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Defeating discouragement

Russell Lee, 1936 Library of Congress

I’ve been away awhile.

Considering. Thinking.

Keeping myself busy.

Learning. Reading. Praying . . .

I write and set aside. Pour it out. Let it be. Pick up later and refine.

The process is hard. Hard because of the subject. Hard because there is much to tell and to not tell. Hard because life is still living.

It takes time to recount a story of detail. Of moments. Weeding out the unimportant. Remembering and wording the needful . . . the profitable. The useful for others.

I write, and I find. Something to resolve. Something to forgive. Something to make amends for. It’s a journey I cannot take too fast. A journey I’ve been taking away from here.

* * * * *

I dove hard into writing in September. Too hard, I think.

Enthusiastic writing, writing, writing — a book long on my mind, in my journals, in process. A story about mothering. A book accepted, encouraged, asked for. A query. A proposal. Chapters.

But I wrote with a hesitation just behind me. A thought. A voice.

Slow down. There is still so much to learn. To resolve . . .

I hit a wall.

The present needed me more than the past. Needed my prayers. My energy.

. . . I had wanted to be refined. Asked for it, even. Don’t let me write like I know what I don’t know. Useless words I’ll regret. 

I don’t want to regret writing. Not the words. Not the time invested.

* * * * *

I kept my hands busy, all the months away, creating other things. Other than writing.

Mending. Fitting. Sewing. Matching. Making.

Breathing and doing. Resting my mind from words.

And it was good. So very, very good to see something beautiful come of work. Something photographed. Something seen. Something treasured. Something applauded.

I needed to know my work was good. In my heart, to be satisfied . . . and rest from creation.

Because I am often so critical of myself. 

Perfectionism. Immobilizing, undermining, doubt-filled perfectionism.

Perfectionism: a fear of failure.

  • Fear of overstaying keeps from visiting.
  • Fear of saying the wrong thing keeps from comforting.
  • Fear of interrupting keeps from calling.
  • Fear of having to say no keeps from answering.
  • Fear of rejection keeps from asking.
  • Fear of disappointing keeps from inviting.

This is the wrestling match. The fight.

I know the truth. I read the truth. I believe the truth. I am not called to be perfect.

But fear of failure is always waiting. Always crouching at the door eager to control me. (Genesis 4:7)

This Fear/Perfectionism keeps me from writing. Fear of saying it wrong. Fear of missing the meaning. The message.

* * * * *

Then I hit failure. Real failure. Things I cannot change. Things that God will have to make right because I can’t. Life coming to a screeching, grinding halt. This is not how it’s supposed to be.

I floated. On prayers of a few close friends. My husband.

Fear is really, ultimately, control. By my worrying, I can add to my height. 

Sometimes you have to see the ridiculousness of it all. All the worry. All the caring what someone else thinks. All the trying too hard to do it right.

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Matthew 6:27

Sometimes it takes seeing them in writing — these awful things you say to yourself: You are a coward. You are a liar. You are a fake. You are worthless. You are a failure. Your writing is offensive. Give up. Go away. Shut up. You are deceived. You are in denial. So hostile, so hateful . . . calling herself anonymous, throwing stones at a glass house I no longer live in.

I finally name it. This heaviness. It’s not Perfectionism. It’s not really Fear. It’s Discouragement.

The voice that claims to know you, but knew you only in the worst days of your life. Truth barbs, twisted and tangled into a messy mass — skewed perception . . .

But after months of sleeping with discouragement, the harsh words awakened me. Called me back to my calling.

It’s so funny . . . Things meant for evil that God means for good. (Genesis 50:20)

I needed the kick. To get out of my head, as a friend says.

Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Romans 8:33-35

* * * * *

Many months ago, a friend advised me that I shouldn’t always write about our path through addiction to recovery.

It’s taken all these months away to realize she was right. I can’t daily, weekly live in the past. It’s consuming. Draining. Heavy.

I have to plod carefully through. Ever conscious of the perfectionism and fear that beckons the discouragement wandering like a lion seeking someone — crouching, ready to devour.

If I am going to write regularly, and stay with it, I have to write often of other.

“The After,” my sister-in-law called it today. Sometimes the enduring. Sometimes the after.

. . . I’m thankful for the reminder — seemingly out of the blue — from someone who couldn’t possibly know the depth of discouragement I’d felt over the last several months. A reminder of how very, very ugly our life was once from someone who doesn’t know that it is no longer.

It is no longer.

I am not who I once was — and neither is Dave. And that, really, is why I write this blog at all. The miracle of recovery. The miracle that there is an after.

* * * * *