe innocence of my twenties, but I've gained a lot of other things along the way. I may never feel the way I used to feel back when I didn't let myself feel. I may have more sadness in my eyes on days, but I also have more experience and more graciousness and more kindness. I am not flawed. I am not broken. I do not need to strive to "go back" to what seemed to be a better place and time.
It's ok that I'm here. That I am 36 years old and irrevocably altered by life.
Come to think of it, I'm not sure I would want to go back if I could. I'd rather move forward with more wisdom and grace and compassion for myself and for others.
And honestly? I think that girl from my twenties would approve.