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. I’m breaking out of numb.
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.
Recognizing My Cocoon
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 an excellent 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 fits 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.
Still, 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.
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.
Breaking Out of Numb
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.
Beautiful post. I’m so glad you’re breaking out of the cocoon. I’ve been feeling numb for a while too and I realize it’s due to a combination of things, mostly exhaustion. Last week, I started to feel like me again, and it was a wonderful feeling.
Thank you, Marcy. It’s amazing to me that numbness can creep up on one. Even more amazing is the feeling of being yourself again. It is wonderful and I’m delighted that you are feeling like yourself again, too!
Marcy, I just left a comment on your blog site and a little do-hicky thingy (that’s the technical term, I understand) popped up that gave the title of my current blog (which is essentially a space holder). How did you do that? That’s a great feature (and will be even better once I actually have a blog to advertise).
Wow, Lynette, your description of buffering yourself from the world and its hurts could have been written by me. It’s very scary to break that chrysalis and venture out there. I’m hoping to be able to come out of my shell, too. It sounds like you are well on your way.
I hope I am, Elizabeth. It is scary, but if I can do it, you can do it.
Oh wow, I can relate. Not to the specifics, but to different things, that had the same result. Bringing out the emotions is definitely one of the more difficult parts of writing (and sometimes, real life). It’s something that takes a conscious effort to get out, again in both places. Thanks for sharing this, Lynette!
Thanks, Jennette. I agree, it’s one of the most difficult parts of writing AND real life.
I’m cheering as you emerge from the cocoon, Lynette!
Thanks, Pat. Your support means a lot.
I built up a wall not too many years ago (kind of like your cocoon) to block out some bad situations that were too hard to deal with. I went for years, unable to cry. But I could feel tears running through my veins, wanting a release. I built that wall so solid, there was no way they could break through. Instead, my chest muscles tightened, all the time, and got bad enough that I thought I was having a heart attack a few times. Not good.
Now I let my real self be as weird, vocal (in a nice way), silly, serious, as I want. Pretty much don’t try to inhibit those feelings and I’m much happier. Now if I can get the fatigue in check from the full time babysitting my grandbaby and trying to keep up with the writing and social media, I think I’ll be right where I want to be. The best way I deal with it all is to ask God to take any worries that are so heavy, I just can’t bear it, and I pray for guidance. I also have a wonderful support system, and that’s a biggie.
I’m super happy for you, Lynette, breaking out of that cocoon and metamorphosing into a beautiful butterfly, ready to take flight!
Lynn, you are such a beautiful butterfly! I get the fatigue of caring for grandbabies! My youngest grandchild is now 4 years old, but it’s exhausting even when he’s here for just a few hours. But the time they are little is so very precious and they will cherish the memories you’re building. Thank you for sharing.
Lynette, this is the most beautiful post I’ve read in a long time. I feel like i know you at a new, richer level. And I also feel you’re telling my story. I didn’t have the words to explain it but you’ve provided them. God Bless as you break out of the cocoon. I’m looking to you to lead the way for me. Let’s enjoy the process.
Louise, tears are flowing and I have a big ol’ stupid smile on my face. Your compliment and your sharing touches me deeply. How about I lead for a little while, then you can lead for a while? It’s quite a ride and it’ll mean so much more because I am sharing it with friends like you.
Gorgeous post, Lynette! Sometimes we need to catch our breath before moving on. Don’t be too hard on yourself, you’ve been through a lot of changes. Looking forward to Lynette 2.0 🙂
Aw, thank you, Debra. Lynette 2.0 – LOVE that!
Powerful post, Lynette! ‘Most people are numb for most of their lives.’ Sad but true. So proud of you that you’re breaking out of that safe cocoon.
Thank you, Kassandra.
My agent pointed out that my last manuscript had no feeling whatsoever. Like you, I was writing numb, but in my case it’s probably PTSD. I have been trying to break out of it for a while, and I can’t. It’s not that I’m consciously repressing the feelings. I just don’t feel them at all. It stinks.
Anonymous, PTSD is a difficult disorder. It does stink. I’ve been there. It wasn’t pretty. Please, if you can, reach out to someone and get some help. If therapy isn’t for you, there is probably a support group or two for your particular kind of PTSD somewhere near you. Life can get better, really. Wishing you all the best.
Awesome post Lynette. I can identify! I think one of the biggest reasons for moving past it is wanting to fulfill a goal, when that need trumps the numbness. 🙂
I think you’re right. Thanks so much!
*hugs* Brave and beautiful post, Lynette. I’m so glad you’re breaking through your cocoon and cheering for you. Just take it one step at a time. Change is scary but every improvement is taking you to the right direction. Your stories and life will be so much better for it.
I’ve definately been blogging safe by sticking to how to topics and links. Time to start sharing things that really mean something to me and evoke my emotions. Not to mention sharing my own thoughts and insights instead of repeating words and wisdoms of others.
Thank you, Reetta. I feel that hug and all your wonderful support.
Don’t be too hard on yourself, you’ve shared some tough stuff that you’ve been through. Not to mention having two babies to chase around that I can imagine make it difficult to find time to just sit and think. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to read stuff that is meaningful to you. But I want you to know, I really like your Link Feasts for Writers, too. 🙂
As you said, one step at a time.
There isn’t a distant word–or syllable–in this moving and beautifully written post, Lynette. Who knows how many people you have helped with this post. Well done!
Karen, you should see me grinning like a fool at your kind words. Thank you.
Oh Lynette, your post is so very timely for me. Actually, a year ago would have been better. 🙂 My 385 page manuscript on the two years my husband and I spent as older Peace Corps volunteers went to three editors and all three kept coming back with one overarching comment: your husband is missing. I had to understand why I kept leaving him out, why I was so resistant to including him even in the most tangential of ways. And I had to understand why revisiting all this was so unbelievably scary. But, as with you, I really wanted to understand. I really wanted a good book. Digging deep is one of ongoing challenge for me and it takes ongoing courage. But I repeat my new mantra: “Courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.” My very best to you and to your courage. It is through this vulnerability that we allow ourselves that humans truly connect.
“Courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.” Excellent mantra, Janet. I’ve no doubt that you’ll achieve your goals. Thank you for taking the time to connect with me and my readers.
Lynette, you have such a lovely blog spot here and have dealt with a topic that is universal. And serious. I feel badly that I’m contaminating it with this, but you offer this blog ad too. Just as Marcy does. I’m baffled. See? It’s just below the Post Comment button. Says “Blog is coming soon” (My right brain kicks in only on alternate Thursdays)
Thank you, Janet. You are not contaminating my blog. The “Blog coming soon” is the title of your last ‘post’ on your blog. I use the plugin called “Comment Luv.” It allows anyone who comments have an automatic link to their most recent post appear in their comment. See, it says Janet Givens recently posted… “Blog is coming soon.” If you need more help with the plugin – email me.