Seen

One of my goals for 2017 is to put myself “out there” more often and with greater intentionality. I’m applying for more freelance editor jobs, revamping my website and setting myself goals for freelance pitches. Plus writing my second novel with a deadline of February 28 to have that sucker ready for edits. (Eeek…when I write that down it feels crazy, but I’m gonna try!!)

I’ve been reading blog posts and a couple books, listening to smart people on podcasts give me ideas for how to extend my reach and find more clients. How to gain traction and visibility in a noisy Internet world. And time and time again, the answer is: show up.

Provide quality content on a consistent basis, absolutely. But connect with people. Reach out, build relationships, establish connections.

I listened to one woman today who said, “and don’t tell me about being introverted; I’m not asking you to get up on stage or walk into a crowded room and start talking to everybody. Small steps, small connections, one-on-one relationships.” And as I listened, I thought about how wise that was, but I also felt something deep in my gut—panic.

It wasn’t at the idea of speaking to people, not really. Yes, I’m definitely an introvert, but I lean toward the social end of the scale and I’m not afraid of people. So I couldn’t really put my finger on what was bugging me.

I thought back to when I first really discovered blogging. My kids were newborns and at the bottom of an article I’d read online was a link to the author’s blog. I typed it into my Google search bar and discovered bloggers. I voraciously read through old posts and new posts. I filled my Google Reader to the brim, discovering new voices every day it seemed. I didn’t enjoy all of them, of course, but I found some of my favourites back then. Those days and early years are filled with such sweet memories for me; I’d found people who identified with me, who knew what it was like to feel overwhelmed by the presence of little people. I found encouragement and humour and a peek into other peoples’ lives. It was inspiration for me to start my own blog, and I wrote through the first few years of my kids’ lives, finding therapy in the words I spilled on the page.

But do you know what I didn’t do?

Comment.

You remember blogging when it started. No one was posting blogs on Facebook or Twitter (which were still just babies). Instagram and Snapchat didn’t exist. People read blogs and then they commented. But I never, ever did. I loved those blogs so much, and I had thoughts and encouragement to give, but I never wrote anything. Why?

Because I was afraid to be seen.

It wasn’t that clear of a thought, of course, but looking back, I know that’s what it was. I know because it still happens to me. I don’t comment on a Facebook thread, or reply to a tweet, or post an Instagram story because I’m afraid to be seen. Because when I’m seen, people can make judgements or say nasty things or decide that what I’ve said or created isn’t any good.

I didn’t seek out reviewers for my first novel and I always have crazy anxiety when I ask people to buy the book or post reviews. I feel awkward when people (in real life) know I’ve written a book. Never mind a blog or a Facebook post.

I know, I’m neurotic.

I’m writing all this because I think it’s important to say it outloud, to say that I’m afraid of being seen, to speak the lie that someone else’s opinion of me matters more than my opinion of myself, or the opinion of the people who know and love me. I’m writing it because it’s holding me back, it’s letting fear keep me hostage. And I don’t want that to be true anymore.

I’m stepping out this year. In big ways and small ways, I hope. I want to give voice to my thoughts and wishes, my desires, to my work. I want to speak proudly of my work and ask for help when I need it. I will close the sale and make the pitch and remember that I have the right to do that.

I have the right to be seen.

Hope

 

I have tried to write this post at least three times, but I’m having trouble narrowing it into something that isn’t a long, rambling stream of consciousness.

True to my introverted self, I fall into deep reflection mode this time of year. I know that there isn’t anything inherently magical about the turning of the calendar, or the switch from 2016 to 2017, but aren’t we all anxious for something that resembles a fresh start? We get so few of them as we get older.

And this year, I find myself especially desperate for a fresh start. I hit the toughest writing rut of my life in 2016, and I have a manuscript that is both finished and not even close. I have work to do on it, but my time was swallowed up by family and life last year, and I was hoping that 2017 would bring the kick in the ass I needed to finally carve out the time I need to finish that book, because not writing is stealing all my joy.

I’m going to turn 35 at the end of this year, and I am tired of giving my time and energy and self to things and people that don’t bring me joy. I know the privilege that is in that statement, and even the reality that while there are parts of my life not bringing me joy, that unfortunately I’m not in a place to dramatically remove them from my life. So I wait.

I have plans to write this year, plans to query a novel. I want to read 60 books and revitalize my editing business (I’m even taking some courses this year, and I’m excited about the possibilities). I want to enjoy my kids, because they’re 7 and this is just the most amazing age, and I know how quickly it is going. Watching them grow is the single greatest joy of my life, but I don’t want to miss it either. I want to be present for them, and I want to be present and joy-full in my own life so they can see their mom passionate and excited about her life.

I didn’t have a word this year, nothing to guide or serve as an overarching theme to my life (check out One Word 365 if you’re not sure what I’m talking about). I’ve had freedom and breakthrough and dig. Some have been more meaningful than others, but since I didn’t have anything in 2016, I wasn’t all that concerned when December was drawing to a close and nothing had resonated with me for 2017.

Except it started to feel pressing. I was thinking about 2016, about what worked and didn’t, what kinds of things I wanted to focus on in 2017, how I wanted to feel and what I wanted to accomplish, and there was a weight. The weight of a word that I couldn’t find, couldn’t touch, couldn’t hear. A few times I thought I had it, but it wouldn’t stick. Nothing settled on me.

And then last night, I was writing in my journal, furiously scribbling about frustrations and prayers and pleas for the next few months, when I wrote it without thinking.

Hope

And as soon as I wrote it, my breath caught. There was a shiver and a tightness in my chest. I stared at the word and felt its possibility, all of what that one short word could hold and I knew. I knew it was my word.

I really feel like there’s a lot to unpack in that small word. And I want to spend time this year doing that, but for now, I’m holding onto it, because it feels like my truth for this year, in my small corner of the world, and on a global scale as well. Hope can be subversive and rebellious. It can be daring and defiant. But it’s also the light peeking through in the darkness, the comfort we seek when life gets tough, the strand we’re holding onto when something seems impossible.

It might be all that gets me through some days, as I tackle some big and scary changes in my life this year. I’m promising to push myself outside of my comfort zone, to do the hard things, to make time for what I want, to say no when I have to. And I think it’ll lead to some times when I’ll want to quit, when I’ll want to go back the easy way, when none of it will seem worth it.

But I don’t want to give up this year. Not on myself or my dreams, or my belief in a good and gracious God, or that good and right and justice will win out in the end, no matter how impossible it feels at times.

So, hope.

Hope for 2017.