Fear of the Finish Line


It has been over a month and a half since I have written for the blog. My hibernation was for a reason. I hunkered down to work on my dream of a book. For the last couple of months, I have been writing essays and looking back at old things I have written to see if I have enough for a cohesive larger project that might become a book. The answer is I have the skeleton and framework. I still have a few more essays to write, and there will be time needed for editing and compiling and pulling the project together. I am much closer to this dream than I was since the last blog post in early December. I am giving myself two more months to put together the first draft of the book. At that point, I hope to send it to some friends and family members to read for feedback and critique and insight. Then there will be more editing and rewriting and then the possibility of finally approaching publishers. There are many, many stages.

While my project is not yet complete, the last couple of months have been quite fruitful. The time to dedicate oneself to a goal is scary and exciting and revealing. And that brings me to this blog post.

Without having to go back to older blog entries, I know that I have a couple of recurring themes. One is the combined theme of fear and bravery. I write about them often. Fear and bravery come in degrees and bravery doesn’t necessarily have to mean fighting off an attacker, nor is fear just about coming face to face with a rattlesnake. Fear can be the light nervousness before an interview or the uncertainty before a blind date. Fear can be the butterflies in my stomach when I lined up for my first (and so far only) marathon almost five years ago. Fear, though, can also paralyze one into complacency. Fear can be the excuse for sitting still and for staying at home, although there are also good times for being still and being home. Fear can be binge-watching a favorite drama into the wee hours of the morning instead of spending an hour writing in the evening and going for an early run the next morning, ahem. Fear can be excuses and stagnation. Fear can also be the fuel to fulfill one’s dreams. Sometimes, when we face our fears we can find redemption just in admitting that we are scared.

When I started this blog, I did it for a couple of reasons. One was to write more, while the second was to quit talking about doing things I dreamed about and to actually start doing them. Funnily enough, now I also write about the things I want to do, even if I’m not necessarily doing them. Writing is the activity I love the most and the one that scares me the most. It’s hard to sit down to do this thing that I love, because I am not always sure I have something worthy to say and it’s tricky finding the balance between sharing vulnerability and just over-sharing. Is it self-indulgence or self-reflection? I work on trying to find the humanity and ways to connect with others. How are our struggles and lessons similar? What are those universal truths? I am still seeking and finding that sweet spot, for this blog, my book project, and other writing.

It’s easy to make declarations like “I’m gonna write a book” or “I’m trying for my first marathon” or “I want to lose 50 pounds.” It’s another to actually do them. I am usually good at beginning something, I’m not always so good at finishing things or at the follow through. There’s a reason why people often have lofty new year’s resolutions that evaporate before February. There’s a fear of commitment, of completion. There’s also, I think, a fear of transformation.

Since my high school years, it had been a dream of mine to run a marathon and something I pondered for years into adulthood. Almost five years ago I finished my first marathon. Soon after, I remember feeling a sense of dread. It felt weird to complete something and I was scared of what might be next. Very soon after that marathon, I discovered that I was also very close to my weight loss goal. I remember I thought I would be filled with excitement, but instead I felt trepidation. What was on the other side of that weight loss? What dream would I have to tackle next? What would it be like if people could see that I had visibly changed? What had I been hiding behind in the layers of weight? A few months after that marathon and very near my weight loss goal, I stopped running. I gained a lot of the weight back and again hid myself in baggy clothes and some isolation. My weight had very little to do with my body and very much to do with the heaviness of my heart and my fear at truly being seen, both physically and spiritually. Metaphors abound both in writing and in healing. It’s only been in the last year that I have returned to running regularly, something that I love. I continue to work on the healing that comes with my body and soul.

A year and a half ago, I was near the finish line of therapy appointments with a counselor. I remember feeling excitement at realizing that we had worked through my stuff. I revisited old journal entries and we talked about how much change and transformation had happened as a result of those weekly appointments for almost two years. Therapy, the thing I had been most scared of, had become part of the the healing, the framework, the tools, and the maintenance that I needed. I remember then cancelling two appointments in a row. Finally, I called and made it to the appointment after almost a month of absence. In that session we worked out what I had been so afraid of all along. I was worried about finishing. I was worried about not having the crutch. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with self-maintenance, that I wouldn’t be able to sustain the healing. My counselor and I laughed in that session, once I realized the pattern. I also breathed in relief at realizing that I needed that lesson, too. She reminded me that I could also come back for more sessions if needed and that healing and growing are a lifelong process, but I possessed the perspective and tools that I would need. Most of the tools were around meditation, journaling, and mindfulness, along with self-love and prayer. I also realized that the finish line was really just the beginning. Almost two years later, and I have been steadily working and maintaining. There are bumps and some huge “a-hah” moments, but the healing goes on.

I am getting close to finishing the first draft of the book, but I’m still somewhere near the middle and the middle part is long. I am near what feels like the end of a long-term, six years or a little more, spiritual remodeling. I am picking up the things that I love and pursuing some dreams that are becoming a reality instead of just long-talked about ideas. I am looking at new dreams for my professional and personal and spiritual lives. Weirdly, while I could feel triumphant, I feel old habits trying to reemerge and oft-used self-sabotage methods coming back to haunt me. Everything that I have learned from reading and from those therapy appointments two years ago tell me that this is normal, but it takes guts and dedication to fight the old patterns, to realize that those feelings of “Oh, I don’t deserve the fruits of my labors” or “I’d rather stay in my old ruts” are just passing feelings and that they are also part of the journey.

I can see myself at a beautiful spot. I can see that I’m near a new finish line. I can see, though, a couple of old destructive patterns pop up in a personal relationship and in my current job. One old pattern threatened to destroy a friendship. Have I gone too far and will I push away a loved one for fear of letting someone into my solitary heart? Will I find the pattern and escape the destruction? Can I find redemption and forgiveness? Yes, I can. Will I be able to learn the lesson without the hard-won wisdom of a wrecked relationship? That remains to be seen.

Transformation takes time and it takes bravery to keep going. It takes perseverance to heal and to forgive myself and others. It takes time and healing and perspective to sidestep old patterns and find new paths and to keep plodding along.

What I learned from those last therapy appointments was that I now had the tools I needed, but the maintenance would be up to me. It would be easy to revert and it would take time for new habits and new methods of healing to become part of my day-to-day. Now, a year and a half later, I realize that some of that transformation is now only beginning to take shape. It takes time for a foundation to settle in. I realize that it’s like fitness. It’s an ongoing, lifelong thing. It’s not so much about becoming a new person as it is about letting go of unhealthy things and finding that I was pretty good all along. It’s about self-love and finally making room for myself and others.

Completion is scary and getting close to completion is difficult. It means having to really dig in. It means having to recommit over and over and over again.

The finish lines are getting closer and they become starting lines for the next stages. We are always growing, learning, transforming.

2 Comments

  1. A very well presented essay. Up to the age of 52, I had very severe Borderline Personality Disorder. Now, I am free of that ignominious illness though psychological and emotional scars remain. I will be on psychoactive medication for the remainder of my natural existence due to the ravages of that illness. Transformation is a time consuming mechanism. Change for me was euphoric. We need to leap out in faith-not fear to move forward. Philippians 3:13 is an excellent verse for those individuals wanting to sincerely make improvements and put the past behind them. Proverbs 4:25 is another excellent example of being forward looking.

    1. William, thank you. I appreciate you sharing. I’m so glad to hear that you are free. I love that you said, “Transformation is a time consuming mechanism. Change for me was euphoric.” I think change is hard, because it’s hard to let old things go, even when they were damaging and harmful. Sometimes, we settle into a comfort zone of same-ness. Thanks for sharing the scriptures. I wasn’t familiar without looking them up first, but I always love Proverbs and the letters from Paul. Sending you love and prayers and gratitude and friendship. Thank you for reading and sharing. This one was a bit of a doozy, because it was the first time that I have shared about going to therapy.

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