One of the things I have been doing in the past couple of weeks is to occasionally pause and note how much better this December feels than last December did. Last December I was in a swirl of familial transition, very prone to getting pulled off balance, and not at all sure what the next steps should be. This year, almost none of that. Or rather, all of it to lesser degrees because transition and uncertainty are givens for any living thing, but I am not falling into pits of fear and tears. I can credit much of it to the fact that all four of my kids have found their own ways to balance. And I learned how to not be right next to them the moment they wobbled so that they had a chance to learn how to balance without leaning on me.
My goal for this year as I stated in this post was to build a life with less fear in it, to learn how to live, breathe, be less afraid. As I move through this December I can finally see some of that work coming to fruition. I still have more work to do. I just finished reading Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection and I’m embarking on reading The Gaslight Effect by Robin Stern which already has me rethinking my instinctive reactions in certain social situations. The work of not being afraid will continue, but in 2019 I will take it a step further. I will learn to be courageous.
If failing to write words is fear, then it is courage to write the words anyway and allow them to be read. And judged. Not knowing if the words will be inspiring or boring, useful or disappointing. It is this kind of courage I need to cultivate in the next year of my life. Quiet courage that does the work without looking like courage at all.
This is a snippet from a newsletter I sent out a few weeks ago. It was the first newsletter I’ve sent in years. I chose to format most of it like a letter from a friend rather than an Author Update. My effort was answered within twelve hours by an email from my newsletter service that I had a very high unsubscribe rate. So I’ll reconfigure and take steps to filter so that only the people who want that sort of newsy letter actually get it. This is the quiet courage I want to cultivate. The kind that gets negative feedback on a creative effort then gets up and tries again.
The need for this sort of courage became obvious to me when (in November) I was hit with a series of blows to my professional confidence. No one who delivered those hits intended me harm nor did they realize they’d caused it. Which was actually part of the harm. I was insignificant enough that they didn’t even realize they’d hit me. I had to step back and recognize that the only reason that these events registered as harm at all was because I was looking to external sources for validation on my creative efforts. Such an easy trap to fall into.
I had to decide whether to crawl into a hole and hide until it didn’t hurt anymore, or to get up and keep moving trusting that eventually it wouldn’t hurt anymore. I suspect that the amount of time it hurt would have been the same no matter which path I picked. Healing takes the time it takes, and we can rarely speed it up, though we can definitely slow it down. I did some hiding and some moving. And I rearranged my days a bit, using the holiday season as a reason to shed some tasks that I had been holding over my own head.
All of which is how I came to be a few days before Christmas and thinking the sorts of thoughts I usually think about between Christmas and the new year. I don’t mind the thoughts coming early. It is nice that I’ve been able to create enough space for them to exist. Yet another way that this December is so much better than last year.