The End of a Seven-Year-Long Chapter (The Beginning of a New One)

Something happened to me last summer, and it is still happening.

In June, a friend sent me an article about hockey written by two financial gurus. They explained that there is a traditional strategy in hockey called “pulling the goalie.” According to tradition, if your team is down by one goal with one minute left in the game, the coach will “pull the goalie,” sending the goalie on offense in the hope of scoring a tying goal, while risking the chance of being scored on with an open net.

These financial gurus decided to run a statistical analysis of this tradition.

Based upon existing data, they concluded that, on average, it actually takes somewhere between five or six minutes of game time for a team to score a goal with their goalie on offense. The tipping point, where the reward of pulling the goalie is offset by the risk of being scored upon with an open net, was around five minutes and forty seconds remaining in the game.

In other words, every hockey coach pulls the goalie way too late.

The bigger problem, though, is that even in the face of this empirical data, no coach will ever pull their goalie with almost six minutes to go in a game and down by one. Because if their team was scored upon at that point, the fans would be calling for their firing and the front office would probably do it. It is not socially acceptable to pull the goalie that early in the game, so no one does it.

The question, my friend asked me, was, “Where do you need to pull the goalie in your life right now—even if it feels risky, even if it upsets people—before it is too late?”

Today, I ask you the same question: where do you need to pull the goalie right now, before it is too late? Is it getting an evaluation for your child who is struggling in school? Is it getting counseling for your child who is struggling inside? Is it getting your own help before the shame becomes all-consuming? Is it asking your spouse to go to marital therapy? Is it being vulnerable before the intimacy fades for good? Is it starting the book you’ve always wanted to write, or the business you’ve always wanted to run? Is it remembering how to play, before those distant memories of childlikeness fade even further?

When my friend asked me that question, the first thing I thought of was my writing career. I asked myself, “Am I playing it too safe?” “Am I not giving enough time and energy to it?” “Should I scrap my therapy business and go all-in on my writing life?” “Do I need to be doing more to promote myself?” “What would pulling the goalie look like?”

Then, I went for a bike ride.

These questions were racing around in my head as I raced along a bike path, through a forest, several miles from my home. It was early morning and, as often happens at that time of day, I surprised some deer who were grazing along the path. The doe hopped immediately into the deep ravine next to the path, but one of the fawns was startled and began to run ahead of me, between the path and the ravine. Every few seconds there was a hitch in its stride as it looked for a convenient place to dive into the ravine. But it didn’t dive. It just kept on running, and I slowly gained on it.

The fawn was going to wait too long to pull the goalie.

It occurred to me this scene was a metaphor for my dilemma. The ravine represented my writing career and the fawn was me, racing along but never getting up the courage to dive in completely. I began to chide myself for not going all out, leaving it all on the ice, taking a risk while I still had time to take a risk.

Then, suddenly, unexpectedly, grace happened.

And this is what the voice of grace said within me, “Kelly, you have been going all out with your writing, leaving everything on the ice, and taking every risk you can, for almost seven years. The ravine is not your writing career. This bike path is your writing career. You have been racing along it for years. I’m proud of you for being brave and giving everything you have to the passion I’ve given you.”

It was getting hard to see, because there were tears in my eyes.

Then the voice of grace within me said something even more unexpected, as it so often does. It said this: “The ravine is not your writing career. The ravine is your family. Your children. Aidan will be graduating high school in less than four years. By then, Quinn will be on the verge of high school and Caitlin will be on the verge of womanhood. If you wait any longer to dive completely back into their lives, you will be waiting too long. Pull the goalie.”

For the last six months, I’ve been sorting through the debris of that bombshell.

And this is what I’ve concluded:

Seven years ago today, I posted my first blog post. It was a Friday night in January of 2012. It was entitled “A Provocative Question and a Clumsy Owl.” That was several hundred blog posts ago. That was seven years of me ago. My kids were eight, four, and two. Back then, they were never going to grow up. But they did. They grew up on my blog and they grew up in my book, and they grew up in my home. And the growing up isn’t slowing down; it’s accelerating. It’s time for me to slow down in some ways, so that I can keep up in others.

What I’m trying to say is, it’s time for me to stop blogging weekly.

I’m aware that it’s hard to pull the goalie right now because a lot of people in the stands are going to be disappointed, maybe even upset. Some of you may fire me, unsubscribe from my mailing list, be done with me altogether. I have to risk that. There’s too much to lose if I don’t pull the goalie and go on offense in my family.

Having said that, I hope you’ll hang around here, because while this chapter is ending, an exciting new one is beginning, and it has at least four parts to it.

  1. My love for writing is seven years bigger than it was in 2012, and I will continue to write blog posts, just not as frequently. Maybe I’ll write one the week the kids are at camp. Or the weeks they drive me so crazy I can’t stand to be in the same room with them. I might even start publishing them on Friday evenings again. But they’ll be random Friday evenings. Stick around, and you’ll find there are plenty of words still to come.
  2. I’m thrilled to announce that my next book is under contract! It is a book about companionship, a book for everyone about what it takes to grow old together. I’m going to be working hard behind the scenes to make every page of it the kind of experience you’ve come to expect from every blog post. And you’ll hear about it first if you’re receiving my emails.
  3. I want to do more than just write to you; I want to come meet with you. So I’m going to be dedicating more of my time to crafting the kinds of gatherings that will deepen your sense of worthiness, belonging, and purpose. Specifically, at the end of April, my wife and I will be hosting the 2019 Loveable Retreat Weekend at the 4U Ranch of Donna and Gary Urban, nestled in the mountains of Utah outside of Park City. I would love to meet you there.
  4. Beginning soon, I will be hosting a weekly chat on Facebook Live that I will be calling The Human HourEach week, we will spend one hour talking about a topic of your choice, something essential to becoming fully and beautifully human, the sort of thing you don’t usually get to talk about in the public square but we all need to be talking about together. Stay tuned to my emails for details to come!

Friends, this is the conclusion to a seven-year-long chapter of my life.

Some of you have been around for most, or all, of those seven years. Your companionship along the way has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. I am looking forward to how our relationship will grow into something new in this next chapter.

Whatever it ends up reading like,

I know it will be full of worthiness, belonging, purpose,

and, most of all, grace.

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In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.

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About Kelly

Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.