Updated: Nov 26, 2018
"You live in a state of bracing. Constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. As a child, you waited for a physical hit. Now as an adult…you wait for an emotional one."
"Yea, no kidding Candice! You would do the same if you were me. You only hear about the year I've had, but you don't really know what this feels like," I thought.
My mind became defensive, while my demeanor communicated the complete opposite. In fact, I verbally agreed. Y'all. I said out loud: "you're right." It's like my subconscious knew before my conscious could catch up.
The other shoe always dropped. Ok, "always" is a bit of a dramatization…but if I said "majority of the time," that'd unfortunately be accurate. In my mind…I'd come to live in a state of "good things don't last." Now, that doesn't mean I can't appreciate a good thing, but it does mean that I don't allow myself to get too attached to what I think will end. (I'm not self-protective. You are.)
Like any "healthy" human, I decided to share my learning from our session with the folks I do life with. Either they were going to agree or disagree, and I knew that if they agreed, they'd help me figure out how to grow through this. Not ironically, on two separate occasions, I heard a profound empathetic truth.
"It's hard to construct a healthy narrative when you don't have one."
I never expected to be met with "here's how to fix yourself," or "yea, you've got to change that ASAP." But I also didn't expect sweet grace to come wrapped in such simple truth.
In a moment, a weight was lifted from my shoulders and while some people might hear those words and jump into victim mentality, I knew that it was by no means an excuse for me to wear the description of indifferent. This was a chance to understand a little more why I tick the way I do. The question became…what would I do with this new information about the inner-workings of Claire?
A few days later, I found myself at an overdue lunch with a forever sister of mine. Now…my gal pal is far from timid…but for a season, I was doing most of the listening and mentoring. On this particular evening, the table turned. As we sat across our margs and bottomless chips & salsa, she began to call out a truth I was so positive I'd conquered, and really not quite sure I was ready for.
"You actually hate vulnerability. You're vulnerable, yea, but only when you feel safe. You see, you hate taking emotional risks. You hate disappointment, and you hate that feeling so much so that you'd be willing to back out of good opportunities for the sake of not getting hurt."
Now hold up. Rewind. Ya girl certainly isn't new to the whole "life hurts" thing. Have you been tracking with me sis?! In fact. I've experienced way more hurt than I would even wish on an enemy. So, no. I'm not exactly signing up for the risk of hurt when it's had a tendency to be so free of charge.
But again, again friends, my demeanor did not react the way my brain did. Instead, I looked at her and said: "you're right." Not because it would end the conversation, but because my convictions stirred. That was before she slapped me with a rambunctious "You want a different narrative, effing create a different narrative then."
I sat all the way back in my chair, eyes wide open, lips pursed with that "oh no you didn't" expression. My emotions were a mix of being impressed by her boldness, with a hint of, let's not get it twisted.
"Time out homegirl! You didn't come to play today, huh?" We both laughed after my reaction, but I was stirred to ask a question from an unsettling emotion rising in my being.
"Do you think I chose this story? Do you think I'm being a victim" I asked genuinely.
"No," she said firmly. "I do believe that you've been dealt a harder hand than most…and I can understand why you project past experiences onto present ones. However, I love you enough to tell you it's projection, none the less. All I'm saying is…the narrative will always stay the same if you don't give it a chance to change."
"But I legitimately haven't had the chance" I quickly defended!
"You have one right now" she calmly responded.
Give Yourself the Chance to be Wrong…
I fell back in silence. I did have a chance.
"How many times have I done this? How many times have I written the end of a story before it even began because I didn't want to get hurt? Have I ruined situations that could've been different?" I thought.
The answer is: Maybe. But I don't have yesterday, only today, and today: my friends are right.
I needed new muscles and new narratives and they weren't going to come if I squandered opportunities to build them. Whether I had 1 or 1000 opportunities to change it, it was in my best interest not to turn them down because I was scared or thought I knew the ending. I have to give myself more chances to be wrong.
Growth Doesn't Come from Comfort Zones…
I don't look for pain. I just don’t. Life will give it to me without actively seeking it out. However…there's a fine line between facing our fears and straight up cowering down to them.
Friends, I'm not going to pretend like I've had a whole bunch of wasted opportunities that I can remember, but what I will tell you is that I know in my heart of hearts, if I think pain is involved, I've historically bounced and encouraged others to do the same.
I've been hurt one too many times to believe that a "good Father" would allow his daughter to feel some of the brokenness I've felt. That is a daily war that I still fight through, but I have no hesitation that if he's the God the bible says he is, then he can handle my mess.
This past weekend, I had an opportunity to flex a new muscle and I was terrified. Friend…I was as scared as you are when someone rings your doorbell at night and you weren't expecting guests. But I went and faced this thing anyways because "it's always going to not work, until one day it does."
On four separate (that's right...four) occasions, I made the decision to be vulnerable, only to be met with silence. I decided to take it for what it was and assumed that if sentiments were different, I didn't need to fish for it.
While things certainly did not fall the way I expected them to, the shoe dropped none the less. In the middle of trying to process my feelings about it all, I was met with what was easy to decipher as my friends choosing "more entertaining" activities over me on the day I was supposed to arrive back home. My pick up was contingent upon joining for "better plans." Want to imagine the thoughts going through my head? I intentionally put statements into quotations because while they were never explicitly stated, all my mind could hear was:"I have better things to do than choose you." ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) suck!
So, what's on the other side?...
I don't think it would be helpful to pretend that there aren't negative feelings over here. I don't know why things play out as they do and I'm filled with more questions than answers. There are a slew of thoughts I'm fighting right now, including the choice to believe that my friends and even bigger, God, are FOR me.
One thing I can tell you I'm not feeling right now though is regret.
I don't regret giving the best of what I had in this version of Claire today; stretching myself and being uncomfortable. I don't regret taking a risk. I'm grateful that I do get to stand on this side, even with the same crappy narrative, knowing that I'm fighting like hell to change it.
Despite that unfortunate coloring, there were several sweet moments and memories that I now get to add to the list of adventures I've experienced. Things I'd do differently (like putting my phone down more), and some things I'd do exactly the same (like jam packing a schedule and averaging 3.5 hours of sleep to get it all in).
If anything...I hope that even though facing this fear didn't come with some blissful reward, that it could still encourage you none-the-less. It isn't drastically different over here, but it's also not the same. The muscles are building. (After 2 seven-mile uphill hikes, physically and emotionally). I hope that whatever that "thing" is in your life that you vehemently try to avoid, you'd begin to take the steps to face like the real champ you already are. The biggest, most obvious piece of wisdom I've learned to put into practice the last month or so is that...
The fear might not disappear, but GO SCARED anyways.
I believe we will be met in our obedience. It certainly may not look the way we want it to...but it will be good for our souls none the less.
This one's for the sisters and brothers who always brace like me...here's to fighting to believe one day we get overwhelmingly proven wrong. So wrong we forget to brace.
P.S.: I'm going to start adding some practical steps at the end of my pieces for how you can begin to actually implement the learning. Feel free to comment and let me know if anything helped!
How to actually go scared!? (Real Talk)
Tell your "person/people" This is a group of people that are for you, want the best for you, see the best in you, and won't lead you astray. Your community. The people who you can be fully known and fully loved by. Don't let the fear fester in the dark.
Crawl. Then walk. Then run. Don't expect to tackle Mt. Everest tomorrow. It does take time and preparation. Matches start wildfires. Ask your team how they can help, or ideas on where to start.
Accountability: Make a promise to yourself, and don't break promises to yourself. Then ask your team to make sure you did what you said you would. None of us like being flakes.
Go. Put one foot in front of the other until your comfort zone now extends passed that previous fear.