I had a lot of things I was thinking about writing about this week.
I posted some of my fiction a couple of weeks ago. It was something I had decided to do after realizing that I talk a lot about writing fiction, especially in November, but I’d never really shown anyone my fiction. It was, understandably, a very anxiety-heavy choice. There’s always a risk when putting what you create out into the world. Because even the simplest pieces will contain some piece of you, so what people think of it, how they react to it, can have a direct effect on you. Writing has always been deeply personal for me, but none more so than my fiction. Maybe that’s why I had never shown it.
But I did, and I was pleasantly, exuberantly, surprised by people’s reaction. Enough that I do intend to post more. Don’t worry, there’s much more to the story, and I’m eager to share it. I’m also eager to share the process behind it. I’ve talked about writing, but now having a bit of mine out there really makes me want to dig into the craft, itself. So, stay tuned.
For now, though, I feel like I should just say: Thank you.
To say it’s been a rough few years is an understatement as well as grossly inaccurate. There were rough parts, rougher than anything I have previously experienced, and, in many ways, I’m still carrying around the scars. There were also surprising parts and good parts and things I learned, often through the rough stuff, that grew me in ways I never knew I was capable of. And it all got me here, I know.
Last week I posted about Home. It’s something I’ve talked about before, and it really felt like the right time to talk about it again, but I was hesitant. Not so much to put it out there, but what would happen when I did. Not that people would react badly to it, either, but that something else would.
I’ve long since learned that when you make a decision, especially a big one, when you make a declaration, something is going to come along and test your resolve.
I’ve written about Home twice, and both times I was fairly confident in my understanding of it, and both times I was kind of wrong. Maybe not wrong, but I couldn’t see what was coming. I couldn’t see how it would all get pulled out from under me.
So, naturally, I was a little anxious about posting again. Like that was just asking for trouble. After I did, I spent most of last week looking over my shoulder, certain that God was going to drop the hammer. I had been foolish enough to tag another new place with the word “Home”, and, in doing so, I was sure I had lit the fuse on the inevitable disappointment.
And then it came, on Friday, naturally. Only, nothing happened. Not really. I just had this feeling for a good bit of the day that I was messing it all up. I couldn’t point to any one thing; I just knew I was. I was messing this up, and it was all going to blow up in my face.
Anxiety and I are not strangers, of course, so I should have known. Still, it took me a little too long to realize what was happening. Nothing had happened, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t feel like something had. I didn’t need a real world trigger; I had the anxiety primed and ready to go. Once I realized that’s all it was, though, just the feeling, that didn’t make it go away. The only thing that did was me sitting in my car telling myself, “You’re doing okay. You’re doing okay. You’re doing okay.”
And I realized that was the test. The thing I had been looking out for, the challenge that was going to come up now that I had put “Home” out into the universe, it was me. It wasn’t any one thing. It wasn’t any outside obstacle. It was my own fear, my own state of mind that told me I had made a mistake.
Whenever you make a decision, something is going to come along and test your resolve. Sometimes, that thing is you. That makes sense to me, precisely because I write fiction. In stories, the hero’s journey is: you fight monsters, you fight bigger monsters, you fight yourself. (Remind me to expand on that later.) The greatest thing standing in the way of you accomplishing your goals is your own sense that you can’t do it.
And how do you defeat that? Gratitude.
Cliche, maybe, but, well, you know me and cliches. But I realized over the weekend that the thing that was going to get me through this was just that. Gratitude.
It’s easy, too easy, to look for validation outside. For something to tell us that we are on the right track, or even that we are on the wrong one. And those things exist, milestones, warning signs, but we can just as easily misread them. I can ask God for a sign that I’m doing right and God might just send it to me, but if I’m convinced I’m doing wrong, then I might just miss it.
Thus, gratitude. It’s what allows you to see the signs. If I focus on what I’m not doing, I’ll constantly feel like a failure. (That’s not even really an “if”. I have lived that for a good bit of my life.) But gratitude forces me to see what I am doing. Not looking for what I think I’m missing, but recognizing what I already have. And I have so much.
Like a place to live and a job. Like a sense of belonging. Like someone who wants me here. Like a sense of possibility. Like new projects that I kind of can’t believe I get to do. Like my fiction, out there in the world. Like people who like my fiction. Like a purpose.
And the more I look, the more the list grows, and the more I know that’s the thing that’s going to keep me going, that’s going to help me convince myself that I am right where I need to be.
It feels too simple, I’ll admit. And it hasn’t so much made it easier, but I’m finding it’s making it possible. More than that, it’s just making me feel a whole lot better with where my life is, and it’s making me feel like I can face whatever comes next, whether challenge or opportunity.
Maybe that’s all we’ve ever needed to face this. Maybe when we understand what we have, then we’ll actually learn how to pursue what we want. Maybe when we learn to be grateful, we won’t constantly be checking the door, wondering when it’s all going to walk out on us.
For now, though, I simply want to sit in the gratitude. It’s a nice place to sit. So to all the opportunities in my life, to all the possibilities, to all of the people I have, to all of the people I love, to all of you: