CourageFearLittle Stories

Saying Uncle

I took myself on an artist date the other day. I went to see Clemency because I wanted to see powerhouse acting and that I did (Whoa–that Alfre Woodard and Aldis Hodge!), but ultimately the story was too unrelenting for me, without redemption, justice, or release and that day, I needed a feel good ending—not a Hollywood ending, but a human ending that breaks through a shell tamping stuff down, keeping stuff in.  

After the movie, I sat in the car, looked at the time, looked at the schedule of classes at the Y. I hadn’t met my challenge of getting to a movement class that day. I could have dragged myself to one but, you know, that didn’t feel like love, didn’t feel like support. What I needed was not to drive myself harder but to drive myself home, sing at the top of my lungs and then lay down in my husband’s arms and cry about what feels scary and possibly too hard for me to do.

Do you have that in your own life? Anything that feels too big to move through? A shadow in the corner that you can edit out of your vision, almost pretend isn’t there or isn’t that important but when you become aware of it, feels certain to swallow you up if you dare to challenge it? If you believe it might be possible tackle it, at least get some traction? I think this one has beaten me, I thought that day. I think it’s won. I think I have to just figure out how to live with not being up to the task. It’s time to call Uncle.

Now, there are Uncles that bring freedom, fights let go that leave us lighter. There are other Uncles that take something from us. Initially, we may feel some relief–okay, well, that’s just off the table. But soon a stickiness descends, coating everything in duller, slower, sadder tones.

Sometimes a rage begins to boil.

Sometimes we feel that anger. But sometimes we aren’t really even aware of it. It goes under cover as depression, apathy, disinterest, confusion, or more often irritation, envy, resentment.

It can shut us up, shut us down, shut us off, from the creative spark, the trickle, the positively gushing stream that is inside us, straining against the dam that feels like a cement wall but is actually made of twigs and leaves and mud, in other words, something that has holes, has spaces, has paths to let the water through. 

See, anger is actually a map. As Julia Cameron says in The Artist’s way, “Anger tells us that we can’t get away with our old life anymore. It tells us the old life is dying. It tells us we are being reborn, and birthing hurts.” 

Birthday is painful, a clean pain, a productive pain, a necessary pain, even a good pain.

It’s uncomfortable, to be sure–feeling insecure, uncertain, in over our heads, like the only one who doesn’t have what it takes, who can’t hack it, who is missing a fundamental something or who had it ONCE UPON A TIME before time and opportunity passed and left us permanently disabled in this area. It comes with constricted chests and narrowed vision, with warped perceptions and literal shaky legs. It robs us of our mojo. We stand dripping with discomfort, possessing neither mo nor jo,

It’s just excruciating. 

What’s more excruciating, though, is ignoring it, shoving it down or away or off on someone or something else. 

What’s more excruciating is staying in the dark about what might happen if we just walked right through it, tripping and falling.

It’s not that we are guaranteed the big WIN in terms of outside recognition or a particular outcome.

But refusing to let go of the life we have outgrown, refusing the new life that is trying to be born, will rob us of our aliveness, and that is the most precious thing we have–our aliveness, our realness, our truth.

At least, that is what I am counting on as I take this heavy shadowing things’s foot off my neck.

Not saying Uncle today.

Nope. Not doing it. 


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