I have felt uninspired to write lately. It seems that life has been spinning faster these days for a lot of different reasons, but I haven’t even had time to think about what words to share, let alone write them down. Other things have taken precedence – like training for the half marathon. For the record, I’m still doing it for the grandkids, but, sorry, grandkids, I’m kind of over it. It’s been 14 weeks and my shins have been hurting since about week eight. I’ve iced and taped and rested and bought another new pair of shoes. I refuse to quit, but at this point I’m just praying I don’t end up like Kevin Ware during that 2013 Louisville vs Duke game. You know the one.
Anyway, I need to give you a little honesty here – five seconds of unedited truth: I have started to write a few times recently and then shame began to slither into the corners of my heart. Shame is that venomous bully who has me constantly thinking, “Who do you think you are? You have nothing to say.” They warn you about this kind of thing when you start to share your story, your art, your life. They warn you about the voice you’ll hear in your head that sounds so much like your own.
There’s also a bit of added pressure now that you’re reading these words. It’s one thing to write them in my journal like I’ve done for so many years - scribble them out when I have time and then maybe look back on them sometime – a year from now or maybe never. But, now you’re reading them. Now you’re telling me that they’re encouraging and important – that they hold weight and you enjoy them. These words flowing from my head, my heart, and out my fingertips, they seem to matter. That’s heavy… and it’s intensely vulnerable.
I wrote my last blog post – the one about being satisfied with God – I wrote that back in January. When I finally sat down to write, I thought I was going to write to you about identity. I had some thoughts rolling around in my head about how that would look and how the last sentence might hang. Is it weird to admit I think about those things? This is how my writer brain works – it’s usually a complete essay in my head before it ever gets form and syllable on paper. But I had some thoughts about that post and then I sat down to write them and God was very clearly telling me, “No, actually, I was thinking we should write this other thing instead.” So I got out my journal, the one from a while back, where I had scribbled down that conversation I had with God. I looked at the lead words on paper and felt, almost overwhelmingly, that you might need to hear them – words that flowed from a source who was not me. I don’t feel like I wrote that blog at all. Not really. It came so forcefully and with such clarity.
But the point I want to make about that post is that I didn’t know when it would be published. I sent it off to the wonderful women at Empower:Lincoln and they wrote me back saying they received it and then I just kind of sat around and wondered when they would use it or if they would use it at all. Maybe it was too weird, you know, I did talk about a conversation with God and who does that? Well, then they posted that blog I had written. I had no warning that it was my day to be published, no control over how it was presented to the wild web of the Internet. It was just suddenly a notification on Facebook and my words were out there.
I’m only telling you this because there was a serious shock of adrenaline that coursed through my heart when I saw that notification. There was this moment of, “Oh no. It’s out there. People are going to have an opinion now – about me, and my words, and (maybe) my sanity.” See, when I post my own blogs, I do them in my own time. I decide when they’re going out. I decide what it looks like and how it gets posted and when and where. It’s done carefully and with much control and about 29 last minute considerations and then I just kind of close my eyes, click ‘Save & Publish’ and wish myself, ‘Godspeed.’ Because when you’re putting something out into the world – any kind of work from your heart for people to critique or care about – it’s vulnerable. Anytime you’re creating something new and sharing it with others, you’re bound to feel a little bit naked. I said this exact thing to my mom after a couple of posts on this space of mine, “I feel exposed.” She said, “I’m sure you do.” And when we feel that way, our initial response is to run away. We’re so good at hiding - packing it up and saying, “Nevermind.” I don’t know when we learn to do this because children certainly don’t feel it – not right away. They’re so much more free.
That’s what I love about kids. They know little about the cares of the world – most of them anyway, at least they shouldn’t yet. Do you ever look at the adults around you and picture what they must have looked like when they were a little kid? Before their face bore the lines of decision and mistake. Before their soul was wrought with words that cut deep. Before their heart was broken. Before they knew shame and guilt. When they still had dreams of being an astronaut and when a cardboard box was their rocketship. We can still catch glimpses of it – that sparkle, that light that shines when people see someone they love or when they engage in that activity that ignites their soul. I like to picture people like that sometimes, especially when they’re being mean or when they’re sad because that helps me treat them a little bit nicer. We’re all just beating hearts that yearn to loved.
Brené Brown says, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable…” Somewhere along the way we learn that vulnerability is a wee bit scary. Sometimes it hurts. I saw this photo on Tumblr the other day that said, “Run the risk.” I was already in the middle of writing this post and it just kind of struck me because that’s what this blog has been about – not only this post itself, but the thing as a whole. That’s what vulnerability is – risk. Bravery on display. So much of life involves risk. Taking the job. Diving into the relationship. Making the phone call. I have so many friends who have started businesses on their own. They had an idea and they took the risk. Risked critique and, possibly, failure. Run the risk. Run the risk of looking dumb or being criticized. Run the risk of failing. Run the risk of having to start over again and again. Run the risk of having your heart broken. Run the risk of people not getting it, not understanding, not being in the fight with you. Run the risk of losing because if you don’t run the risk of losing, you never have the chance at winning. Run the risk of being talked about behind your back and looked at as a fool. Run the risk of the worst that could happen, whatever that may be for you, because most of our fears are illegitimate anyway. Anything worth anything is a risk. You could "What if?" yourself into a frenzy. Life is risk.
I sent a message to a friend shortly after that last blog post and said, “There's always a fear right before something is posted where I'm like, "Yikes! Ouch! That's vulnerable!" But then I get to see how God uses it in other people's lives and I can think, "Okay, God, let's do it again.’” I guess I’m telling you all of this as an invitation to tell your story. An invitation to vulnerability. What have you waited to do because you were too scared? What have you put off because you thought other people might make fun of you or not get it? Lord knows I’m a perfectionist with a capital P and if I don’t think I can do something perfectly, I would rather not do it. That’s how I lived my life for a long time, but then I realized, what is perfect anyway? Someone else’s idea of what that thing should look like? What it should be? I’d rather not drive myself mad trying to live up to that concocted standard, thank you.
I watched this TEDx talk from Mel Robbins late last year and it has been ringing in my ears ever since. The last part is what I like the most – the part about the five second rule. She says that our brains like to run on autopilot and the second we think about doing something out of the ordinary, our brain pulls the emergency brake. We talk ourselves out of it. We think, “Yikes, that might hurt, that might be hard. Better not.” But there will always be reasons not to do something. Always. The trick is to think about the reasons to do that thing. If you’re going to do anything worth doing, you have to push past the voice – the one that sounds like you, the one that tells you that you can’t - because that voice is a liar. Don’t let your brain pull the brake.
There’s this idea called the gift of going second and the thought is that someone has to go first, tell their story first, take that first step. It’s scary and you’ll feel like you’d rather run away but when you go first, when you tell your story, when you share your talent, when you take the first vulnerable step, you’re inviting others into that authentic space – a space to be genuine and real. That’s where connection happens. That’s where growth happens. When you go first and give them the gift of going second, it feels a little less scary to share. So I’m going first today, right now, for you. It’s scary to share - to put your heart out there. Your art out there. Your creativity out there. People can be mean, but usually those people are the ones sitting on their own hands doing nothing. The five second rule is why I started this blog in the first place. I acted before my brain could say no and convince me it was scary. I stopped letting the fear of vulnerability rule the day.
To be honest, I'm feeling the fear right now. The voice says, "Stop. It doesn't matter." But I'm not letting shame bully me into silence. As Susan Jeffers wrote, "Feel the fear and do it anyway."
It might be scary. You might feel vulnerable. But, get out there, baby. We need you. Run the risk.