On Being Brave

obstacle

The photo above popped up on a friend’s Facebook feed earlier this week and the words have been stuck in my head ever since.

I haven’t been writing much lately.  

I blame work.  I want to write – I love to write! – but it’s so much easier to push the job I love (that earns me pennies) to the side to concentrate on the job that earns me a living.

I blame my to-do list.  I can’t stand a messy house so instead of using Topher’s hour of Quiet Time to write, I spend it cleaning the kitchen, scrubbing the floor, or purging the hall closet.

Sometimes I even blame the kids.  On the rare occasion that I actually have an evening off, I’m too tired.  Our days are full and my brain is completely fried by the time I’ve tucked them in for the sixteenth time.  I don’t want to think about anything at that point so I crash on the couch in front of the TV.

I do have to work, I do have to keep my house somewhat tidy, and I love spending time with my kids –

So I can’t blame those things.

The truth of the matter is that I am my own biggest obstacle.

I’m afraid to write.  

I’m afraid to be vulnerable.

I’m afraid to put myself out there.

I’m afraid of criticism and rejection.

I’m afraid of failure …

And I’m afraid of change. 

I’m at the point where I need to get over myself and just jump in.

I need to be braver.

Stronger.

Tougher.

Make sure that the obstacle in your way isn’t you.

10 Year Albertaversary

“Well?” he said, waiting for an answer.  “What are you going to do?”

We were sitting in his office – him, leaning back in his chair with his feet on his desk, me, in the swivel chair across from him with my feet tucked beneath me, spinning myself around and around and around as I tried to make a decision.

I had been planning the cross country move for more than a decade.   I attended university after high school like my parents wanted, even earning a “sensible degree” in economics – but my passion had always been horses.  The deal was that if I graduated from university, my parents would support me in whatever I chose to do next – even if that meant moving 3000 miles away to study horses at the best school of its kind in the country.

Hours earlier I had received a letter from that school informing me that I had been wait listed.  They allowed ten students into the English Horsemanship program and I was unlucky number eleven.  A month before I had flown across the country to tour the school and perform a riding test.  I made one mistake – picking up the wrong canter lead and not correcting it quickly enough – and I was done.  “You’re welcome to try again next year!” the letter said.

What was I going to do? 

“I’m going to go anyway!” I finally said, surprising even myself with the boldness of the statement.

“Seriously?” he asked.

“Seriously.” I reached out to stop the spinning chair.  “I mean, it’s now or never, right?”

“Well, if that’s what you want to do …” I could tell he wasn’t sure.  I don’t have a history of courage, by any means, and the thought of me, moving across the country to a place where I didn’t know anybody, had no place to live, and had no job lined up must have seemed a little bit silly.  But I was sure.

Three months later he dropped me off at the airport with a crushing hug and a promise to keep in touch, and  I stepped onto a plane with two suitcases crammed full of my worldly possessions.

* * * *

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past ten years, it’s that courage produces more courage.  On that day, in that moment – I was terrified.  I had no idea if I was doing the right thing.  I had no guarantees, no real plan for the future – but I did it anyway.

And when I look at my  life now – an entire decade later – I can’t help but think that I became the woman I did because I took that first brave step.

Because for me, it was more than a cross country move:

It was a conscious decision to cut ties with the past,

And it was me choosing to chase my dreams even though it clearly wasn’t going to be easy.

* * * *

Spoiler alert:  I’m not an Olympic equestrian.  I’m not much of an equestrian at all, at this point in my life.

But it all worked out.  It always does, doesn’t it?

I’m not where I thought I would be, ten years ago,  I’m somewhere better.

* * * *

So here’s to the big decisions.

Here’s to the frightening moments.

Here’s to the times where you trust yourself, and you trust God – and you do it anyway.

The Voice in my Head

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In the past two months I’ve mastered the art of not writing.

First I was sick.  Then the kids were sick, then Nathan was sick, then I was sick again.  (I call it the “Preschool Effect”.)

I’ve been working six days a week since January – the last thing I want to do when I have a rare hour or two to myself is put fingers to keyboard.

But the longer I avoid writing, the harder it is to start again.

I mean well.  I sit down at the computer and even log into WordPress before my mind starts to wander.  The voice in my head begins its incessant chatter:

What’s the point?  

Nobody cares.  

That’s a dumb idea.  

So I open a new tab and scroll through my Facebook feed.  I’ll look at my sister’s pictures, see if Julie got back to me about that playdate, maybe upload a few pictures from Ellie’s birthday so my mom can see them.

I mean well, but the voice in my head is louder than my good intentions.

Look at Hayley!  She was gorgeous in high school, and she looks like a model now – even after she had a baby!

And Lindsay – she has two kids, and she always looks so put together.  

You?  You look frumpy.  You’ve never had any sense of style.  

Delete that picture Mom posted.  Ew!

So I open yet another tab and type Lindsay’s name into the search bar in Pinterest.  I’ll just check her style board, maybe re-pin a few things for inspiration.  I’m sure I can convince Nathan to make some wiggle room in the budget for a few new outfits!

I mean well, but then I hear that pesky voice again.

That won’t look good on you.  

You’re too short.

You have no bum.

You’re as flat as a pancake. 

And who are you to think you can ask Nathan to adjust the budget for something as silly as new clothes, when the ones you have are perfectly fine?  You’re so close to having enough money for a down payment!  Don’t screw that up! 

So I open another tab and enter a few search parameters into MLS.  I’ll just see if there are any new listings.  Maybe I should check the neighbourhood around Topher’s kindergarten?  It would be nice if I could just walk him to school.

I mean well.

But the voice in my head is relentless.

That one’s nice, but it needs a lot of work.  And you’re not remotely handy.

What do you know about decorating?  You’ve lived here for eight years and the only room you’ve “finished” is the half bath.  That you never use.  

You’re too afraid to take risks.  

Frustrated, I quit Safari and push back from the desk.

I need something to numb my brain.  A run with the dog?  An hour with the Gilmores?  Maybe I should make banana bread.

I flop onto the couch.  “I thought you were writing tonight,” Nathan says, looking up from his video game.  “Are you done?”

“No,” I snort.  “I haven’t even started yet.”

“Oh,” he says, turning back to his game.  He knows better than to try to have a conversation with me when I’m in one of my moods.

I watch in silence for a few minutes, silently seething over the fact that my husband can escape so easily into something as mindless as a video game when I don’t seem to possess the ability to turn my brain off at any time, for any reason.

But then I realize something:  Maybe I don’t need to numb my brain in order to write, maybe I need to deal with it.

Maybe I need to tell the voice in my head to shut up.   

Dependence

 

When I was in university I remember my young adults pastor telling me that the reason I was still single was because I was too independent.

I rolled my eyes at him.

(I rolled my eyes at him a lot, if you were wondering …)

I was 21 years old and not remotely interested in dating.  My last relationship hadn’t ended well and it had nothing to do with my independence and everything to do with my boyfriend’s inability to date just one girl at a time.

I thought my pastor was out of line then and I still do – but maybe he was right that I’m too independent.

I’ve always been the type of person who likes to do things for myself.  If I can do it, I will, and if I can’t do it – I’ll do everything in my power to find a way to get it done without asking anyone else for help.

I hate having to rely on others.

I hate not being in control.

I had surgery last week.  It was just minor surgery – one of my wisdom teeth came in sideways and was pushing on the tooth in front of it, so it had to be removed.  I didn’t write about it beforehand because I didn’t want to think about it beforehand!   They had to put me to sleep to perform the surgery and Nathan was supposed to stay with me for a full 24 hours afterward (though he cheated and went to work half a day early, leaving me lying on the couch with my fancy ice sock tied around my head while the kids and the dog ran wild!).  It was the real deal.

And for me, it was a lesson in dependence.

I had to depend on the surgeon.

I had to depend on the nurses.

I had to depend on my husband.

I had to depend on my brother-in-law, who babysat the afternoon of the surgery (and who had never taken care of both children at once or changed a diaper until Wednesday afternoon!).

I had to depend on Topher to call Nathan in the event of an emergency, and to take care of his little sister when I couldn’t move from the couch.

And it was hard.

chloecouch

This was my view from the couch. Chloe didn’t leave my side (or my stomach!) for days. She’s such a good nurse!

I didn’t expect to be incapacitated for so long:  One little wisdom tooth, and I was out for almost four days.   I had a list of things I wanted to do – which transformed into a list of things I wanted Nathan to do – which was shortened to a list of things I desperately needed Nathan to do – and everything else was placed onto a list of things I’ll get to when I feel better.

I’m finally starting to feel more like myself, and although I’m relieved – I don’t want things to back to the way they were before.  I feel that as a mom, I’m the one everybody depends on for everything – and it doesn’t have to be that way.  Topher was much better behaved and he had a real sense of pride when he knew I was relying on him to look out for Ellie.  There were no “accidental” punches in the head or pushes off the bed, and not once did he make Ellie lie on the floor while he rolled over top of her on a couch cushion.  Nathan took care of the kids Wednesday and Thursday and as soon as he got home on Friday.  He made sure I had food that I could eat and for two days he set the alarm and got up with me every three hours during the night so I could take my painkillers on time.   And he didn’t once comment on my appearance (or smell!)  after wearing the same pair of leggings, tank top and hoodie for three days straight.

Maybe dependence isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Getting Gutsy

faith

For me, 2014 was the year of the written word.

It’s the year I started writing in earnest:   I wrote articles on rain rot, hoof abscesses, blanketing, biosecurity, dentition, cribbing and Newfoundland ponies.  I wrote personal essays on motherhood, courage, faith, perseverance, and identity.  I made it a priority to write regular letters to my mother, grandmother and sister on the other side of the country.   I wrote love letters to my husband.  I wrote in my journal, I wrote on my blog.

But the most gutsy writing I did all year happened on January 3, 2014, after weeks of careful contemplation:

“Please accept my resignation effective immediately. As you know, I had my second child in March and I have decided that I will not be returning to work after my maternity leave.

Thank you for the opportunities for professional and personal development that you have provided me during the past six years. I have enjoyed working for the Board and appreciate the support provided me during my time with the company.

Sincerely,

Holly B.”

* * * *

I thought about quitting my job at least once a day every day beginning on May 14, 2010.

That’s the day my son was born.  I knew I wanted to stay at home with him – I didn’t want to miss his first word, his first step, his first anything  – but quitting my job wasn’t an option.  I had student loans, my husband had a car loan, and we had a mortgage.

So we arranged childcare, and I went back to work.

My daughter was born almost three years later, on March 12, 2013.  I thought by that point I would be happy – or at least settled! – in my role as a working mom, but after two years, it still wasn’t where I wanted to be.  As the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to stay home with my children at the end of my maternity leave.

My  husband and I crunched the numbers.  We budgeted, we saved, we paid off our loans – and on January 3, 2014 I submitted my formal resignation letter.

It was terrifying.

I went from having a comfortable office job with a very good salary to working from home, struggling to balance my time between tea parties with teddy bears and writing enough articles to buy the english cucumber for their tiny sandwiches.

Some days I felt like a bad mom – usually on the days when I was trying to be a stay at home mom and a work at home mom at the exact same time.   I learned to set office hours for myself, but office hours are nearly impossible to enforce when your “office” is simply a desk in the corner of the kitchen!

And some days I felt like a bad wife.  When you work for yourself, your work is never, ever, ever, ever, ever done.   I always feel like there’s something else I should be doing – another interview I should be setting up, another article I should be pitching.  On the rare evenings my husband and I were both home and he wanted to do something relaxing  like watch a movie or a TV show, more often than not I turned him down because I felt like I had to work.

A year later I  still struggle to find that balance between my role as a wife and mother and my role as a writer.  Some days involve very little sleep and an awful lot of hustle!

It hasn’t been easy – yet I’m the happiest that I have ever been.

And I think that’s what being gutsy is all about.   It means taking the steps you need to take to live the life that you want to live – even if it is hard.

Or terrifying.

It means letting your faith be bigger than your fear. 

 

Getting gutsy is all about stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals and live a life that makes you truly happy. This post is my entry for Jessica Lawlor’s Get Gutsy Essay Contest. To get involved and share your own gutsy story, check out this post for contest details and download a free copy of the inspiring Get Gutsy ebook.