Tag Archives: fear

Why You Can Never Fail

I need a story about failure,” I said to Sheri and the girls as we sat down to a Saturday night dinner of take-out pizza.

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“Surely you can help me think of something,” I added, laughing. “Should be plenty of material.” 

But whether they knew something they didn’t want to share, or couldn’t think of anything, no one had an answer. Apparently, I’d also failed to show my appropriate glee in being a miserable failure.

“I once got an F in Old Testament in college,” Sheri offered. “Or maybe it was a D. It felt like an F.”

“Oh yeah,” I said. “Old Testament was crazy hard.” 

“I once got a B in science,” Ellie added. “Mrs. Sutton’s class in fifth grade. I totally deserved it, but I was devastated.”

“Really?” I hadn’t realized. “Did you mention it and I just forgot?”

“I don’t know.” Her hand paused on her pizza. “I only ever got A’s, until that.”

We’ve lived together every day of her life, but how little I really know about her. Is this my failure to ask about her days? Or maybe to truly listen? It could be she just failed to tell me about it. But even so, maybe she believed I’d fail to offer comfort. “It’s fine,” I could hear myself saying. “A ‘B’ is still pretty good….” 

Whatever the case, I had my answer. My parenting is often so incredibly inadequate. And the fact that my daughters and wife wouldn’t say so directly may only be more proof. 

164819_494124054563_777394563_5801658_7068250_nAnd I’m not just being ungracious to myself here. If I were to open the floodgates and start sharing all the ways I fail constantly–to be who I truly am, the more selfless and giving me–wouldn’t I truly connect more?

Isn’t that what relating really means—to relate your truest stories of your inadequate self that could help someone else relate?

It looks like a giant opportunity stretching out before me, a big, bold solution to several fundamental struggles I have. I always want to accomplish a lot and have big impact, but no matter how much I get done, I end up feeling like a failure, a “dad by default,” a distracted, disorganized, disappointment of a dud. It might take me a few lifetimes to replace this bad habit with a good one, to wake every day and remember that whether I can do everything I feel called to that day or not, sharing my authentic self is the real goal. 

I’ve needed to remember this, to look beyond what I do or don’t accomplish, to the awareness of how I’m doing at noticing, being, and sharing me. 

Because here’s what I know: the big things we want to do aren’t the point. Family and friends are the real point of life. And we can’t help wanting to do more and be more than we are. But to do that, we need to start getting some better mileage out of our failures.

IMG_0616Isn’t this the vulnerability Brene Brown and others have talked so much about? We all want to do such big things and have such great impact, but why aren’t we more honest about our shortcomings? Why don’t we shed our inhibitions and share what we’re bad at, where we struggle, and even our discomfort over appearing inept?

Of course, because of judgment. We’ve been wounded and we took those voices in and let them chastise us relentlessly. And that shaming formed us, formed our self-image to a large extent.

On top of that, as Christians we hear “die to self,” and “the heart is wicked above all else,” and “put aside selfish desires.” And we can struggle for years trying to believe all the Bible memorization and church attendance and prayers and journaling should help.

And why can’t we “Just. Get. Over. It. Already?!”

Everyone else is more resilient than we are, more determined to press on, more spiritual. We’re just failures. And we’re right to be ashamed.

We take all of this in and dwell on it to no end. It’s right and good to care what others think and we never realize this entire foundation is made of sand. 

We could let it all crumble and rebuild on rock. This inner torment could be discarded and we’d be free.

We’ve hidden our feelings and true personalities from this bully God, the one who’s so disappointed in us he can hardly bear to hold on and offer us this supposed “free grace and forgiveness.”

He’s only doing it because he has to. 

We all believe this in our deepest hearts. How could we ever accept that we’re failures? Our deepest fear broadcast and spread far and wide? Come to full life on the big screen for everyone to see?

Are you kidding me?

No one needs to know the pain and suffering we’ve endured. We’re so tired of feeling like failures all the time….

IMG_0763To let that all go and embrace our inadequacy we’d have to accept our deepest fear: our shame. Sharing our stories of failure could be our greatest opportunity to connect, but to do that we’d have to accept and come to believe it’s important to be vulnerable.

And that can seem downright impossible.

I was Ellie’s age when I realized my worst accusers were inside of me. I didn’t want others to see I was afraid of failing, so I held back and tried to stay hidden. Insecurity became my foundation.

But failure isn’t what we think it is. Failure doesn’t kill you. And sharing your failure with others makes them feel better. And that makes you feel better. In fact, when you fail and share it, it can be success. Failure connects us because we’re all inadequate. And we all feel shame about it. But real connection is what we really want deep down, so we have to stop protecting ourselves and yes, “die to self.”

Give up our shields and trade them for true resilience.

We forget that if we couldn’t be embarrassed, couldn’t be shamed, couldn’t be knocked off our high horse because we’re already vulnerable down on the ground,  we wouldn’t need to self-protect.

Upholding appearances is what prevents us from feeling good and successful in our lives, not failing to accomplish the big things we have planned. But our hyper-driven, happiness-worshiping culture keeps us distracted with supposed “free,” guiltless, nutrition-less, connection-substitutes to consume today—we’re “amusing ourselves to death” in binge-watching and window-shopping. The theaters have been full and the churches empty for a long time now.

All our apps and video games and prepackaged foods full of wish-fulfillment fantasies won’t free us. The endless parade of addictive modern fripperies will only make us more inadequate.

We’ve forgotten what healthy connectedness requires. We aren’t the center of the universe. And we need to struggle if we’re to learn anything at all.

I looked at my girls eating happily and said, “Embracing failure can ironically become a new place to succeed.” I tried to explain, but I knew I’d probably fail to convey the full idea.

But it didn’t matter anymore. I could try again. Failure was all I needed to get what I really wanted.

Want to stop being afraid of feeling like a failure? Want to escape the demands of your over-scheduled, under-nourished life? Want freedom? 

Accept your inadequacy and remember who is sovereign. Your failure is not the end of the story–it’s the beginning.

And every experience of failure is a connection story waiting to be shared.

No we don’t have to be achievers or successful or hold these perfect images together. We just have to give up that substitute happiness and our addiction to the numbing, feel-good drug, face the truth, and see that we’re all vulnerable. And we’re all failures. And that’s a very good thing.

We all want to connect and escape shame. And we all have failure stories. Sharing them is how we will succeed.

Do you know someone who could use this freedom? Will you share it with them? And in the process, you’ll remind yourself: this is how we succeed, by sharing our honest stories and connecting. 

And when you do, you may find that you can never fail because every failure is another way to succeed.

For the higher purpose,

Mick

The 2nd Most Powerful Story Tool: Express Pain

 The writing life requires courage…It requires the willingness to be alone with oneself. To be gentle with oneself.

– Dani Shapiro

 

What we don’t know can and does hurt us.

The old saying was never true. We hurt when we’re ignorant, and so does everyone else. In fact, I wonder if ignorance is the main reason we experience so much pain in this life. Not knowing can be excruciating.

truckeeWhat writers don’t know torments them so they go out and find answers. Having worked with and known hundreds by now, I’ve found that curiosity is one of their defining characteristics. They’re even curious about things most people never think about–what instinct means, how stock markets work, what the average temperature in Spain has to do with their tradition of siestas. Who cares? Writers do.

And my theory about this is that they’re precocious children who never quite grew up and are also compensating for at least a somewhat miserable childhood. Pain forces us into self-distraction and we’re shaped by our fears at least as much as our loves.

However, they do mostly realize the struggle this causes them and those they love. Who doesn’t realize this writing life is hard work? Mostly, those not doing it.

wisteriaWho doesn’t realize the contributions writers make to the world? Mainly, only those not paying for that contribution.

Yet who is currently writing the novel, the screenplay, the enhanced reality game that will remind us of our shared humanity? Who is working on the blockbuster that will capture our imaginations and inspire us to remember the sick and needy? Who is writing the story that will bring us back to the dream we had as children of saving the world before we grew too afraid of scarcity and other’s opinions?

At this very moment, a writer is working those stories out. 

Writers are the ones best enabled to inspire the world because they’ve done the hard work of thinking. And above all, in their curiosity and ambition, they need to both push themselves to seek out the pain in their experience, and go easy on themselves to ensure they can (and want to) continue. Every writer requires a delicate balance of determination and grace. Those who don’t write regularly will discount, discredit and dismiss it (an unfortunate side effect of not thinking very hard or very regularly), but working with words to balance truth and strong interest, entertainment and education, a certain skillfulness is required.

And the work keeps writers humble. There’s no calculating the galaxies of experience we’ll never know, but even what we do know is only one person’s experience. Writers have no need to spout opinions as facts or present one-sided arguments as truth. They’ve had to discard biases that blind the less-devoted, and make out the hazy picture of the uncomfortable truth that offends everyone equally in its unexpected, brilliant burn. The writer is basically a risk-taker who wouldn’t quit.

IMG_6066And what will it take to reach the finish line? Maybe primarily, the willingness to risk much, to risk everything if necessary. That necessity to risk is why writing takes courage above all else. Risking pain to seek the deeper truths about yourself and life, and risking sharing what you know. Risking paying close attention when you experience pain or fear, knowing it means you’ve been chosen to understand, express and explain this particular view of it best, and to give the universal aspects specific dimension.

Finishing any work of writing will take risking running toward suffering, and living with the small, seemingly insignificant frustrations, and bearing them patiently so you know how others feel, how difficult it is to feel useful, worthy or even up for the task. It takes risking facing deep feelings of insufficiency, uncertainty, and unacknowledged anxieties and doubt.

You’ll eventually wonder if you’re getting too old and maybe you missed your chance. And even after all that, you may have to risk sharing the childhood wounds you endured, the anger and guilt. And sure, there are amazing discoveries and truly life-enriching parts. But when you risk giving dimension to your emotions and conveying the context to understand its terrifying bigness or its embarrassing smallness, you risk being known and found out for your messy life, your silliness, your ignorance.

People will know you and be able to use that information. You’ll be found out.

IMG_6067But you’ll also be free of it. You’ll have confessed it and released it into the world, and it will be apart from you rather than a part that once controlled you through fear. That’s the thing about pain. While it’s hidden, pain controls us. When it’s brought to light, pain is seen as what it is–common, ordinary, and powerless.

Pain can’t always be changed. It can’t be avoided. But it can be helped. It can be resolved by being exposed. It can stop animating and controlling you. And it can stop being so mean and overwhelming.

When we risk sharing our pain, we find we’re never alone. 

Why do we get distracted so easily from realizing this is what writing is all about? Whatever else it is, writing at its core is the way out of the universal fears specific to these vulnerable, frail lives. Writing is how to get at the truth about life that makes us all a part of something larger than ourselves. It’s the experience of remembering and maybe finally knowing beyond our limited experience that we’re okay and so is everyone else. It’s connecting and reminding and extinguishing the massive power pain always has over us–until we face it, name it, and disarm it.

Seek out your pain unafraid today. Write it and speak it in words that nail it down, give it form. And see if it doesn’t free you and inspire you to keep writing to free others.

There’s a higher purpose in all of this, you know?

  • Mick

The Gift of Fear and Remembering

I suppose it would take something like a kids basketball game to shock me into remembering that fear is also a gift.

IMG_6493Most of you probably guessed I’m not exactly a sports super-fan. But basketball is just about the worst. For proof, if that’s needed, consider the amazing imagination it required to invent a game of throwing a ball into a bucket.

The entire game feels like a crudely-conceived relic of the Bad Old Days. Some bored wingnut decided to torture his students, and the students, who didn’t have the good sense to tell whoever-it-was that it was kind of a stupid game, said something helpful like, “Shucks, we should give players a big court to prance aroun’ on like showboatin’ divas!”

And that’s how basketball was born.

To the rational, none of this needs explaining. The ridiculousness of the game is obvious. But until someone makes libraries more attractive to the kinesthetic types, we’re probably stuck with it.

So why bring this up? Because on Saturday, I took my 10-year-old daughter, Charlotte, to her first team sport experience—a basketball game. Of course it’s crystal clear now how dumb this was—how did I not see it coming?—that two half-hour practices could prepare her for this. But I have this wonderful ability to rationalize brainless ideas and tell myself, No, this really isn’t that crazy.

But even halfway there, the larger part of me suspected this could get mentioned in a future therapy session.

IMG_6500We got there fine, found the colossal gym and headed to the table where they read (shouted) the team room assignments. We hurried fast around the pounding games in progress to the back hallway, found the room with a big table, and the other parents and girls and coaches all arrived in their snazzy outfits.

Charlotte turned from the table to find me and gave a shy wave while the buzz-headed coach briefly explained the court rules, the process of warm-ups, the colored wristband system of pairing up defensive and offensive players (yeah, totally caught all of that), and what something called a “screen” was.

My own heart began to dribble around my chest.

After a hasty prayer for a good game or something, everyone shouted and we all filed out to follow the coaches through the world’s most overcrowded hallway. I was never in ‘Nam, but the noise and bodies pummeling me made me feel for Charlotte’s little hand and grip it like a lifeline. From their excitement level, you’d think they relished the chance to lose their hearing while being trampled to death. I held her for dear life and happened to glance down just in time to see the tears burst from her eyes.

Not that I blamed her. I was barely holding it together myself through the assault. But I knew if we stopped now we’d die a gruesome death, so I pulled her behind me, dodging and ducking the endless stream of congenial yuppies and shouting offspring.

Someday, I thought to myself, Someday, I must learn what makes people enjoy this.

This isn't even half as crowded as that hallway was.
This isn’t even half as crowded as that hallway was.

I tried to console her as we jockeyed to the court. “It’s okay, honey! It’s just warm up. You can do it!”

Her voice was barely audible. “I don’t…(hic)…want to play.” Her cheeks were already blotchy.

“You don’t have to play if you don’t want to.” I wanted to scoop her up and get the heck out of there, but pushing yourself and bravery and not quitting was all hammering me at once. “It’s okay!” I smiled and tried to play it off, acting the concerned parent for all the wondering looks and blank stares as we headed to the seats.

“I can’t…(hic)…stop,” she said.

I knelt by her chair and put my arm around her, wishing I could shield her from the noise and tell her who she really was, an amazing, sensitive girl with incredible self-awareness and as brave as any kid I’d ever known. I knew how overwhelmed she was because I was too—I could feel all the parents and coaches watching, and I just kept smiling. I told her I was sorry, that I smile when I’m uncomfortable.

“That’s…(hic)…okay,” she said.

The sweet female assistant coach came over “I get nervous too,” she said. “You want to come warm up?”

Charlotte shook her head and clutched me.

Nope, sorry, she’s never even seen a basketball game before.

2004726_origAll my fear of sports came back to me in that moment. I’d avoided all this, happy to stuff it and say I survived. Luckily, I’d been fast enough and reasonably coordinated, but not to participate would have been social suicide, so I sucked it up. Now, to be here, expected to perform and to realize There’s just no way she can do this, I could feel that fear like a hot branding iron to the brain.

Such memories wake you up, tell you who you really are.

Vulnerable. Small. Alone.

For me it was on stage at a piano recital. I forgot my memorized piece and stopped twice. The thunderous silence of the giant church, all the eyes scanning me, the people thinking, wondering, waiting.

Feeling them all knowing how unprepared and terrified I was, that was the worst part I remember.

But my little girl going through it, that felt worse.

And yet it was afterwards, after we sat it out and watched the game and she calmed down and we finally left (never to return), I realized this intense fear wasn’t only a liability, it was also an essential gift.

It had brought an intense self-awareness and shown me who I’m not. I’m not a performer. And not because of the fear. The fear is a result. The cause is how I was made, personality-deep.

However it comes to us, the capacity to step outside ourselves, to disconnect and reflect on ourselves and gain perspective, it reveals us to ourselves. And maybe most importantly, it eliminates the false images.

Intuitively, we know it’s an important experience and maybe until something painful like this forces us to, we don’t realize we have this ability at all. But maybe with practice, it can become a tool we can use.

And I know it’d be so easy to forget about those clarifying memories in the common busyness. Just this past week I got distracted and forgot. I got cranky and started seeking my own way. I needed beauty and mystery in a fierce way and I hadn’t played music or pursued my novel for many days on end.

What brought me back was seeing my kid cry, whimpering terrified on the basketball court. I remembered that feeling, the irrational fear of playing piano on stage, and I realized I got twisted up this week because I’ve let fear distract me from who I really am. How do I expect to move forward in who I want to be unless I pay attention and practice habitual awareness?

As kids, we don’t need this discipline, but now we have fewer opportunities for reflection, and we’ve got to get in the habit. We stay in our mental cages more often than we’d like to admit.

This weekend, I was reminded and taken outside myself to see again. And the me I’m trying to be, the one who’s aware of his gifts and talents, I remember that’s who I wanted to be. And that’s who I get to be now, to help Charlotte be herself as well.

Maybe she not going to be a baller. But she’ll be who she wants if we can take the time to look for it.

If you’ve gotten distracted, go back and remember who you wanted to be. Use your gift of insight again. And imagine who you might be next year if you could just begin to remember to do this in the moment more and more…

Start an imagination habit and remember what gift your strongest fear taught you, as a writer and as a human being.

And let that fuel your pursuit of the higher purpose.

Mick

For the Fearless Future

“Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.”

― Simone Weil

Fear.

It keeps us. Claims us. Owns us.IMG_4712

There’s a line in a famous song that I love: “I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything.”

This is how many people behave when it comes to their fears. Some fears are reasonable, but all fears seem reasonable to people trapped by fear.

And honestly, is fear ever “reasonable?”

People can’t think when they’re being choked. We all know the feeling. Fear takes control and overwhelms all thought. Even possible solutions seem impossible.

Again and again, things happen, fear strikes, and good, intelligent people go ape-shoot crazy. Extremists get attention by manipulating fear, pushing our giant red button and getting us to do exactly what they want. Same old suspects, same old tragic story, same responses of irrational fear, and the same resistance to change.

Remember the character Fear in Inside Out? He was the funny little purple guy, a great chance to laugh at how silly our fears are. It’s a kids’ movie, so like I did with my kids when they were afraid of something, Pixar made Fear funny and he didn’t seem like much of a threat.

But in reality, fear can easily become our strongest emotion.

Think about it–Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust–none of those can convince people to do crazy things the way Fear can. Anger comes close, but anger is so often under fear’s control.

All emotions can be powerful. But fear’s power to hold people hostage is unparalleled. It can totally wipe out joy and cause people to give up trying to reach their dreams. It can make us despair of ever getting free. And it can even make us give up on love.

Some have said the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s fear. Because love leads to freedom. And fear leads to a prison.

The ridiculous thing about fear is that it tortures its victims and it can’t even stop a single bad thing from happening. But it can rob them of enjoying what’s good.

Fear unifies us all in a global battle against darkness and disconnection.

We always have a choice to see our fear and how its bullying tactics work. Or we can ignore it and let it control our minds.

Fear is an instinctive emotion. But allowing fear control is our choice.


Most people know this, at least in theory. We can’t control feeling afraid (other than learning more so we aren’t afraid anymore). But we can control whether we express our fear. And we can certainly keep it from overwhelming clear thinking.

Seeing peoples’ response to the news this week, can we doubt that this fact is massively misunderstood, yet enormously needed? How many ordinary people truly don’t realize they can stop and consider whether fear is controlling them, and then get fear under control?

IMG_4702The fear I saw on my feed last week was so distressing I could hardly work. How many people have never learned they have power over this fear of foreigners? And how many have never used that sovereign power to escape that cage?

No matter what the foreign thing or person is, this fear will only keep coming up until we realize the key to freedom is in our hands. We must use it. We must realize we’re being controlled.

The only thing strong enough to break persistent fear is the power of personal choice. 

Maybe there aren’t enough stories about this power yet. Maybe the right metaphor hasn’t yet been found to penetrate the public mind. Maybe we need more writers and artists to tell the truth about it and show people the essence of being human is using this unassailable gift from God we call free will to become truly free.

Maybe we haven’t realized that both freedom and fear are weapons–and we can only wield one at a time.

Freedom to choose can protect us against the inner bully of fear. But we have to be willing to use it and acknowledge how fear leads to anger and hatefulness toward others, see how it tries to convince us we’re acting prudently and responsibly, even righteously to close ourselves off to what’s different.

It’s easier to stay ignorant.

IMG_4706All fear has to do is make us believe the real bully is the object of our fear. Then we either attack or retreat back to our cage and shut the door.

Why can’t we see that fear doesn’t hold the power? We do! And we can tell it where to go if we’ll just remember the truth:

“Fear not! You have been given all power over creation. Fear is in your control. And you shall know this truth and it shall set you free…”

But when the bully seems so powerful, so imposing, and it’s been given a free ride on our ticket for years, it’s easy to forget bullies are always weaklings.

Fear is born of ignorance and ignorance comes from old, boring, powerless evil — without it, there would be no fear.

Ignorance is disorder. And disorder is not solved by running away. There truly is nothing to fear but fear itself.


I watch my nine-year-old, Charlotte, set the pillows on the couch and attempt to fall face forward without catching herself.

“It’s so hard not to put my hands up.”

Eventually she does it. And she cheers and I think, habitual safety can be broken. But first it has to be unlearned.

The shadowed veil that hides the truth can be torn away. Its power dissipates when the spell is broken and we stand and reclaim our birthright by rejecting the whispered lies:

“Sssafety.” “Prudenccce.” “Caution.”

Lies. There is no “safety” without the freedom to choose it. There is no “prudence” or “caution” without the ability to reason, to discern what’s best. With fear our hand is forced, and we’re pushed to immediate reactions before thinking. The warnings are a trick to keep us controlled, i.e. “safe.”

IMG_4711Charlotte falls flat on the pillows, arms back. Her face lights with the thrill of overcoming fear and finding herself still safe

and safer still…

This is our limitless power of freedom. We are already safe, held in perfect love. We can let go and overcome this oppression and overthrow fear’s rule.

We can teach this new way. We can cut off the automatic fear–this habit so many have allowed so often it’s become involuntarily and made them smaller and slow-witted.

We can fight this fearful thinking. And we can become whole and human again.

But only if we’re done being manipulated.

And only if we’re ready to show a world strangled by fear that surviving absolutely requires thriving —

in our complete trust of the Fearless One.

 

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

– C. S. Lewis, “The Four Loves”

Always for love, always for freedom, always for the Higher Purpose,

Mick

Risking Growth After Tragedy

The world looks different after tragedy.

Maple_Lined_Silver_Creek_Trail_Silver_Falls_OregonWith recent tragedies in the news, it’s common to feel afraid, but also to feel afraid to express things that don’t fit the acceptable response.

When it’s personal experience, it’s tough. For the thinkers, artists and sensitive people, hearing about even distant death and suffering can make us need to retreat from the world. Yet when distant tragedy strikes, we can also have such strong reactions that we need to connect meaningfully with others.

In either case, following a tragedy I find I need to take care to limit extra input so I can process and be diligent about sorting through the questions and emotions. I feel that’s my job as a word-person and as a connector.

Recently, I needed to write and process some thoughts after a friend’s memorial service. It was actually the son of a friend who’d died in Colorado Springs where I spent 10 years—though I never met him—and I attended the service with a mutual friend in support of the man’s parents who I’d known and worked with.

What I realized after reflecting on it was that we must risk talking about our thoughts and feelings after tragedy so we can defeat the power they have over us in silence and isolation. And this is a major way we can overcome the debilitating pain and fear in our disconnected world.

DSC_0027Listening to his family share words about him, I felt determined to use the opportunity to connect and learn how others deal and respond, as well as to help others learn to process their questions and emotions better.

But most of all, I felt powerfully that we need to learn to listen to God alone so we aren’t unduly influenced and end up betraying our own experience, undermining, dismissing or changing what we think and feel to fit others’ expectations.

I had no desire to make challenges to God about it–but neither did I want to hear how God would make everything better or bring good out of this. When one family member tried to encourage the mourners to find hope by trusting that God was still good here and now, I was surprised to feel angry at that. I knew others weren’t feeling that and hearing those words of good-intentioned “biblical” truth, made me desperate to connect and express a different thought:

When we too quickly jump to words of assurance, it can steamroll others and even derail their healthy grieving process.

12122609_1171015702913537_3774299135056736632_nI wanted to offer hope too, but more than that, I wanted to affirm others’ experience and maintain that connection. Familiar platitudes can kill connection with the very people who may be hurting the most.

It’s not easy to put others first. And any gathering like this is one of the most difficult situations to relate in. But what if we truly cared for people without presuming what they needed? I want that kind of self-awareness and respect. I want to recognize that emotions are challenging and simply allow that, learn to feel and deal with them, and help ourselves and others heal and better understand that even the darkest silence is an opportunity for connection and light.

I know from experience that listening to our hearts is a skill we have to learn as adults. But it’s also an in-born ability all children have. And in my adult disability, I’ve experienced many situations that have kept me from expressing my heart throughout my life. Getting back to that clarity of purpose as a child is what I long for. And I’m so grateful to have had this chance to remember the child who still feels difficult things and may one day learn to overcome the blocked adult I’ve become.

I hope to find where the blocks came from and learn how to think and feel what I do freely, as well as approach God on my own without others impinging on that.

When tragedy happens, I need to learn to express what I feel with those I trust. And I’m learning I need to disconnect with those who overwhelm me and would steamroll me so I can defeat the struggle I experience in silence and isolation.

I’m so grateful for this experience, to learn how I need to connect through tragedy with others to deal and respond, and to process the questions and emotions better.

And most of all, to strive to listen to God first and not be influenced by someone else and end up betraying my own experience, hiding my true thoughts and feelings to fit someone else’s expectations.

At this stage, that’s what risking to grow through tragedy means for me.

What does growing through tragedy look like for you?