Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My new years' resolution: Courage

My long time readers may remember a few years ago when I decided that my New Years' Resolution would be to find joy in my life as a mom and housekeeper.

Well, I'm feeling like I'm a good bit of the way there. After several epiphanies this summer and fall I feel like I'm finally starting to learn how to cultivate joy in my life. I have let go of a lot of my expectations for myself and my family that were stealing away my joy, and come to better terms with myself and the things I need to be joyful. I'll get to more on that in another post.

Now that I've started on a new path of embracing my strengths and trying to work with them, I've come across a stumbling block in the road: fear.

Many of my friends might balk at the idea that I am a fearful person. After all, I will move across the country at the drop of a hat. I will go up and talk to anyone on the street. I try new things and go new places all the time. I am always the first person to introduce myself at a party. Not only that, but I will speak or perform in front of several hundred people and actually enjoy it.

Yes, yes and yes, all of those things are true. In areas where most people are fearful, I have no problems. I love novelty and adventure and drawing a crowd. I feed off of the energy of creative improvisation and risk of any kind.

But I am afraid to phone and make an appointment at my doctor's office, because I don't want to trouble him with my need of a new perscription of ventalin for my very mild asthma. I have trouble asking a friend to drop my son off at school when its cold and I don't have my car. I don't phone my friends to see how they're doing because I feel like I don't have anything important to say and I don't want to interrupt their day. I always feel like the baby quilts I make and send to my friends are inadequate, and that people are saying behind their hands, "Seriously, couldn't she have made something better than this for us?" I so sensitive about others' opinions and criticisms of me that I don't do normal, common sense things in case someone might think badly of me, or get annoyed with me.

Not only that, but I'm afraid to show my strength and intelligence and gifts. I was one of those kids who was teased a lot as a kid for being the teachers' pet, the one who always did what she was supposed to do. I was the teenager who carried a sketchbook, a full arsenal of drawing pens and pencils and a novel to every class with me in case I got bored and was often done my assignments by the time the teacher finished explaining it. I was a bit like Joseph -- the favored youngest child in my family, who got all the stuff and seemed to always do the things that made my parents happiest.

Basically, I have always been different enough to be a target. I was the one the mean girls picked on. I was the one the type-A personalities wanted to be better than. I was an easy target for the rude boys. I was the one who seemed so confident and self-satisfied that people seemed to feel the need to "take me down a notch".

So, I learned to hide. I hid behind a particular persona of scatter brained incompetence. It said, "Yes, yes, I can do X, but I'm terrible at Y, and what was that I was supposed to do last Friday?" I played up my incompetencies and downplayed my accomplishments so as not to attract the attention of those who might feel the need to bring me down a notch. I would bring myself down a notch, or two, or three, for them. I didn't tell my parents about things I was doing well as an adult, so they wouldn't have anything to boast about to my siblings. I chose to fail, and to isolate myself, so as to avoid conflict and competition.

As you can imagine, the consequences of this are ridiculous. You end up at the hospital with an asthma attack you could have prevented if only you'd asked the doctor for your prescription. You lose people you wanted to be friends with because you never call them. You miss job opportunities because you don't talk yourself up at interviews, but instead downplay your strengths. You have no food that goes together into a cojent meal in the house because you were afraid to ask your husband if he had time to grocery shop the day before. You lose your confidence and start to give up before you even start.

So, Courage. Courage to ask for what I need from people. Courage to ask for help, even if I have to ask two or three people. Courage to offer myself to people with no expectation of return. Courage to be responsible and organized and together, even if it intimidates people. Courage to express my thoughts, even if they are weird, or esoteric, or show that I've been reading philosophy in my spare time. Courage to live my life to its full potential, remembering that I will be held accountable for investing my talents one day and that that accounting will be given not to man but to God.

This may mean, my friends, that my blog will change in more than its appearance. It might become more wordy and somewhat stranger and more scattered. Hopefully, however, it will also be an expression of my true voice, speaking out into the world, unafraid.


Kristen said...

No wonder we're friends Jill - I share a lot of those same feelings you just described (and you never have to worry that calling me is going to interrupt my day, ever!)

Beck said...

Wow. I kinda felt myself in there too. I'm terrible at phoning people because I always am afraid that I'm interrupting something, or what if really I have nothing to say. I like you're resolution. Courage. I think I may adopt it for my own.

Kristin said...

I found myself nodding along with quite a few of your words too. Courage. I'm working on building some of my own courage this year as well. Not always an easy thing to do, but by just putting the thought "out there", you are on your way!

Jeff, Kym and Samuel said...

Refreshing. Our telephone conversation suddenly makes much more sense. The weather this week will force you to dispel this myth- the myth that you are an interruption to others. I'm sorry I couldn't interrupt YOUR life this week....I was looking forward to having a mutual interruption...I think you're great!