My brain is spilling over at the moment.
I’ll pause and let that image sink in.
Really though, my thoughts are somewhat overwhelming these days—so many dreams, so many goals are swimming around in my head. Some of them are becoming reality more quickly than I imagined they would. Some of them, frankly, already have.
But there are others that seem so far out of reach. They seem impossible, really. I don’t believe they will come true. It’s hard to speak them out loud, because I’m afraid that doing so will confirm my suspicions that they are silly and childish, and the life I’ve been building for myself thus far simply will not accommodate them.
Can you keep a secret? The truth is, I want to be a writer. I want to tell my stories, or the stories of people I love. I want to use words to connect with the world, and I want the words I write to bring someone comfort, or hope, or at least the flicker of recognition of their own struggle. I want to be candid and funny and authentic and raw.
But there are so many writers out there. Have you ever been to a bookstore? Any bookstore—they are stuffed with volumes upon volumes on every topic under the sun. Do you like trees? There are thousands of books about trees. You’re into yoga? Thousands more. Do you like to eat Spaghettios at the park on a blue fleece blanket wearing purple Toms? There’s probably a book for that. And you know what? There are already female authors who have been candid, funny, authentic, and raw. Elizabeth Gilbert, Shauna Niequist, Glennon Doyle Melton, Brene Brown, to name a few…all have bared their souls with more candor and wit in their acknowledgments than I think I could muster in a lifetime.
Ugh. There it is. That last sentence there? It’s the pool all of my thoughts have been swimming in. That pool with algae on the bottom and pine needles floating on the top: Doubt. And if doubt is the pool, the whole damn water park is made up of FEAR. Overheated, filthy water, where toddlers go to urinate and Band-Aids go to drown. That’s fear. And it, according to most, has killed more dreams than failure ever will.
Fear of what, you wonder? I wonder that too. Maybe it is failure, or its friend rejection. Maybe, just maybe, it’s learning that I’m really not that good at this, with terrible grammar and a limited vocabulary. Or worse, that my words and my story aren’t all that important. What if, in the end, they just don’t matter to anyone but me? What if no one cares? I don’t have the answers to those questions, but they have paralyzed me nonetheless. I’ve written so many times about fear, and how it leaves us stuck and is not to be trusted. But of all of the voices in my head, it’s the one that speaks the loudest, whose advice I always heed. It’s what tells me “Why bother? Just watch another Friends rerun” while my computer sits alone and untouched.
As I’ve wallowed in this charming pool of fear and doubt, I’ve been thinking a lot about my life. I’m going to be a parent soon (“gulp” doesn’t quite do it justice) and knowing that soon a tiny being will look to me for EVERYTHING is hitting me hard. Not only will this child need me for comfort, shelter, and nourishment, he or she will look to me for guidance and wisdom. She will watch me and look for cues on what to do when she is angry, lonely, sad, or, wait for it—scared. And in those moments, what will she see? What will my example show her about conquering her fears and chasing her dreams? So I thought about what I’d tell my son or daughter if they came to me, facing the same paralyzing fear I’m facing now:
Do it anyway. You might fail, you might humiliate yourself, and you might crash and burn. Do it anyway. Maybe no one will want to hear or read your words. Write them anyway. If your story doesn’t mean anything to anyone, tell it anyway, because it is important and it is YOURS. And if one little part of your soul lights up because the pen hit the paper and you said what you needed to say, then it will all be worth it. And most importantly, precious little one, never forget that your story matters infinitely to the One who authored it long before you were born.
And so it begins: The chapter in my life where I pray continually: God, help me to be the woman I’d want my daughter to be.
(Which starts, I suppose, with the getting the hell out the pool.)