After I wrote the turdface post, my friend Marilyn sent me an email filled with a lot of grace and a lot of wisdom and a lot of gentle challenging. Marilyn is one of those people that I haven’t known that long, but I feel like I have. I think it’s because our friendship found ground in hard places, and has been for both of us a constant source of grace and wisdom and gentle challenging.
My friend Marilyn said that when she finds herself in those moments when writing is hard and she’s sitting down with all her psychiatric issues, she thinks it’s probably because she’s not writing what’s right in front of her.
Yeah, that’ll preach.
The reality is that I haven’t just been in a bad place, I have been in an anxious place. And more days than not the anxieties have been winning. I know what a panic attack feels like now, and I know how super scary it is when you’re driving your familiar hometown roads thinking of nothing in particular and then your chest feels tight and your breath doesn’t catch and you have to pull off into a Wawa parking lot and wait for the crazy to pass.
That, my friends, is my big ugly truth.
Shauna Niequist says that it’s not hard to figure out what you want your life to be about, and that the hard part is figuring out what you have to give up in order to have that life. I hear Shauna, but I’m not sure I entirely agree with her right now.
I think sometimes it is hard figuring out what you want your life to be about. I think sometimes it’s really hard to sort through all the things that other people tell you are important, and I think sometimes it’s hard to figure out what are your own wants and what are someone else’s.
The hard part for me right now is admitting to myself and saying out loud to everyone else that what I want now in my thirties isn’t even a little bit what I wanted in my twenties, and the harder part is being okay with it.
Because when I was in high school and college, I wanted to go to grad school, and I wanted to work as a therapist, and I wanted a BMW, a small one, so I had some status but not too much because that would be prideful. So, I went to college and I studied psychology, even though I think God was wooing me with Lit classes and a writing minor. I went to grad school and studied counseling because I was good at it and it came easily and everyone I encountered in the field told me I was good at it and to do anything else would be a waste of my skills, all while working in youth ministry and teaching teenagers that following God probably meant leaving the easy road.
At thirty years old, post-grad school and post-youth ministry, I’m leaving the easy road.
If I wanted to be a therapist, I would be a therapist. I don’t want to be a therapist anymore. And it’s hard to tell you that because I’m afraid of what you will think. Maybe you’ll think I wasted money and time on my degrees, and I’m not sure I can convince you otherwise. But, studying psychology and counseling for as long as I did made me a better person, and I don’t think I’ve wasted time or money on that. I think God really used that, actually. And I think I helped an undergrad or two along the way, and I can definitely live with that.
But, I don’t think working as a therapist full-time is going to get me those things that I want my life to be about.
Hang with me, I’ll explain.
I want my life to be about more than work that impresses people. I know that having credentials and letters after my name is cool, and I really like signing papers with letters after my name. But, I get a fat head about my skills and talents, and I stop being humble and gracious when I sign my name with my letters. And I don’t think God’s very impressed by my letters. I think He’s impressed when I get into a moment with someone and listen well and respond with presence instead of a advice, but…I don’t think He’s impressed by my letters.
I think maybe there’s a different way for me to get into a moment with people and listen well and respond with presence. Anne Lamott says the gift of writing is that it makes you pay attention. She says that writers are people who are here, who are present and accounted for, and who are taking notes. That’s what I want my life to be about – paying attention and taking notes.
I want to pay attention to people and places and experiences, and I want to pay attention to what God is telling us all about who He. I want to make notes about these things, and I want to share them. Because I think Jesus is the best person ever, and I think He’s gotten a pretty bad rap lately, and I think maybe I can be someone who tells a different story.
I think maybe if I give up being a therapist and start being a writer, then I’m going to tell a story with my life about taking a risk with Jesus, which isn’t really a risk at all. Because I think if I do this, then my faith will be really real. I think that God won’t be the guy that I taught the teenagers to follow, but I’ll actually be following Him.
I think that if I start chasing after the things I really want my life to be about, then God will probably surprise me and it will be awesome. And I think that maybe I just might have a shot at the abundant life He offers, instead of buying into the lie that anything less than will be at all satisfying.
And, guys, the thing is that this is what my anxiety has always been about. For me, anxiety is not about the fear in taking a risk. For me, anxiety is about dragging my feet about taking it.
This is what is and what has been right in front me all along.