Flying thousands of feet above the earth and looking out the window of the airplane, and I’m struck by the fear that has been crippling me. You’d think I was referring to a fear of flying or a fear of heights, but I’m not. No, I’m actually thinking more about fear that has come with the process of having to reinvent my life one more time.
I always knew it would be hard to move and try to settle down to our permanent home when we were in our forties. The truth is, it’s hard to make friends at this age. People already have friends. Their friend groups are set and they aren’t looking to bring new people into them. That’s just the way it goes most of the time, or at least that’s been my experience. Add to that the fact that I’m painfully shy and awkward when it comes to meeting new people, and well, it’s just a recipe for disaster, and a ticket to loneliness.
But that’s not where the fear comes in. The fear is something that has actually surprised me. A few years ago, my life took a drastic turn when I was diagnosed with a serious mental illness. I wrestled with this diagnosis for a very long time before I finally came to accept it. After a while, I even took it on as part of who I am – an important part, even. I
felt it deep within me that I was supposed to share my mental health story and use it to help others who go through similar struggles. This was something that I was ready to do. I began writing and being open about the things I experienced. I put my fear and pride aside and made myself vulnerable enough to share prices of my story.
Eventually, I didn’t feel afraid anymore. I felt empowered. I felt encouraged by those I was helping. I knew I was on the right path. It felt good.
But then we moved.
And everything was different. Different church. Different job. Different people. it didn’t feel safe anymore to share about my personal struggles. It suddenly became very scary all over again. These people don’t know me. They don’t know anything about me. What if they don’t accept me? What if I’m ostracized? What if they think I’m weird? What if they avoid me?
So I stopped sharing. I stopped writing. I stopped doing what I felt God was calling me to. I let fear get in the way. The truth? I’m still scared. I still worry that the new people will not accept me for who I am because it isn’t acceptable to talk about such things.
But that’s no way to live. In fear. Hiding from the things I’m meant to be doing. Jesus knew his fate, but that didn’t stop him from living the life he came here to live.
More truth? I’m not weird. I am perfectly ‘normal.’ Whatever that means. I just have some extra things that I deal with. But you’d never know if I didn’t tell you.
So maybe this is my little pep talk to myself. Maybe I’ll start speaking up again. Or maybe it will take some more time. Who knows.