What kind of Hero are you?

As an English teacher, I am very familiar with the concept of the “Hero’s Journey.” It is an archetypal construct that we see repeated over and over again in literature, and for very good reason–it touches close to home–it is a reflection of the human experience.

Heroes-pinArchetypes, if you’re not familiar with the idea, are, in essence, symbols, ideas, or concepts that we, as human beings, all hold in common. Carl Jung believed that this commonality is part of what he termed genetic memory–in other words, memory that is quite literally passed down through our DNA.

An easy example would be mice. Why in the world do so many of us fear mice? They are itty, bitty little things but they send many people squealing, running for cover, or hopping on the nearest chair.

Why? And why only some people, but not all?

Well, in terms of genetic memory, we theorize that it stems from our ancestors run-in with the Black Plague. Mice, or more correctly, rats spread the disease that decimated Europe. For those of us who run from the furry, little creatures, our ancestors watched their friends and family die around them. All because of the little, itty, bitty creatures. And they passed the consequent fear of those little, furry creature on to us, their progeny, (however many times removed).

mouseThose of you who don’t run screaming for the hills at the sight of a mouse? Either your ancestors were fortunate enough to escape a run in with the Black Death or they simply didn’t pass that fear on to their ancestors. Thus, mice are just cute, little, furry creatures to you.

I’m quite sure that someone in my line must have watched their whole family drop like dominoes because I absolutely HATE the little things myself.

Archetypes stem from these universally held concepts such as good conquers evil. It also extends to colors: black symbolizing death, fear, and rot. Or to settings: the mountains symbolizing obstacles, adversity, a journey, etc.. Archetypes permeate our society in big and little ways–and none more so than the Hero’s journey.

The-Herošs-Journey_text-imageThe idea of the Hero’s Journey is quite basic. An ordinary person is called out from his ordinary life by something extra-ordinary. He is called to a road he never intended to travel. He struggles with what that road is asking of him. He longs to go back to the way things were “before.”

In literature, the hero or heroine ultimately come to terms with the call and rises to the occasion, overcoming the obstacles and embracing his hero nature.

Not necessarily the case in real life.

What do I mean?

depositphotos_87220294-stock-photo-boy-warrior-fighting-with-dragonsWell, just like all archetypes, I believe this one was born directly out of real life. As I’ve established before, all people, at some point, are going to be forced to wrestle with dragons (aka adversity) whether that comes in the form of sickness, betrayal, violence, death, etc….the “dragons” take many forms, but in the end, we all must wrestle with them.

Granted, it is rarely as obvious as Harry Potter being called out of the mundane life to one of wizardry or as Katniss Everdeen being called to take on the corruption of her society, but still, we are all, everyone of us, called to our own, personal hero’s journey.

But too often, we don’t come to terms with the journey. We don’t rise to the occasion. We don’t defeat the dragon.

As anyone who has followed my blog knows by this point, I am a huge fane of Brene’ Brown. In her book “Rising Strong,” she states:

You may not have signed up for a hero’s journey, but the second you fell down, got                 your butt kicked, suffered a disappointment, screwed up, or felt your heart break, it               started…it happens to every single one of us. Without exception. The only decision we           get to make is what role we’ll play in our own lives.”

If you read my last blog, and reflected on how you typically react to adversity, you should have a decent idea of what “role” you typically take in terms of your hero’s journey.

Let’s take a moment to envision it in the role of a story…do you rise to the occasion? Do you overcome? Or when Voldemort enters the scene, do you run for cover? When society is falling apart around your head, do you pretend that nothing is happening?

Do you like the ending of your story?

If your answer is no, then I have some really good news for you: in this story YOU get to choose the ending.

What kind of hero do you want to be? 

This doesn’t always mean you win, at least in one sense of winning. Sometimes our Voldemort is cancer, and the cancer wins. Sometimes that car accident steals your daughter from you. Sometimes your husband leaves you for another woman.

When looking at that sense of winning, we don’t always win, but we do still win.

An easy example for me personally is my daughter, Serena. Many of you know that my daughter died of SMA almost 16 years ago. That was my first real call to the hero’s journey. It was the initial conflict. It was the first real breaking of my heart. She died. I didn’t win in that sense of winning. But I did win.

How in the world can I say that?

hidden strengthBecause I chose my ending, and that ending was to wrestle with the pain, to “lean into it” as I like to say, and to choose to defy my circumstances, and to overcome.

I chose my ending. We all get to choose our endings.

How does this work? How do we actually do this?

I’m going to refer to Brene’ Brown a lot as I explain this. When I first walked through this personally, Brene’ Brown hadn’t written her books, and I had no clue who she was, but as I’ve read her books, I’ve seen the reflection of my own journey, and I’ve seen the reflection of the journeys others have made around me, in her work. My life and my observations validate what Brown found in her research.

If you’ve ever wondered why the same event can cause one person to rise, and the other to sink into bitterness, brokenness, or addiction, she can answer that question. She unpacks the concept of resilience.

If you want to choose to write your own story, if you want to change the ending, it means “getting uncomfortable; it’s choosing courage over comfort.” If you’re going to write your ending, you need to be willing to get down in the mud and wrestle. It’s going to get messy.

Our instinct is often the opposite, to disengage to self-protect. To deny what we feel, to hide from it. In Brown’s words “We can’t chart a brave new course until we recognize exactly where we are, get curious about how we got there, and decide where we want to go.”

Brown breaks this down into a two step process.

1) engaging with our feelings

2) getting curious about the story behind the feelings–what emotions we’re                           experiencing and how they are connected to our thoughts and behaviors

This sounds deceptively simple. It’s not. Oftentimes we deny what we feel saying that “we didn’t care anyway.” Or we mask hurt with anger. Or we transfer emotions we don’t understand onto a person who is an “easy” target (aka our spouse or child, brother or sister, etc.). Or we self-flagellate. The list goes on.

All of these are methods of not engaging with our emotions. They are ways we choose to disengage.

When I lost Serena. I was angry. I was angry at God. I was angry at mothers who still had their children. I was angry at the whole world.

I remember how that anger made a lot of people uncomfortable. It wasn’t “Christian” they said. Ironically, I never felt that condemnation from God. From Him, I felt a sense of encouragement, that He was not intimidated by my anger, I also felt a recognition that denying what I felt wouldn’t make the feelings disappear. I had to wrestle with them to get through them.

When we deny what we feel, we get stuck. I’ve seen it happen to so many people. They deny the hurt happened. They deny the violation of what was done to them. They pretend that they are not angry at the abandonment they feel. They pretend the brokenness isn’t really there. And so they get stuck right there, in that moment where the hurt, abandonment, violation or brokenness occurred.

The movie “The Shack” illustrated this so beautifully. When the main character asks “God” in agony why he would bring him back to face what was done to his daughter, “God” simply says, “Because this is where you got stuck.”

We get stuck at the moment where we stop dealing with our pain. It has to be dealt with. There is no other option.

Ignoring what we feel does not make it go away–it lets it own us.

Brown puts it this way:

     The opposite of recognizing that we’re feeling something is denying our emotions. The           opposite of being curious is disengaging. When we deny our stories and disengage from       tough emotions, they don’t go away; instead, they own us, they define us. Our job is not         to deny the story, but to defy the ending.

When Serena died, I could have become bitter. I could have lost my faith. I could have cut myself off from risking, from loving. Many do after getting shattered the way that the death of a child shatters you. Knowing that kind of pain, you disengage, not wanting to be hurt like that again.

fallingBut I made the decision years ago, before I understood what that decision meant. Risk was worth the pain. To fly, you have to fall. To succeed you have to fail. To love you have to break.

Serena was the first step of my hero’s journey. There have been many failures and setbacks and heart breaks since. There have been many times when I have felt the temptation to disengage, to step back, to self-protect.

But I just can’t do it, because I know.

I know the truth.

Brown says that “courage transforms the emotional structure of our being” and I believe her; I feel it. There is no going back.

And I’m glad. I don’t want to go back, even when I do. I don’t want the easy out. It’s not an out at all. It’s chains. It’s a prison. It’s being stuck.

God, as He so often does, gives us the principle of this truth. We say it. But we rarely fully grasp His meaning.

“We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

Not just the good moments. Not just the easy ones. Not the comfortable ones.

Everything.

Contest-flier_1But we have to choose to defy our ending, and let Him work His magic in us.

He wants us to lean in and wrestle with our adversity like Jacob wrestled with God–to wrestle and not let go until the blessing which comes out of the adversity is ours.

When we trust God enough to lean into our hero’s journey, it leads to our good, our growth, and our overcoming. It is the ending we want, the ending He created us for, and it is how we rise strong despite horrific circumstances, crippling pain, and agonizing betrayal.

We lean in, we wrestle, and we trust for the ending that can be.

Choose to be brave. It’s what you were made to be.

 

 

 

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Are you comfortable? Then it’s time to rock the boat!

stock-photo-5337523This morning, after dropping the girls off at school, I headed straight for the coffee pot to get a warm up on my now cooled coffee. I picked up the pot and stared at it blankly. It was empty. I blinked stupidly at it for a moment. It was empty…how was it empty?

I went through my mental list…Aaron grabbed a travel mug full before he left…still should have been a cup or two more…I had made a full pot, right? Of course I did! When would I not make a full pot in the morning? Silly thought, that! Well, then where did it go…

Gavin.

Gavin hadn’t headed to the bus stop yet when I left for the girls… Gavin?! My 11 year old son, 6th grade… coffee?!

I headed for the front door, and peeked out. The bus hadn’t come yet. Gavin was still there. I pseudo shouted (didn’t want to be too loud with still sleeping neighbors) and pantomimed toward him and my coffee mug. He pretended ignorance. I tried again. A distant, “Maybe…” was his response.

A maybe from Gavin means “Yes, but I don’t want to full out admit it lest I get into trouble.”

I stood blinking at him as he lifted my Starbucks travel cup and shot a hesitant smile in my direction.

boy-cup-cute-drinking-hot-Favim_com-264574My son helped himself to a cup of coffee, and as I watched I saw he was really drinking it.

I didn’t know how I felt about this. Too much change. My baby was just changing way too much for comfort. It was just such an adult thing for him to do!

He brushed his hair this morning. On his own. Without me having to tell him to do it, or more likely, just having to do it myself. He didn’t just wet it down and call it good—he brushed it.

Obviously there is a coffee drinking girl in the picture and she obviously takes the same bus he does. My kid is growing up.

why-turning-forty-is-actually-pretty-great-0

That’s a heck of a lot of candles!

If this wasn’t enough evidence of the ticking of the great clock of time, the fact that my two best friends just turned forty is irrefutable evidence of that darn clock. They’re forty, which means, I’m next. Granted, I have to turn thirty nine before I can turn forty, but it adds the sense of impending age, as if it is hanging over my head ready to swallow me into that group of officially past our prime, not yet elderly, but showing signs of wear and tear humanity.

And it doesn’t help that I keep getting invitations to join AARP in the mail. My husband, less than a year my junior, doesn’t get invitations to join, nope, not a one. But they keep rolling in for me! Maybe it’s because his man bun makes him look young and hip, maybe it’s because he still looks about thirty despite the slight graying at his temples. Maybe it’s because I’m  starting to look fifty, sixty…what’s the age to join AARP anyway! Surely it’s not 38! Geesh! They could at least wait until I turn 40! Come on already!

All of these factors are combining to force me to confront the reality that my life is about half over. That reality floats on the edge of my consciousness.

It’s not a vanity thing (though that’s there). It’s not the new wrinkles or the pudgier figure I now sport. It’s not that the face in the mirror sometimes doesn’t see like mine.

timeIt’s all about the time.

When you’re young, it feels like time spreads in front of you unending. There is so much of it, and you don’t really have a sense of it running out, ending–EVER. It feels like you have forever to do all the things you want to do. Years and years tumble before you in an endless string, all of this time to accomplish your dreams.

When you start nearing that forty mark, when your face shows the signs that your youth is fading, when your children start approaching their hero days and you begin to realize that you really are just a supporting character in their stories, the reality that the road does end, that time does run out, that it is limited and finite, starts to come home to roost. And that is uncomfortable to say the least.

As I have a tendency to do, I was reading a fantasy series the other day and was contemplating all the things that I would do with my time if, like a vampire, I didn’t have to worry about an aging body and an eventual death. As I contemplated, (and oh, the list was so long) I started to think of all I wouldn’t have the time to do. The books that will go unread, the countries that will go unseen, the languages I will never learn to speak, the things I will not have the time to learn…

I didn’t think of these things when I was twenty, because, though my time was limited even then, it didn’t feel limited.

This line of thought, rather than depressing me (though it does sadden me that, though I do happen to believe that there is life after to death, I don’t know that the things that matter now will matter then…will I want to read piles of books, or with immortality, does our need for knowledge disappear because we will know all things?) lit a fire under my oh, too comfortable derriere. If my time is finite, and quickly moving through the hour glass, I should not waste it on a treadmill (the figurative one).

ground hog's dayI don’t want to spend the last half of my life simply seeing the same scenery, living the same days over and over again (sometimes life feels a bit like “Groundhog’s Day,” doesn’t it?).

I need to get a move on it. I need to take some risks, and dare to make my dreams happen before it’s too late, before I run out of time.

It’s so easy to get comfortable, particularly as we get older. We surround ourselves with all these things that make us feel safe, cozy and well, comfortable. Our routines, our houses–all this stuff. We settle in. How could we risk all of this? It’s not practical.

Hmm…I think we give up more than we know in the name of practicality.

doubtMany dreams have died a slow death in the names of comfort and practicality.

Dreams, by their very nature, are at odds with comfort and practicality. They require guts, and risk, and daring.

No one is going to come and hand you your dream. The pursuit of dreams requires something from you–room for possibility–room for impossibility.

This idea has been coming at me from several directions all at the same time, and, being that I have been spending a lot of time in prayer about this very thing, I have chosen to believe that all of these are a confirmation that I need to get out of my comfort zone, stop being so practical, and start giving possibility a bit more room in my life.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained…

The pastor who spoke at our church on Sunday said something that really rang true with me. Sometimes we eliminate the possibility of the miraculous. If we are continually living within the box of practicality, of only what we know we can [afford, do, be] we never give the miraculous a chance.

I want the miraculous. I want to not just live comfortably, but live passionately knowing that I’ve made the most of the 80 or so years I get on this planet. I’m not going to get that by playing it safe.

When I read the Bible, I don’t see anything that leads me to think that we are supposed to live our lives in the pursuit of comfort. Show me one disciple who lived comfortably. You can’t.

The truth is, the Bible again and again tells us that life will be uncomfortable, or even more, if will be downright HARD. A continual test of faith.

comfort zoneIs your life a continual test of faith? Are you comfortable? Do you have a pretty good idea what your days are going to look like from today to the end of your life?

If your answer is yes, I believe you’re doing it all wrong, and I dare you to dare yourself for something MORE.

I’ve stepped out and taken a chance. I’ve given up my reliable, steady fulltime position at a job I didn’t really like and have accepted a job as an Associate Professor of psychology in one of our local colleges. I’ve always wanted to be a professor, though I always envisioned English, not Psychology. This is a dream of mine. A dream that requires an amount of risk.

I’m excited–and terrified.

It’s a risky move. The biggest risk factor that is killing my controlling nature is that, like most associate professor positions, it is part time, not full time, and so I’m going to have to supplement my income. I am going to need to make up the difference via tutoring, piano lessons, and hopefully, eventually, the odd writing job. Lots of uncertainty there.

Is it risky?

Yeah, that is definitely there. Giving up a sure thing is always risky.

But does it open the door of possibility?

Absolutely!

The time and opportunity to make a go of it as a writer is there. If I ever had a chance to do it, to make it, it’s now.

Not to mention the opportunity to be more present in the lives of my children, to capture the moments in these swiftly fleeting days.

Not to mention…I get to be a professor!

There are times when the uncertainty of it is very scary.

There are times that I want the security of the comfortable.

fall flyBut I confront these with the assurance that living life means taking risks, and with the firm belief that, if it’s what I’m supposed to do, it will work out. Somehow. And I do think it’s what I’m supposed to do.

So, I’ve stepped of the ledge. It’s time to see if I can fly or if I fall. Either way, I think it’s the right decision.

I take that back. It’s the only decision.

I Dare you to Fail–it might be the best thing you ever do!

mean-old-ladyI had the worst first grade teacher ever. She was a cranky old bitty who thought I was stupid, who broke all my pencils, and who threw my shoes in the garbage. I hated her.

But I owe her a huge thank you.

She was my introduction to difficulty. She was my very early initiation into the practice of not perseverance, but of overcoming.

I could have accepted her early analysis of my intellectual capabilities. I could have started the inner monologue of my incompetence, my inability, and my general suckiness, but instead, despite my immature, impressionable six year-old mind, I made impossiblemy very first decision to overcome, to confront her analysis head on, and to prove her wrong.

That was the first time I confronted an obstacle, and I believe it set the precedent for how I would handle all the obstacles to come.

Where did my courage to deal with the difficulties that have come my way over the last several decades come from?

I believe that it came from that very first experience with her. She had told me I couldn’t. She had told me I was dumb. She had labeled me and written me off. But I didn’t accept that, and by third grade I proudly walked the long hall to her room to hold my report card full of A’s to her startled face.

Dadgummit! I had done it! I had proven her wrong, and if I’d proven her wrong, why couldn’t I overcome the next obstacle, and the next one?

I had overcome, and that overcoming gave me faith that I could do it again.

Because of her, from the very beginning, I was only too aware of my imperfections. I never labored under the false perception of perfection, so when I screwed up, as I inevitably did time and again, it was not the end of my world. I did not label myself as a failure, but instead, I recognized that I could do better, be better.

failure-and-successI was very aware of my ability to change and to grow, because I had proven that ability from the tender age of six. I had proven to myself that I could be better tomorrow than I was today. I never thought I was perfect, but I knew that with effort, with tenacity, I could be more than who I was currently.

If I had stepped out of the gate with straight A’s, if it had come easy to me from the very beginning, if I hadn’t had the very early lessons in difficulty, would I have had the courage to confront obstacles instead of just avoiding them? Would I have been scared to risk failure and take chances if I wasn’t thrust into it so early on?

According to Carol Dweck, author of “Mindset: the new Psychology of success” I very well might not have. How we deal with failure early on, predicts how we are likely to deal with it our entire lives–unless me mindfully make a decision to deal with it differently.

If, when we are confronted with difficulty, we choose to overcome it, we will keep daring, keep risking, keep pushing our limits to see what we are capable of doing.

If, when confronted with difficulty, we back away, and stay in our comfort zone of what we know we do well, in our zone of tried and true success, we are likely to never find the true potential of what we could do.

failureAnd it all starts when we’re just little peanuts. If we allow our failings to be an impetus for growth, rather than a label of who we are–a failure–we can become so much more.

It is that very willingness to confront the obstacle that I learned way back then that keeps me blogging. I have blogged for years, and yet my following consists mainly of my mother, a couple of loyal family members, and a handful of faithful friends. Logic says that I should have given this up long before now, but am I going to quit? Nope. I’m going to keep doing it, becoming better, working out the kinks, until one day, I firmly believe, someone (hopefully lots of someones–and this isn’t to say I don’t appreciate you, my faithful few!) is going to notice.

And my novel. I know it’s going to get rejected. Probably many times. Is that going to stop me from writing it, or from sending it out to the inundated world of agents and publishers?

The-best-success-stories-often-begin-with-failure_-8x10Absolutely not. It didn’t stop Stephen King and it didn’t stop J.K. Rowling, and it’s not going to stop me. I will keep working on it, tweaking it, taking the advice and suggestions I am given, until finally, one day, someone says, “Yes. I’m going to take a chance on you.”

Sometimes, this mountain I’m trying to climb seems insurmountable, and I am tempted to throw in the towel, but I just can’t do that.

Thank you, Kelly, for the nudge I needed through the book “Mindset” you sent my way, and thank you Chris, for the nudge you gave me with the book “Daring Greatly.” It is a good reminder to keep going, keep trying, and keep believing, that by daring to put myself out there, I am doing something worthwhile.

And thank you Cassandra for telling me you “want to be [me] when you grow up.” You say that to me now, not as a published author, but as one who is daring to try to become one. It reminds me that it’s not the success I achieve, but the willingness to dare to achieve it that is truly admirable.

So, if it’s the willingness to try that sets us apart, what is it that you need to be willing to risk? What is it that you need to dare to do? Aren’t you curious of just how much you can achieve?

Daring to risk and failing, does not make you a failure. It makes you courageous. I dare you to dare with me.

Hello, I’m Heather and I’m an addict–a book addict that is

booksnifferI love to read. Anyone who knows me knows this. I always have a book in tow–yes, an actual book, no e-readers for me. I love the feel of the new book in my hand, the weight of it on my palm, the slightly stale smell of old paper that wafts up as you open to that first page.

I have a tablet and I’ve tried reading on it…it’s a whole lot easier to slip that into my purse than a clunky old book–but I just can’t make the change, so call me old fashioned, but it’s a book that I take with me while my tablet sits lonely charging on my nightstand while I’m out and about.

Reading is a good thing. A great thing. Even the best thing–most of the time.

downloadYou won’t hear me talk about it often, but reading does have its downside. Sleep deprivation is most certainly one of them. Despite having three decades to learn how to put down a good book at a respectable hour and get some shut-eye, I find myself repeating the same litany to myself that I repeated to my father when I was a child. “One more chapter, just one more chapter and then I must really go to bed.” Will power has never been my strong suit as the thirty extra pounds of baby weight I’m still carrying around after the birth of my last child (she’s almost 7) will show you. I might say the words, just like the younger version of myself said them nightly to my 2b2eb8669559be5e5ad122677879e6b4dad, but just as they were empty promises then, they are empty resolutions today.

Many a day I have found myself before my first hour class leaning heavily on that cup of caffeine to pull back the reading induced fog I find myself in–my own version of the hangover. Who needs alcohol to produce a hangover when you have books right there, on your bookcase beckoning you into their worlds and plenty able to give you the same headache without the unsightly gut (or the trips to the toilet for that matter)–I call that a bargain!

And lack of sleep is not the only downside, oh no!

I consider myself a writer. I write my blog almost weekly, but sometimes I just don’t seem to have the time! Every once in a while I grab a solid hour or two to plug away at my novel, but not nearly enough. I just never seem to have the time!

I’m always complaining about the little time I have to write…and yet I’ve read easily a hundred books this year. I read and I read and I read. Somehow I always find time to read. Hmmm… I think I spy with my little eyes a great, big glaring inconsistency!

The truth is that I believe reading is the single greatest hindrance to my writing career. Yes, I like to blame the kids, and they do keep me eternally busy with their needing quality time and all (really, how dare they!) and all the chauffeuring about to baseball and gymnastics and football and…well you get the idea. And the job, yes, the job! Must blame the job (because what aspiring writer doesn’t find themselves with one of these to actually pay the bills) as it is by far the largest time sucker of them all! And teaching! Well goodness! Of course I don’t have time to write with those piles and piles of essays I have to grade on what feels like an eternal basis! And then there’s the housework, with a family of five, that never ends, always a load to throw in and a kitchen to clean…

True, true, and true, but I still find time to I read.

Woman walking across landscape of clothes

I can ignore the growing pile (no, not pile, the burgeoning mountain would be more accurate, a mountain with an impending rock slide currently…) of laundry. I can ignore the crusting over dishes in the kitchen sink. I can even shoo away my little darlings and tell them that Mommy needs a little quiet time and that I will read them a story later. All this I can do if I am in the throes of a great adventure.

So why? If I love to write so much why do I allow myself to continually get sidetracked by a good book? Wouldn’t that time be better spent writing my own novel?

Well, if I’m completely honest, I do it because I am innately lazy. Yep. There it is. It’s easier to read a world someone else has created than to create one of my own. It takes no real effort on my part. I get a cup of coffee, I curl up in my favorite chair, and I leave my world and all its problems behind without having to lift a finger. It’s wonderful–BUT, I’m beginning to see that it’s kind of like the Matrix. Books keep me in matrix-pods-680x400those little pods, giving me a whole alternate world to live in–I experience incredible things, get to be so many different people, live so many different lives, but the truth is, I’m in a pod and I’m not living at all.

Reason two for allowing myself to get sidetracked? It’s risk free. I’m not putting my ego, my self, my dreams on the line when I read a good book, but I sure as heck am when I write one. I’ve had this dream for thirty years…for thirty years I have wanted this, thought about it, planned it–but what if I’m not good? What if I finish my novel and it sucks toenails? Or, worse yet, what if I finish it, and it is good, but I can’t get anyone to read it? What then?

There is so much to risk when writing your novel. What people don’t often understand about authors is that we are putting our heart and soul out there for the world to see. We are pulling back the curtain so to speak, into our private world, and we’re allowing you to see into our thoughts, our feelings, and our struggles.

But wait a minute…I thought we were talking fiction? Am I saying that fiction isn’t fiction at all, that it really happened.

No, not exactly. I’m going to borrow from Rainbow Rowell’s “Fangirl” for this one, because it sums it up so well.

“I take something that happened to me in 1983, and I make it happen to somebody else in 1943. I pick my life apart that way, try to understand it better by writing straight through it.”

“So everything in your books is true?”

The professor tilted her head and hummed. “Mmmm…yes. And no. Everything starts with a little truth, then I spin my webs around it–sometimes I spin completely away from it. But the point is, I don’t start with nothing (307).”

In other words, yes, it’s us out there, on some level. I don’t care if it’s dystopian or sci-fi, fantasy or historical fiction, the best writers pull from what they know–they are putting themselves on the line, and the risk in that is enormous! The rejection really is personal.

angry-fansSo, with all that to lose, it so much easier, and safer, to pull that new Sophie Kinsella off the shelf and leave my world to my own imagination where it can live safely without being assaulted by the critique of the armchair coach sitting safely on the sidelines telling me what I’m doing wrong and how I should play ball.

So, yes, I love to read, and I gain so very much through the worlds I have walked, but this is me, admitting to you, that I am an addict. I am a book addict–and if I ever want to finish my own book, I must, dear reader, PUT YOURS DOWN.

So, I’m taking the redpill. I want to see to the end of my rabbit hole, even if it “disparages” me (sorry, I just flashed John Cage from ‘Ally McBeal’) in the process.

MatrixBluePillRedPill

You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.Morpheus, to Neo

I’ve got the red pill, and a glass of water…it’s time to stop being a coward. It’s time to see what I’m really made of.

What are you made of?

We all have our escapes–our addictions–our personal “pods.” What are yours? And what are you going to do about them?

Are you going to take the blue pill and continue avoiding the real life that is waiting for you, or do you have the courage–the guts– the gumption–to take the red pill and to find out just how deep your own rabbit hole goes?

Life is in the Risking . . . Success and Failures Alike

All day long I having been mulling over the words of a book I’m reading:

Doubt, despair and disappointment are not only a reality of daily life, they are also the tools God uses to grow faith, hope, and love in us. If we run from what we fear or find displeasureable, we actually rob ourselves of the joy God intends for us to experience as we walk through our past, play with our future, and live now with new passion. (Dan B. Allender, “The Healing Path”)

This quote is so reminiscent of the belief I held as a young adult. I believed that real life was lived not in the comfortable middle ground of existence, but by embracing the extremes of life. I believed that the fullness of happiness, love and joy could only be experienced if you had also suffered great loss. That was what living really meant.

Living was not being safe and secure. That was to exist. To live was something infinitely more. And I wanted that “more.”

I have tested this belief to its core. Though it sounds great in theory, its application is so incredibly painful and difficult.

The little adage, “Be carfeul what you wish for” is aptly displayed in my life. We have known devastation in the loss of our daughter. We have known suffering in a multitude of ways that I will not go into. We have struggled with doubt and despair as the long road of suffering seemed to stretch on and on with no relief. The lure of safety and security was never stronger than in the last couple of years. And to give up, well, it has been a temptation.

And yet, I find the stirrings of something deep inside of me: a resonance with the quote above.  Maybe, just maybe, I was onto something that I did not fully understand back then. Maybe, if I can embrace all the difficulty, I will find that the reward is everything I once believed it to be.

Difficulty, disappointment and even devastation are a part of life for everyone at one time or another. We tend to fight it. We avoid it when possible, and we run like hell to escape it when we can’t.

I certainly do not think we should go out looking for it. I am no masochist, but, maybe, to experience the fullness of life we really do need to open ourselves. Sometimes that embracing of life brings the incredible, such as falling in love. Other times it brings the pain, like the broken heart you are left with when someone leaves.

But truly, we can never know those highs without opening ourselves to the risk of experiencing the lows.

Years ago I had a poem published that talks about this very thing. I have lived this poem in the fifteen years since I wrote it. Time and again I had my heart and my hopes dashed and it has been an effort of will to keep my heart open despite the losses I have been faced with. Sometimes I have succeeded, other times I have closed myself off to the possibility of what might have been possible because the risk left me too fearful.

Lately, I have found myself at a similar crossroads. I find old poem is inspiring me once more today.I can give in when faced with all the defeats I have encountered or I can try, one more time and one more after that.

I hope this poem might encourage you as it encourages me. It is titled “RISK.”

Would life call me Fool

or merely brave,

this soul that alights to the

spires of hope?

Is it folly to chance,

and so to perish,

with Risk’s failed attempt to fly?

The lofty heights of love’s aspiration

call braver souls than I,

yet, I and not they,

from the mountain’s height plunge

in the hope that love,

as a sweet breath of wind,

will catch these wings

and so lift me to the spheres of fabled love.

 

And yet, not once, nor even twice,

have I plunged to the rocky crags below.

The wind has failed,

these wings have faltered

and I have landed far below.

There I’ve labored for a time

resting the wounds of battered dreams,

entrenched in pain and mournful disillusionment,

so sure these wings were beyond repair.

 

Yet time . . . it heals,

and Hope, though bruised

does not perish.

It is an immortal friend.

Pain dimmed, failure forgotten,

I rise to Hope again.

 

Failed attempts do not hinder

the soul determined to fly.

No matter the number of failures,

Love’s Fool abandons itself  once more,

and those moments of flight

far outshine the gloom

of our sometimes reality.

 

Oh! The hope that I might fly,

not for a moment,

but for a life,

calls this soul to the fearful friend Risk.

Hope outweighs wisdom’s fear,

and I abandon myself once more.

 

So, am I Fool, so to plunge

in the hope of a beautiful dream?

Perhaps, yes, perhaps it’s so .  .  .

yet I would rather be Love’s Fool

than be Fear’s forever slave.

For one of these times,

the wind may lift Hope’s wings

and perhaps, just perhaps,

I will fly.

 

And if not, the heights of Hope

hold far more luster for me

than the safety of earthbound

Practicality.

 

So, fool though I be,

I abandon myself once more,

for Risk is worth the prize.

If only, one day,

I might fly.

I pray that I never stop risking, that I never settle for the safe and secure, and that I always push the limits to find what might be!