Breaking Out of Numb

Monarch Butterfly Cocoon by Umbris wikipedia commons

You know how when your foot or hand falls asleep and you don’t notice until the tingling of ‘waking up’ starts? I’m there.

As readers of this blog know, I recently stepped down from a management type of job to a less stressful, less demanding job.  It created a time of adjustment for my husband, my dogs, and family that kind of surprised me.  I was home on time every night and they didn’t know what to do.  Frankly, neither did I. 



Now that I’ve had a couple of months in the new role I am finding there is a big bonus that I had hoped would be there and am delighted to find is true.  I can think again!

Story ideas are percolating, I’m planning a new, improved website, and I can think ahead about some family and holiday events.  I’m craving material to make me think!  It’s wonderful . . . and it’s frightening.

A few nights ago, I’d asked my husband for some feedback on several different drafts of a new bio I’d written for myself. His response startled me. “It doesn’t sound like you. It’s distant.” I could not understand, distant how? We had a long discussion as he tried to explain.

When I first sat before my computer this morning, I remained puzzled but determined to figure out how to not sound distant. I am nothing if I am not determined to solve a puzzle. But first, I thought I’d do a little research (procrastination anyone?)

I read a guest post by Johnny Truant on Jon Morrow’s Boost Blog Traffic called The Brad Pitt School of Blogging Superstardom. It’s about how to make your posts stand out in a crowded internet. A fantastic topic with some great tips, but there was one thought that stopped me in my tracks:

“You know how your lips feel after a trip to the dentist?
Well, most people’s emotions feel like that, and not just for a couple of hours. They’re numb for most of their life.”

Most of their life?  Oooh. Not comfortable thinking about that. Next?

Kristen Lamb’s NanNoWhat Now?  is a fantastic post about what it takes to become a successful author. As I read it, I thought I have these things down, why am I not more successful? Then, you guessed it, another line stopped me cold:

“Just like curling the same dumbbell eventually can cause a plateau, self-discipline is the same way. Make sure your goals get progressively more difficult as time goes on until you reach a point that works.”

Whoa. Distant. Numb. Curling the same dumbbell. Plateau. My palms got sweaty. My stomach lurched. Tears came to my eyes. I understood finally where I had to go to reach that “point that works.”

The Cocoon of Fear

I knew from a very early age that safety lay in not getting attached, in not feeling too strongly, in keeping everything locked tightly inside. Whether that behavior developed to cope with the emotional trauma of moving to seventeen different schools before I graduated from high school, or to cope with the emotional outbursts of my father, or cope with other kinds of trauma, is lost to me. I remember very little from my childhood except that I was a reader.

Books gifted me with the courage of heroes, the war of emotions, the catharsis of loss, and the worthiness of battle against evil. And if the conflict grew unbearable for me, I could draw on the strengths of the story’s heroes until I had the fortitude to journey onward.

So I grew up avoiding conflict in real life, suppressing feelings, playing it safe, trying to be someone who fit into any group anywhere.

But deep inside the cocoon, some part of me needed expression. Words hidden in diaries and journals hesitantly explored feelings. Small steps led to bigger steps. Short stories. Novels.

After each step there was overwhelming fear. Oh, God, I was afraid.

But I couldn’t stop. I had a story published in a national magazine. I got fan mail! And my fans wanted more stories. I knew I couldn’t produce another story. So I threw myself into being the perfect wife and mother. I never wrote for that market again.

But I wrote other stuff. I published a couple of more times and I began to have some success. I even signed with an agent. Then came fear: divorce, single parenthood, remarriage, health issues, money issues, nothing was safe. The cocoon had to be thicker, harder.

Through it all my words tumbled out onto paper or computer screen. I found a small, safe group of people who would read and critique my words. At last I was content . . . . and my writing stagnated.

Safe doesn’t challenge you. Safe doesn’t make you grow.

emerging from the cocoon

For the past few years, I’ve been challenging myself, trying to grow as a writer. I’ve had some successes. Planning for more success I decided I needed to create and write a blog.

Wanting to ‘do it right.’ I researched how to create and write a blog. I read Kristen Lamb’s book We Are Not Alone and took one of her blogging classes. There I met a bunch of wonderful writers whose emotional fearlessness put me in awe of them. I even told a dear friend that I could blog, but I could never write like that.

Numb and distant because of fear, I was right. I couldn’t write like that.

Numb No More

I’ve been, in Kristen’s words, ‘lifting the same dumbbell’, for a very long time. Working hard trying to accomplish something without changing the how of doing it.

Without having time to think, without deep discussions with my husband, and without Kristen Lamb’s blog posts and the WANA community, I might still be safe inside my cocoon, numb and distant.

I’m still afraid. Oh, God am I scared. But I’m stripping off the old cocoon and setting new goals, one baby step at a time. Watch this site for improved blog posts, an improved bio, and a new, improved website. Oh, and that tingling I mentioned earlier? Well, I think I’m awake now.

monarch butterfly on pink flower

Do you ‘numb out’ of certain situations? I’d be honored if you’d share how you’ve recognized fears and/or moved past them.