Both, and

Mom asked me last night what my hesitation to sit down and write every day was and I honestly didn’t have an answer.

Probably fear? Specifically the fear of being mediocre. That word haunts me. 

In my head, I love the idea of sitting down to write something every day. Even if it’s nothing good. Even if it’s crap. I, for some reason, can’t do it. I’ve got loads of excuses: I’m waiting for things to cool off so I can make my office on the 3rd floor work. I am really enjoying cleaning the house. Ha, maybe that’s not true, but I am really enjoying having a clean house. 

But. But! I’ve been learning about baby steps, getting better at baby steps, and it’s time to take a baby step towards writing. 

I am reading Cecily Strong’s memoir It WIll All Be Over Soon, and the book is literally her journaling every day through the first few months of COVID. As she writes about what is happening currently to her, it brings to mind other stories from her life and childhood. She weaves them all together. 

I think I’ve got to stop thinking about writing in terms of “I am writing a book,” (which is way too much to think of or admit, even to myself) and more in terms of I am writing. 

How about just saying it outloud. Here is my baby step: I am terrified of being terrible, and I’m doing it anyway.

I’m scared and putting one foot in front of the other. 

Both, and. 

Which got me thinking.


I have always wanted to work:  full-time at a real estate firm right out of college, then full-time opening Grassroots, then full-time at the City, then back to Grassroots, then part-time at the Y once we started having babies. And then, when the babies got bigger, I wanted to work more.  I never had regrets about leaving my children to go to work, it was good for me, it was good for them, hallelujah, amen. I did make myself go back to work too soon after having Mabry, worried about the loss of income, that is one regret. I cried the first morning I had to leave her, and it was only for four hours. I wish I would have let myself take longer. Everything would have  worked out, it always does. 

Here I am now, two months into being completely unemployed. “What are you doing now?” people ask me, to which I reply enthusiastically, “Nothing!”

Because I believe in Jesus, because I believe He desires an intimate relationship with me, little ole me, I have to believe He has led me here. It is an interesting way to go through life- believing in Jesus- it is comforting and strange. When things get weird, I have to believe that He’s with me. 

So going from, “I want a full-time, 40-50 hour a week job,” from really believing that was the job for me, the exact position that I had been primed, guided, and groomed for, to “I am perfectly content staying home, doing the laundry and thinking about writing,” is just really bizarre. 

I wanted the job so badly. Now I think I was the perfect person for the job, and it was not for me. Holding these two ideas right next to each other can hurt sometimes. Both, and. 

The day I left the Y, the last day of my two week notice, I guess I had cried all the tears I was going to cry. I felt like I should be crying, but I wasn’t crying. I had told myself I’d be back to teach my classes. I think I believed at least that wasn’t over. It was a surreal way to end a part of my life that was once the biggest thing, that was once (just a few weeks before) all I could see in front of me.  I walked out to the parking lot and my co-worker, Cindy, was behind me carrying a basket full of papers and pictures and notebooks and junk. The junk I had acquired from working there for the past decade. I was probably saying something about how hot it was or maybe I sighed and said “Okay, well,” and then I turned around and she was sobbing, like really crying, and it was kind of jarring, and I felt bad that I wasn’t crying myself. I felt it was inappropriate to not be crying. Like I didn’t care. I had only worked up a little catch in my throat as I said goodbye one more time to Teri, the front desk lady. 

I very, very much cared. 

And now, I’ve been jobless for 10 weeks.  I am zero percent tortured about staying home. I still very much care about what happened and I’m at peace. Both, and.

I’m holding what went down at the Y with loose, open hands. I turn it over from time to time to examine it, but I haven’t let it take over.  I’ve been in a real season of growth. Of silence. Of learning to be calm. Peaceful. When I cut what I thought was my future off at the knees, I had a whole lot of time in front of me to process. I had a whole lot of time in front of me to look in the mirror. I had a whole lot of time to ask myself a whole bunch of questions. And a whole lot of time to spend with my brand new therapist. 

For a while now, sentences like “you are allowed to take up space in the room” have been floating around on the Internet. I always doubled tapped the sentiment; I believed I whole-heartedly agreed.

I don’t think anyone who knows me would think I have trouble taking up space in a room. But I sometimes have trouble taking up space in my own head to convince myself that my opinion is worth saying out loud. Especially if that opinion is contentious. I have had trouble taking up space by being “too passionate,” by convincing myself that is a bad trait that should be curtailed. I have had trouble taking up space with my writing. 

Other people were allowed to take up space, but not me. 

The other night there was a woman sitting across the table from me who had had some issues with the church. She made a few curt remarks about her children singing praise songs with their precious eyes squeezed shut, hearts raised. She referred to a church helping out her non-profit work as a “Bible Church” (to which I thought is there any other kind?”) In the past, I would have been so threatened by her comments. Blood boiling, I would have simmered silently in my seat, letting her take up space until it was time for me to explode later, in private. 

I wonder why we think we have to agree with every part to accept it? 

Other people are allowed to take up space and so I am.

Other people’s ability to take up space does not infringe on my ability to take up space. 

There is space for us all to take up space. There is simply enough space. 

I did not agree with her about the church, and I believed her that her experience was real.I was happy to have her at my table. I took up my space completely. She took up hers. We drank our margaritas and the night continued. 

I can be both, and. 

I can both know that the one thing I wanted was to work at the Y for the next few decades, and I (now) believe the job was not for me. 

I can both know that I did the right thing by resigning at the Y and I still get really sad/ mad/ frustrated about the way it happened, about the way I was treated. 

Knowing it was not for me does not take away the emotion, only cools it a bit, instead of red rage it is perhaps  puffs of white breaths on a cold morning: it’s uncomfortable to pull air that cold into your lungs, but it feels good to watch it go. 

I can be glad I walked away and so, so sad. 

I can be someone who believes deeply in the power of the church, and sit right across from someone criticizing it. 

Calm and passionate. 

Brave and scared. 

Both, and. It is essential that we breathe in, and every bit as essential that we breathe out. You can’t exhale, you can’t let go until you’ve inhaled, right? Even if the inhale hurts. You can’t skip the inhale to get to the exhale.

We breathe in, and we breathe out. 

Baby steps in the right direction. 

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