Recently, when my weekly blog post went live, I panicked. I’ve published over two-hundred posts, and I never fail to get a little squeamish. But this was different. I was suddenly certain every reader would unsubscribe. This is why…
I’ve had similar feelings before. When I write something I think might be a little controversial, I wonder how many people will be angry and alienated and click the unsubscribe link. And some weeks, the writing doesn’t come easily and the post feels a little clunky and I wonder how many people will decide my prose isn’t worth the time.
But this time, the writing had flowed smoothly and was, I thought, pretty decent. And it wasn’t controversial at all. In fact, I’d written about the topic before. Several times. And the posts had always been pretty well received. So, what was I suddenly feeling so insecure about?
I’d written about the topic before.
For a week, my shame came to me in a new form: a question—when are folks going to get sick of me struggling with, and writing about, the same old stuff? I imagined thousands of people at home, thinking, “Kelly’s struggling with his ego and achievement issues again and, once again, finding a mindful way back to his soul. Been there, done that.”
I was afraid I’d worn out my welcome.
Fortunately, I know I’m not the only one whose fear takes this shape.
Because I’ve seen it in almost every soul in my therapy office.
You see, after the early stages of therapy, when we get into the long, hard work of healing, things can get a little repetitive. The same issues arise again and again. We make subtle progress, feel small shifts in our internal world that make big differences in the external world, and it looks like everything’s going to be okay.
But then someone says something or does something and, suddenly, we feel like we’re yanked back to square one all over again.
Of course, it’s not true. We’re further down the path of becoming, and the path has wound its way around this mountain called Healing that we’re all climbing. So, now we’re facing the same things as before, but we’re a little higher up the hill. Yet, the question arises within us, shouldn’t I be much higher up by now? High enough that this stuff I’m facing once again looks tiny and insignificant below? Shouldn’t I have reached some kind of summit by now?
In therapy, this I’m-not-enough-because-I’m-not-healing-fast-enough shame is often expressed in the form of a question: “Don’t you get sick of me coming in and complaining about the same things week after week? Don’t you get sick of me being so…stuck?”
And I smile and I say, “Oh, that’s not being stuck; that’s being human.” As long as blood runs through our veins and thoughts run through our heads, we’ll have healing to do.
To be whole is not to be completely unbroken, it’s to embrace we’ll always be a little cracked.
To be well is not to banish sickness forever, it’s to embrace we’ll always be a little dis-eased.
So, last Wednesday morning, I had to ask myself: when will I finally feel good enough for good? When will I stop feeling overwhelmed by my kids forever? When will I feel completely comfortable putting on my real face for the real world? When will I finally accept I’m aging and dying and there’s not a whole lot I can do about it? And then I had to answer all of those questions with a single word:
And thank God.
A gardener never quits watering her plants. A parent never quits feeding hungry little stomachs. A farmer never quits tending to the soil. Why would a human being ever quit healing?
Our insecurities and struggles and doubts and fears and anger and sadness are not like the most recent version of the iPhone, which comes and goes and is gone forever. They’re far more like fertile ground. We tend to them. Over and over again. From season to season. And then we wait to see what grows out of them. We wait to see what fruit they bear. Until the fruit they bear is this blessed awareness:
Joy isn’t banishing our sorrows for good; it’s learning to welcome them when they return.
Until the welcoming becomes its own kind of freedom.
So, Dear Reader, I hope you’re not bored with the path we’re walking here. Because we have a long way still to go and the journey never ends. But maybe, just maybe, the journey can become its own reward. Let’s keep going together.
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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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.