Breaking Out of Numb

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.


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, your story of breaking out of numb. 

Facing the Mind-Killer: Fear

I am deathly afraid of heights. I can charge through my fear and do heights if I have to. But only if I have a solid piece of ground or a solid, secure ladder beneath me. Alas, though I tried to warn my ex a few years back, he insisted we’d have fun visiting one of the local haunted houses. He wanted me to face my mind-killer: fear.Facing the mind-killer:fear is like facing this red danger sign

As with most haunted houses, we waited in line while listening to spooky music. Finally, it was our turn. We walked into a dimly lit room set up like a doctor’s examination room. A recorded voice told us a not-very-original story about how the doctor got involved in grisly experiments, the lights flashed then we were in total darkness. My heart rate went up, just a little. After a moment, emergency lights came on revealing a grisly scene that made me, and the other visitors, giggle nervously. A door opened in front of us and we moved forward. The next room, dimly lit, revealed wax figures in the midst of a gruesome crime. One of the wax figures screamed, eliciting my screams as well (Don’t judge. I wasn’t the only one).

As we followed twists and turns through the dark hallways filled with fake screams, animated wax figures and real costumed people paid to frighten customers, adrenaline drove my heart rate up more. We turned a corner, down a narrow, dimly lit corridor. Then I stepped onto a swinging bridge. I couldn’t see the bottom. There was only a rope ‘handrail.’ Nothing was solid. How high were we? Someone, probably one of the house’s paid characters, began to shake the bridge. I screamed and stopped, holding on for dear life. I could. Not. Move. No amount of coaxing from my ex could loosen my death grip on the rope rails nor motivate my denervated feet. Much to my ex’s chagrin (and the other haunted house visitors’ ire), I had to have the lights on to move forward. They took me out the ‘coward’s door.’

Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total oblivion. I must face my fear. Must allow it to pass over me and through me and where it has gone, I must turn the inner eye. Only I will remain.

~Dune, by Frank Herbert.

We all have fears. Big ones, little ones, real ones, and ones blown way out of proportion. Fear is a signal to prepare to FIGHT or RUN. We’d be foolish not to pay attention to our sense of fear if the house were on fire or a burglar was breaking into the house. But what if fear stops you cold? Is it still helpful?

I had planned for the rest of this post to discuss Bob Mayer’s book Write It Forward and how his words about facing fear struck a chord with me. But a series of thunderstorms took out my internet for most of the weekend and kept me off all things electronic. So when my internet was working again this evening I discovered that fear was in the air. Here are a few things I found.

Bob Mayer wrote a guest post (way better than I could) about fear called Fear is a Writer’s Worst Enemy: Attack the Ambush.

I named my doubts and fears Mrs. Darkside in this post.

Did you know that even CEO millionaires like Seth Godin have fears? Millionaire CEOs are interviewed and share a little about facing their fears at with Advice on How to Get Past Your Fear In Business.

But the best message I found in my research about fear is in this Youtube video of a little, fourth-grade girl who is about to make her first ski jump.

You can feel this little girl’s fear at the beginning, but she faced the mind-killer. She was afraid still she realized she didn’t have to be unafraid to do it. Could you feel her triumph after she finished? I love that feeling!

She has inspired me. I’m going after some of my fears, you’ll hear more about them in later posts.

I’d love to hear from you. Have you faced your mind-killer fear? What is it keeping you from doing? What is your strategy for beating that mind-killer: fear?